Atomium, designed for the 1958 World Fair.



The space-age Atomium looms 102m over north Brussels’ suburbia, resembling a steel alien from a '60s Hollywood movie. It consists of nine house-sized metallic balls linked by steel tube-columns containing escalators and lifts. The balls are arranged like a school chemistry set to represent iron atoms in their crystal lattice…except these are 165 billion times bigger. It was built as a symbol of postwar progress for the 1958 World’s Fair and became an architectural icon, receiving a makeover in 2006.

At night the spheres sparkle magically, and the panorama-level restaurant reopens at 7pm (except during midsummer), putting starched cloths on its functional tables and serving decent dinners with a view. Dinner guests don’t pay the tower entrance fee, but reservations are essential.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Brussels attractions

1. Mini Europe

0.12 MILES

Want to fool your friends that you saw all of Europe? Easy. Just photograph the dozens of 1:25-scale models of the continent’s top monuments at Mini…


0.22 MILES

Worth seeing in combination with the Atomium, ADAM features a surprisingly intriguing collection of classic plastic: the 1965 Universale, which was the…

3. Palais du Centenaire

0.37 MILES

The distinctive 1930 art-deco Palais du Centenaire features a pyramid of terraced tiers capped by statues.

4. Château Stuyvenberg

0.49 MILES

Built in 1725, this chateau is a residence of the Belgian royal family and has been used to house visiting dignitaries. It is not open to the public.

5. Parc de Laeken


The Parc de Laeken starts opposite the Domaine Royal and stretches to the Atomium. Dotted with chestnut and magnolia trees, its focal point is Léopold I's…

6. Villa Belvédère

0.62 MILES

A residence of the Belgian royal family, the eighteenth-century villa is not open to the public.

7. Royal Greenhouses

0.81 MILES

The enormous Serres Royales were built by Alphonse Balat during Léopold II's reign. Fuchsias and all sorts of tropical species thrive inside, and Belgians…

8. Pavillon Chinois

0.82 MILES

The Pavillon Chinois is a Léopold II leftover, built after he saw similar at the 1890 Paris World's Fair. It is a gloriously glittering structure and…