Travel Guide: How To Visit the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium
The Atomium is the symbol of Brussels and it’s a real sight to see at least once in your lifetime! If you’re planning a trip to Belgium soon, I’m guessing this landmark is definitely on your bucket list. If so, then you opened the right article!
In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know about how to visit the Atomium, from the ticket prices to opening times, when to visit, how to get there from central Brussels, where to eat nearby and more.
Let’s get started!
First of all, is the Atomium worth visiting?
In short: yes! At the absolute least – a quick glance from afar.
The Atomium is a remarkable sight. Firstly, it is massive. Secondly, the architecture is insanely cool. Thirdly, (and this may sound super childish, but here goes), it is seriously shiny, so don’t forget your sunnies unless you want to be Squinty-McGee all day. Even though it’s impressive, I’m not sure you could call it beautiful. The obscure Atomium structure looks like it’s been teleported out of a 1960s sci-fi film. For me personally, that’s just another tick on the pro’s list for reasons to visit.
Now there’s one thing left to find out: if you’ll visit the inside of the Atomium or not. And all the information below will help you decide for yourself!
Everything you need to know before you visit the Atomium
Why was the Atomium built?
Located on the Heysel Plateau, the Atomium was initially built for the first post-war Brussels World Expo in 1957 and it was meant to be a central piece of the event. Why did they choose atoms, though? Well, science was extremely popular in the 50s in Belgium and people believed it’s one powerful activity.
Nowadays the landmark is a significant tourist spot, housing a museum devoted to the historical exhibition. It wasn’t intended to be a permanent part of the Brussels architectural landscape – the initial plan was to keep it for 6 months only. However, just like the Eiffel Tower in France, the Belgians loved it so much they decided to keep it!
The Atomium derives its name from a combination of Atom and Aluminium. The unique structure represents an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. Originally, the spheres were coated with sheets made of aluminium, but they faded over time, so they were replaced with stainless steel in 2004.
How to get to the Atomium in Brussels
The Atomium is located in Northern Brussels, around 8-9 km from the city centre, in Atomium Square.
There are different ways of getting to the Atomium from the centre of the city, depending on your preferences:
- SUBWAY. This is the cheapest option. The closest subway station is called Heysel and it’s a 5-min walk away (648m) from the Atomium. You have two choices from central Brussels: line 6 from Midi Station (45 minutes, 3€) or line 1 or 5 from Central Station or De Brouckère Station (30 minutes, 5€) and change at Bekkant to line 6. From Heysel station, you just need to cross the tramlines and walk for a couple of minutes and you’ll reach the Atomium.
- BUS. The closest bus station is called Brussel Brugmann and it’s 10 minutes away from the Atomium. You can take bus no. 241 which will take you to the monument in around 50 minutes.
- UBER / TAXI. This is the fastest but also the most expensive option. The journey from central Brussels takes 10 minutes and it costs 10 to 15€.
ATOMIUM ADDRESS: Square de l’Atomium, 1020 Bruxelles
CO-ORDINATES: 50.894924, 4.341565
Atomium opening hours
The Atomium is open every day from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. The last entrance is at 5:30 PM. You can check the up-to-date schedule on the official website here.
If you only want to see the exterior, you can do so any time, any day. It’s super pretty at night too, when it’s all lit up!
Best time to visit the Atomium
In general, the Atomium gets crowded from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. That’s why I recommend visiting as early in the morning as possible, meaning at 10:00 AM. Or late in the evening, at 4:00 PM. If I were to choose, I’d say to go for the 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM option because the sunset is simply stunning seen from the inside! Plus, there are almost no crowds.
HOW LONG TO SPEND AT THE ATOMIUM: 1 to 2 hours should be plenty, queuing included. You can spend more time in the surrounding area – for things to do around the Atomium, please check the dedicated section further below.
Atomium tickets and prices
Below I’ll list the Atomium price for all types of travellers:
- Adults: 16.95€
- Teenager (up to 17 years old and >115cm): 9.25€
- Children <115cm: 0.35€
- Seniors (over 65 years old): 14.85€
- Student: 9.25€ but you must present your student ID
- People with disabilities: 0.35€
Free entry if you have the Brussels Card. More information about what this is below.
NOTE #1: Your Atomium ticket provides access to the full Atomium Museum inside, but also free entry to the Design Museum (right next to the Atomium).
WHERE TO BUY YOUR TICKETS:
- From the ticket office on-site – this requires queuing and lots of time wasted
- Online in advance – recommended. This way you can select your preferred time slot and skip the long lines (tourists with pre-bought tickets have a separate queue).
NOTE #2: You can also buy a combined ticket for the Atomium + Mini Europe, another popular attraction close by. The combined ticket can only be bought from the ticket office at the Atomium. No online option (yet).
NOTE #3: If you want to learn as much as possible about the Atomium building, I recommend downloading CloudGuide on your phone – they have a pretty nice Atomium audio guide. You can get the free app on iPhone here and on Android here.
Should you buy a Brussels Card for the Atomium?
Brussels Card is a typical tourist pass that offers:
- Free entrance to 49 museums – Choco Museum, Rene Magritte House, Art & History Museum and more. The Atomium is included ONLY if you select the special option and it costs 12€ more;
- Various discounts to shops, tours, restaurants and other attractions;
- Free city map;
- Optional: unlimited public transportation for 8, 15, or 19€ more
The Brussels card with Atomium entry costs 41€ for 24 hours (+8€ for unlimited transport), 49€ for 48 hours (+15€ for unlimited transport) and 57€ for 72 hours (+19€ for unlimited transport).
