The Atomium and Mini Europe of Brussels!

Well the historical architecturally curious in me and my boys daring choices took me a bit out of Brussels to reach Heysel. The area is full of attractions that can keep you for a day or more alone. We came for the Atomium and other goodies such as the Mini Europe park a while back.

Brussels

Let me tell you a bit more on each shall we, love it.

The Atomium in Brussels was built on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1958 and to represent the conventional mesh of iron crystal enlarged 165 billion times. It is located in Laeken on the plateau of Heysel where this exhibition took place back then. Just sitting there in a vast park complex of sights , gearing high into the sky at 102 meters high. As in many cities, this tall structure has become a symbol of Brussels.

There are 9 spherical balls of which 5 are accessible to the public; there is a permanent exposition on the the Universal Expo of ’58 in spheres 1 and 2;the other 3 are to show temporary expositions on spheres 2,4,5.  The most expectacular views is from the bottom taking one of the fastest lift/elevators in Europe (about 5 meters per seconds or 18kph ) you go to sphere 7, where there are glass windows to give a marvelous view of the Brussels sky.

Brussels

It is a building halfway between sculpture and architecture that culminates at 102 meters. Its steel construction weighs 2 400 tons.It consists of a steel frame with nine interconnected spheres and originally coated with aluminum. The spheres have a diameter of 18 meters and each weigh about 250 tons. Symbolically, the Atomium embodies the audacity of an era that wanted to confront mankind’s destiny with scientific discoveries. Of the nine spheres, six are made accessible to the public, each with two main floors and a lower floor reserved for the service. The central Tube contains the fastest elevator/lift of the time It allows 22 people to reach the top in 23 seconds. The escalators installed in the oblique tubes are among the longest in Europe. The largest measure is 35 m long.

Brussels

The Atomium, designed to last six months, was not destined to survive the 1958 Universal exhibition, but its popularity and success made it a major part of the Brussels landscape. The Atomium, on the threshold of the 21C, had a tarnished aspect, it was strongly degraded by the work of time, its external sealing became inefficient and the interior elements of decoration and furniture to the tune of the 1950’s very outdated. Only the structure could be kept. In 2001, the renovation project was finally launched thanks to a partnership between the Belgian federal state, the Brussels-Capital region and Brussels-City. The renovation was initiated in March 2004 and ended in February 2006.

Brussels

The original aluminum cover has been replaced by a new, more durable stainless steel, which, on the other hand, is suitable for a symbolic iron monument. Each sphere was originally covered by approximately 720 aluminum triangles. All have been replaced, for each sphere, by 48 large stainless steel triangles. In addition, these new plates are more resistant than the old ones.   Of the six spheres accessible to the public, the basic sphere is reserved for the permanent exhibition devoted to the 1950’s, the Universal Exhibition and the construction of the Atomium. Another one hosts temporary exhibitions, a third with a versatile vocation allows the organisation of various animations, films, concerts, festivals or conferences. In the central sphere, a bar and in the upper sphere, in addition to the Panorama, a restaurant and very nice views indeed. The sixth sphere is the children’s ball, intended for the organization of urban pedagogy workshops, allowing children from six to twelve years to spend the night.

Brussels

The restaurant is super , more here on it: The Atomium Restaurant

There is a celebration for the Atomium 60 years; a temporary extension to the permanent exhibition will be of interest to the people who visited Expo 58, which was held from April 17 to October 19 1958 . Many vintage photographs and videos, mostly unpublished, will be offered at this expo “People of 58”. The ADAM Museum, located a few steps from the Atomium, will house two exhibitions that will also return to the Universal exhibition. More on this event here: 60 years celebrations of the Atomium

We decided to eat out in the Village between the Atomium and Mini Europe and not a good choice it was. L’Arbre d’Or was slow, unipersonal, pricey, touristic but then again nothing new , you are in a very heavey tourist area.

You get here from city centre Brussels by taking the metro line 6 stop Heysel that leaves you about 300 meters from entrance thru a parking area you cut it in half.  You ,also, can take metro line 1 at De Brouckére (near Grand Place) to Beekkant and connect with line 6 there to Heysel. or the tramway line 7,either ones put you within a short walk of the Atomium.

Some further webpages to help you plan your trip to the Atomium are

Official Atomium webpage

City of Brussels on the Atomium

Tourist office of Brussels on the Atomium

Brussels

from Atomium, kinepolis, heysel stadium and mini Europe!

The Heysel area has many other nice places that could be a whole day or more and an alternative staying base. Other attractions that require a lot of space including the Mini-Europe theme park, the Kinepolis cinema complex (28 screens and IMAX) and a water park with slides and pools are all in the area. Just down the road is also the Chinese Pavilion and Japanese Tower. We went to the Mini Europe park with the boys

Mini-Europe is a miniature park located in Bruparck at the foot of the Atomium in Brussels. The park presents reproductions of the most famous monuments of the European Union at a scale of 1/25. About 80 cities and 350 monuments are exhibited. The park contains many animations (train, windmills, eruption of Vesuvius, Airbus, self guided trucks, etc). At the end of the course an interactive exhibition “Spirit of Europe” presents the European Union in the form of interactivities and games. The park is built on 24 000 m2. Prince Philippe of Belgium inaugurates the park on June 1, 1989. The most popular monuments are  the Monastery of El Escorial, the Westminster palace , the Nyhavn of Nyhavn, the Grand-Place of Brussels, the Arc de Triomphe of Paris, the Tower of Pisa, the Parthenon and the Brandenburg Gate.

BRussels

BRussels

Brussels

Brussels

Most of the monuments are built by casting. The parts are constructed from various materials and then copied by silicone molding. The final copy is made of epoxy resin (at first) and polyester (currently). The models then are enriched with details such as statues. Three monuments were made of stone (the tower of Pisa and the castle of Chenonceau are made of marble). A new computer-milling technique was used for three models. Then comes the painting on the site of Mini-Europe. Finally, the monument is set up on site with decorations and light. Santiago de Compostela requested more than 24 000 hours of work. Many monuments have been financed by countries or regions of Europe. The gardens have hedges , dwarf trees, bonsai and grafted trees are used near miniature monuments, while classic bushes and flowers decorate the promenade.

Brussels

Brussels

Brussels

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this mini Europe park are

Mini Europe Park

Tourist office of Brussels on the Mini Europe park

And a site that covers the Atomium, Mini Europe ,and Kinepolis cinema is Bruparck: Bruparck official site

There you go a nice one day or two visit to Heysel, Brussels has never been more filling. Enjoy it

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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