Pre-kiddos we used to go every year to Brussels – chips, chocolate and beer – it’s pretty much the ideal weekend break. And only 2 hours away by train, it’s closer than visiting most places in the UK. So we decided it would be nice to visit friends with some similarly aged kids and show our kids a few non-beer-related attractions we’d seen . So off we went off to see Atomium. Look, shiney balls!
We think this sign says “park here, sure why not?!”Plenty of parking right outside suspiciously. No parking tickets awaited us, so must have been ok…
So, I doubt most people will have heard of Atomium, a relic of the 1950’s optimism for the shiny, Jetson-like future that has failed to materialise (I’d like my robot maid now, thank you). Built for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, and made extra shiny a few years back when they replaced the aluminum with extra sparkly steel, it now houses pretty random exhibitions, a sleepover pod for school groups, displays on the history of itself and lots and lots of frightening stairs and escalators (frightening for parents of toddlers, not for normal people obviously).
Weasel points out the model
Will your kid have fun? Well, giant shiney space-balls are pretty cool, and escalators are always a big hit with small ones, but sadly it was a little less appealing inside than I remember from pre-kid visits. There were some futuristic slidey benches in one pod that went down a treat. But unless your toddler has a passion for whatever the current exhibit is, you’re probably going to struggle to keep their attention. The enormous queue for both tickets and the entrance also didn’t count as my two’s highlight of the trip. It sounds awful, because I do love this place, but the kiddos might have more fun running around outside instead. Visiting in the winter or on a quiet weekday might save on the hour-long queue and speed-up the time inside too. Nothing like kids dashing ahead and not being able to catch them without induring a thousand ‘are you queue jumping?!’ looks.
Passing time in the queue by checking out the maps. This is much better than her previous time-passing game of taking photos of random peoples’ crotches.
Here’s a slightly more appropriate example of her photography, my feet! And that classic, crazy paving, indoors, madness!
Very exciting benches
Views from an observation pod
Both fought over being pirates with this telescope
Is is lunch time yet mummy?! There is a restaurant in Atomium itself, but we headed off to the Bruparck centre with its fantastic playground visible from the outdoor tables at the hilariously named Quick (I’m sure they named it ironically). I was very proud of myself for being able to order in French and even answer complicated questions like “coca light?” with sophisticated answers like “uuuuuhhhhh, oui”. Concentrating on that, of course, means I had ketchup-less chips, totally forgetting to buy it at the counter. At least there was a great playground and the Belgian weather was kind to us.
More things to intrigue the Ninja on the way to Bruparck
Practicalities: No pushchairs and difficult, open stairs, this isn’t one for the faint-hearted. Toilets are outside near the ticket office, so make sure you go before you ascend, and bring some coins for the madame peepee.
Verdict: Unless it’s a super-quiet day, which would alleviate the queue and allow your kids to explore a bit more, I’d probably just head over to Bruparck or Mini-Europe.