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Mystic spheres of the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Visit Atomium Brussels

What is the secret of these interconnecting spheres, way up in the sky in Brussels, Belgium?

It’s not a tower, nor pyramid. It’s a structure, sculpture maybe. It’s spherical with a futuristic look, painting the Brussels skyline. It owns a history and a meaning to some. It’s the symbol of Brussels, even Belgium maybe. There is a museum and even a kids hotel where kids can sleep in small spheres. It has been renovated completely before 2008, marking its 50th anniversary. It’s something the people of Belgium want to hold on to, being the icon of the World Expo of Brussels in 1958.

The Atomium – all about atomic energy

For some people the structure is more than just a museum and a hotel. It’s all about progress! Back in those days it tried to offer people faith in progress, both technical as well as scientific.

For example, it carries the message of using atomic energy peacefully, representing an elementary iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. And how about building this kind of progressive structure back in 1958, I believe many were scared it would collapse! The structure wasn’t planned to survive the World Expo, but it still stands with pride: the one and only Atomium in Brussels, Belgium.

Atomium covered in fog

The last time I visited the Atomium was back in my childhood (surprisingly the same goes for all the Belgian people I met at the Atomium that day. But I guess that’s the same with all landmarks close to your home: you tend to forget to visit them, leave that up to tourists).

I still had some vague memories of how it looked like. When I came out of the close-by Heizel subway station most of the Atomium was covered in fog. The structure slowly became clearer when I approached it (as did my childhood memories for that matter).

Visit Atomium Brussels

The pictures in the mist and grey sky contribute to the mysterious feeling you get when watching the Atomium for the first time. Nine interconnected spheres reaching 102 meters high, on this day in February being swallowed by the ruthless fog.


Of course you can enter the Atomium and you should! Permanent and temporary exhibitions are being organised and the interior design is wonderful. It’s futuristic (Alien meets the Jetsons) but still cosy because of the size and shape of each single sphere.

Visit Atomium Brussels

Visit Atomium Brussels

Visit Atomium Brussels

Landmark: the Atomium Brussels

Why do some structures become landmarks? How come people start to identify a country with a single landmark? Such a landmark slowly becomes part of the local identity, to an extent that after a while you don’t care about it but you can also not live without it.

I would like to end this post with a quote from Diane Hennebert, former Director of the Atomium:

The story of the Atomium is, above all, one of love, the love that the Belgians have for an extraordinary structure symbolising a frame of mind that wittily combines aesthetic daring with technical mastery. The appearance of the Atomium is unusual and unforgettable. It has a rare quality of lifting everyone’s spirits and firing their imagination.

P.S. During the renovation, all the spheres were stripped from its faded aluminium sheets. The spheres were covered with new sheets of stainless steel. Did you know that the original aluminium sheets were sold to the public in order to pay for the renovation?

I can imagine you want to see a sunny picture of the Atomium! Just click here for some great pictures by Matt Long from Landlopers.

“© www.atomium.be – SABAM 2011 – Emiel van den Boomen”

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Maria Afinogenova May 13, 2012 - 16:10

We have just came back from Belgium and Atomium was one sight we didn’t have time to see 🙁 Thanks for the post – now I know how it looks like!

Emiel van den Boomen May 13, 2012 - 22:38

Then there is always the list of things to see on the next visit… 🙂 

Noch Noch May 9, 2012 - 11:46

i’ve always loved the atomium 🙂

noch noch

Angela May 9, 2012 - 07:58

Wow, I’m not a fan of super futuristic, but I wouldn’t mind visiting those at all!

Maryrichardson May 5, 2012 - 13:30

Love how you made an effort to capture the pics from different perspectives, and those foggy shots are great! I’d love to be driving along and then see those unusual shapes emerging from the gray. I’m glad to see you’re still writing and having a good time there.

Emiel van den Boomen May 6, 2012 - 14:51

Hi Mary, long time no see! I noticed you start writing again after a couple of months of silence, that’s great. I guess you are now settled in D.C? Thanks for your comment.

Jody Brettkelly May 4, 2012 - 21:46

How very cool and those chairs are so beautiful and space-age too!

monique at bringingtravelhome May 4, 2012 - 19:01

awesome photos Emiel!

Esther van der Wal May 3, 2012 - 08:39

Never been there, never seen pictures from the inside either. That must be a lot of stairs connecting the spheres!

Emiel van den Boomen May 4, 2012 - 20:46

It’s stairs but also escalators (fortunately). If you are in Brussels, please do drop by 🙂

Bama May 3, 2012 - 02:05

I went to Atomium in summer 2007 and I loved it! However, compared to your pictures on the interior, back then it was quite dull for lacking of art display. But I’m glad now they’ve installed some interesting art objects.

Emiel van den Boomen May 4, 2012 - 20:48

I’m glad to know they have done such a great job renovating the Atomium. You can see some pictures of the renovation back in 2008 and they really totally stripped it. Thanks Bama!

Mary @ The World Is A Book May 3, 2012 - 01:53

We have some fun shots at the Atomium when we visited a couple of years ago.  We didn’t get a chance to go inside so thanks for sharing these photos. 

Emiel van den Boomen May 4, 2012 - 20:49

I saw the pictures on your blog Mary! I liked the complete description of Brussels that you made. 

Michi May 2, 2012 - 13:03

I went to see the Atomium back in 2008! I hadn’t even heard of it until my Belgian friend took me. She, also, hadn’t seen them since her childhood, and used my visit as reason to go back. 😉 

Emiel van den Boomen May 2, 2012 - 22:31

That’s funny, even your friend didn’t visit since her childhood! Great to know you have been watching this marvelous structure as well! 


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