In my humble opinion, the Brussels Card is only worth it if you have at least 3 days to spend in Brussels and you want to make the best of it. This means seeing as many attractions as possible and using public transport a lot. Otherwise, I think it costs a bit much. As usual, I recommend making a list of all the places you want to see, calculate the costs of all the tickets and then see if the tourist pass is worth it for you or not.
NOTE: You must exchange your online Brussels Card for the actual card at any Tourist Office once you arrive in the city (they’re close to most train stations and other popular spots in the centre).
Is it worth visiting the inside of the Atomium?
Apart from the three outer spheres, you can visit the insides of the other six if you choose to purchase a ticket. There is a viewing platform and restaurant in the 7th and highest sphere. With 360 degree views of the surroundings, they say you can see all the way to Antwerp if the weather is good – so you can expect to take some pretty nice pictures from up there.
The other spheres hold a minimalistic museum dedicated to the Atomium expo from 1957, continuing to the present day. There is also a tourist shop selling merchandise inside the building but beware of the sky-high prices.
I think the Atomium interior is worth it for the panoramic views from the highest level (100m tall!) and the museum if you’re an architecture fan. Plus, it’s pretty fun to walk around the spheres and to see the light shows on the elevators! But if you’re on a budget or you’re short on time, just admiring the outside and taking some pics should be enough.
Where to stay near the Atomium in Brussels
If you’re really passionate about the Atomium and want to book a hotel as close to it as possible, I got you! I have selected some excellent accommodations below for all budgets, so you won’t need to waste time searching yourself. But please keep in mind that this landmark is not located in the city centre, but in the northern part of Brussels, half an hour from the centre by public transportation.
MID-RANGE HOTEL. Pegasus Apparthotel Brussels Expo Atomium
BUDGET. B&B Marianne
APARTMENT. Résidence Stiénon
Things to do near the Atomium
Because the Atomium is not located in the city centre, it makes all the sense in the world to make the best out of your trip there and visit some other cool attractions nearby. Here are your options:
- Design Museum – included in your Atomium ticket, 10€ for the separate ticket.
- Mini Europe – you simply can’t see the Atomium and not visit Mini Europe as well! They’re both near each other and there are also combined tickets for both of them available (only at the ticket office at the Atomium). Mini Europe is a miniature park with iconic sculptures all around Europe. It’s like seeing the most important sights in Europe in one hour!
- Kinepolis Cinema Complex – Combined ticket for Mini Europe and Kinepolis available for 26.10€.
- Planetarium – for all space lovers and great for families with children too. Combined tickets are available for the Planetarium + Mini Europe for 21.60€/adult.
- Laeken Park – if you’re tired of museums, maybe you’re better off with a relaxing walk in the park! The Japanese Gardens inside the park are a must, as well as the Laeken Notre Dame.
Best restaurants near the Atomium
Sadly, there aren’t a lot of restaurant options around the Atomium. Still, I have gathered all the information you need about the ones available:
- Atomium Restaurant – yes, this is a restaurant located inside the Atomium, in the highest sphere! As you might expect, the prices are high – after all, you’re paying for the experience rather than the food. The restaurant serves a combo of Belgian and international dishes and the service can be quite slow, especially during rush hours. But if you really want to tick this experience off your bucket list and you want to have a bite with a panoramic view, go for it! Make sure to make a reservation beforehand. You can find more details about the opening times and offers on the official website.
- Atomium Terrace – not really a fancy restaurant like the one on the top, Atomium Terrace is a nice eatery at the foot of the monument, right at the ticket office. They have your typical sandwiches, snacks and some drinks. A good lunch if you find you’re hungry!
- Friteries – These are traditional food stalls serving Belgian fries and you can find two of them near the Atomium – one on the north side and one on the opposite side. They’re usually open from morning until around 7 PM and they’re a very good idea for a quick bite.
MY RECOMMENDATION: Visit the Atomium, grab some Belgian fries from one of the friteries nearby and then return to Brussels centre for your next meal.
BONUS #1: Where to go for the best views of the Atomium
If you’re not interested in seeing the inside of the Atomium and admiring the panoramic view from the top level, maybe you’ll prefer taking some postcard-worthy pictures of it to bring back home as a memory! Here are the best spots to get a view of the Atomium:
- under the Atomium – the foot of the monument provides some pretty amazing angles for pictures;
- in the northern part of Laeken Park – if you want to take a picture of the Atomium surrounded by trees;
- from Mini Europe – walk around and you’ll surely find a good view of the Atomium;
- Place Poelaert – not the best spot, but you’ll be able to see the Atomium from a distance.
BONUS #2: Fun facts about the Atomium
Let’s get you all hyped and excited for your upcoming trip with some FUN Atomium facts:
This was my complete guide to the Atomium in Belgium! In this post, I have told you everything you need to know about when, how and why to visit the Atomium and I offered you updated info about ticket prices, nearby attractions, nearby restaurants and more. In case you were wondering if the Atomium is worth visiting or not, I’m pretty sure the article above has already answered your question!
If you need more help in planning your upcoming Brussels trip, I recommend clicking here to find all my articles about this fun city.