The Atomium in Brussels was built for the 1958 World's Fair. The futuristic steel construction has since become the city's landmark and should not be missed on any sightseeing tour.
The imposing Atomium in the Belgian capital Brussels was built on the occasion of the first world exhibition after the Second World War, the "Expo '58". Probably the most famous molecule in the world, it is now considered a Brussels landmark and also has some tourist attractions to offer inside its atoms.
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PICTURES: Atomium in Brussels
Iron in large format
The Atomium is a 102m high structure made of nine gigantic spheres and 23m long connecting rods, whose appearance represents a 165-billion-fold magnification of an iron molecule. The Belgian engineer André Waterkeyn designed it as a symbol for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The construction itself was supervised by the architects André and Jean Polak. The Atomium was opened in time for the 1958 World's Fair.
Four of the topmost spheres have no connection to the ground, but hang only from the struts. Originally, this was supposed to apply to all but the lowest sphere, but tests in the wind tunnel showed that the construction would be overturned at a wind speed of 80km/h. And since wind peaks of up to 140km/h have already been measured in Brussels, it was decided to add four supports. And since wind peaks of up to 140km/h have already been measured in Brussels, it was decided to attach four supports.
In the evening hours, the Atomium on the Boulevard du Centenaire is particularly spectacular to behold. The setting sun shimmers red in the smooth metal and when darkness falls, thousands of light bulbs light up the spheres of the Atomium.
A walk through the atoms
Visitors can stay in six of the nine spheres, which since 2004 are no longer made of aluminium but of stainless steel. The escalators and lifts, some of which are located in the tubes measuring a good 3m, take guests to the round, 18m-high rooms of the Atomium. Some of the escalators are up to 35m long and are among the longest escalators in Europe.
Inside the shimmering metal structure without a single right angle, you feel like you're in a spaceship. The lowest sphere of the Atomium is used as a souvenir shop and information centre on the history of the Atomium, the top one as a viewing platform and restaurant. The lift, which takes visitors up in 23 seconds, was the fastest in the world when it was built. Today, unfortunately, it is mainly small and visitors can expect to stand in line for up to an hour.
With a spectacular view over Brussels, you can have your lunch or dinner, or just enjoy a cappuccino. Those who wonder about the buildings that emerge from the depths around them can take a walk on the observation deck. There, moving monitors provide information about the Brussels cityscape that spreads out at his feet. The other spheres are used for exhibitions, events and conferences. One of them is also set up as a world of experience for school classes.
Buy a piece of the Atomium! Among other things, to finance the renovation, the disused aluminium plates were sold as souvenirs. A 2m long piece of the old Atomium was sold for 1,000 euros. One of them can be admired at the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands, where it is used for research purposes.
The Atomium on the move
In addition to the original Atomium in Brussels, a 1:25 scale miniature of the impressive building can also be seen in Mini-Europa in Brussels and in Minimundus in Klagenfurt am Wörthersee, Austria. To commemorate the reopening after the two-year renovation in 2006, a Belgian 2-euro coin was minted depicting the Atomium.
In principle, photos of the Atomium may not be published - even by private individuals. SABAM, the Belgian copyright organisation, enforced that all photos of the Atomium had to be taken off US sites in the United States. Photos in private web albums that are not used commercially are now allowed. Information on the exact restrictions can be found on the Atomium's website. The photos on this website are courtesy of SABAM, www.atomium.be.