Visiting the Hallerbos forest: the blue forest of Belgium: practical information + alternatives

Written by Sam Van den Haute aka CheckOutSam

The most famous purple blue flower carpet in Belgium entices numerous hyacinth tourists to the Hallerbos forest, starting from mid-April until the middle of May.
Could it be its temporariness that increases the attraction of this charming plant with the blue anther? Prior to the arrival of the bluebell, you can first enjoy a white flower carpet with lovely wood anemones in the vast Hallerbos forest, which spans over almost 555 hectares.
In the very beginning of spring, hikers can also discover the wild yellow daffodils in some parts of this magical forest in Belgium.
Regardless of what kind of flowers you want to spot... In this article you’ll read everything you need to know about the most famous forest in Belgium!

Sam Van den Haute CheckoutSam

Hi, I'm Sam, the blogger behind CheckOutSam!

Sam Van den Haute has been a full-time world traveler for ten years and has therefore gained a lot of travel and lifestyle inspiration on all continents. Do you still have questions after reading this blog? Ask them in the comments section or send me a message at [email protected] and I'll be happy to help you wherever I can!

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Hallerbos forest

Could the Hallerbos forest be the most magical place in Belgium?

A walk through the Hallerbos forest

The magnificent flower-filled Hallerbos forest is the perfect place to help you unwind after a hectic work week and become zen again. Walk through the forest at your own pace, alone, with friends and family or with your dog on a leash. Fully enjoy the beginning of spring and explore this magnificent blue forest in Belgium.

I meet many travelers from all over the world and they tell me how surprised they are by these astonishing woods. Afterwards I find out that this place has been voted one of the seven most breathtaking forests in the world.

You can discover quite a bit of beautiful things in Belgium as well, this hike has made that perfectly clear from the start. It’s a spring day and the first sunbeams that are sparkling through the gorgeous flower carpet are marvelous. When I wander deeper into the Hallerbos forest, all I can see around me are flowers. It strikes me that the people who I meet here are happy, they greet me with a smile. The deeper I trek into the enchanted bluebell forest, the more I lose track of time.

When I notice the sun slowly losing its vigor, I am awe-struck by how its splendor in the magical flower carpet creates yet another light show. I return towards the slope beaming with exuberance. How I enjoyed this magnificent piece of nature in my very own country, no less.

Bluebell forest Belgium

Make sure you wear comfortable hiking boots, because you can walk for many miles in the Bluebell forest of Belgium!

Bluebells in the Halle forest in Belgium

The weather clearly decides when the forest colors blue. In really good weather the bluebells will bloom quicker than usual and then the flower carpet also disappears sooner than it usually does.
Warm weather will also cause the trees in the forest to come into leaf faster, resulting in the bluebells getting less light, which reduces their flowering time.

In 2013 when it was a long and cold winter, it took longer than usual before the Hallerbos forest in Belgium was blossoming. Many people had to wait almost three weeks longer because of it, to finally put on their hiking booths and revel in the blooming bluebells. The purple blue color on the plateaus in the forest seemed more intense after all, compared to the color in the valleys back then. Those who wanted to enjoy the fairytale atmosphere at that time, had to get there pretty quickly at the right time to be able to timely enjoy the fantastic light show of shadow and light spots on the flowers. People who arrived too late, could only grudgingly count down to the next year! Make sure you don’t let it get that far…

magical forest Belgium

If only one little flower is already so pretty. Now imagine thousands of them!

How to get to the Hallerbos bluebell forest in Belgium?

Over the past few years this magical forest of Belgium has known a stampede. During my stroll through the Hallerbos forest in a pretty quiet afternoon during the week, I met tourists from Japan, China and South America. All those countless beautiful pictures on social media were shared at the speed of light, which made the Hallerbos forest famous all over the world. The forester told me that he’d also spoken to some tourists from Scandinavia earlier that week.
You can reach this magical forest in Belgium in the following ways:

By shuttle bus:

During the weekends there are free shuttle buses which will take you to the paths of the forest. They are operated by De Lijn (the Belgian national bus company) and you can hop on at the train station of Halle, at the Welkomstlaan or on the corner of the Basilikstraat and the Arkenvest.

By bicycle:

The signposted trail from the train station will show you the way to the bluebell forest. You can rent a bike at the Fietspunt (bicycle point) at the Stationsplein (train station square).

By train:

Since 2018 the NMBS (the national Belgian railway company) offers a really great deal: the so-called B-day trip combined with a rental bike. I’ve used this promotion myself and I’m really enthusiastic about it. There sure is plenty more to see near the Hallerbos forest after all!

Do you prefer walking? Then you can take advantage of a cheap weekend ticket during the weekends for example.

By car:

There are quite a few signs which will show you the way to the Hallerbos forest and its many surrounding parking lots. Of course you can’t go into the forest by car…

Halle forest Belgium

If you’re coming all the way down to admire this natural beauty, it might not be a bad idea to do so in an ecologically responsible way.

Tips for a successful visit to the blue forest in Belgium.

In the woods:

Signposted trails, marked by purple arrows, will show you the way in the heart of the forest alongside the beautiful flower carpets. Do stay on the paths at all times and never pick flowers. It goes without saying that you take your garbage with you and when walking with your dog, of course it should be kept on a leash (and on the trails!).

Did you know that every spot that gets stepped on by someone, won’t be able to grow flowers the next year? Because of soil compaction the seed of the flower isn’t able to germinate very well anymore. This causes the flower border to deviate from the path further and further. It’s a shame the forest risks becoming a victim of its own success, because on these bald spots flowers are never able to return to again!

Pick the right time: avoid the weekend.

Would you like to come and admire the marvelous carpet of wild bluebells in the Hallerbos forest? From mid-April they start to bloom and you can plan a visit. To enjoy the wild bluebells in peace and quiet, it’s best to get here during the week. Until the late afternoon and the early evening is still an extremely pleasant time to come walk in the forest. You have until the middle of May to be enchanted by the bluebells in the Hallerbos forest in Belgium.

blue forest brussels

And mostly: enjoy!

There are also less crowded alternatives!

The beauty of flowers can also be seen in a great number of other forests, where it’s often less packed. Of course the Hallerbos forest and its bluebells is pretty vast and the differences in height give the place a magical and fairylike atmosphere, but if you don’t want to put up with the tourists, luckily there are still plenty of alternatives to the Hallerbos forest.

You can also find the lovely bluebells in the following places (to name a few):

East Flanders:

  • The Bos Ter Rijst (Forest for Rice) in Maarkedal
  • The Neigembos forest in Ninove
  • The Kluisbos forest in Kluisbergen
  • The Koppenbergbos forest in Oudenaarde and Maarkedal
  • The Hotond-Scherpenberg hill in Ronse
  • The Muziekbos (Music Forest) in Ronse
  • The Bosberg (Forest Hill) and Raspaillebos forest in Geraardsbergen
  • The Brakelbos forest in Brakel

Flemish Brabant:

  • The forest by the castle of Gaasbeek
  • The Bos Ter Rijst (Forest for Rice) in Heikruis
  • The Maasdalbos forest between Essenbeek and Lembeek
  • The Lembeekbos forest in Lembeek
  • The Sonian Forest which lies on the territory of the municipalities of Sint-Genesius-Rode, Hoeilaart, Overijse, Tervuren, Ukkel, Watermaal-Bosvoorde, Oudergem, Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, Terhulpen and Waterloo.

West Flanders:

  • The Helleketelbos forest in Poperinge
  • The Rodeberg (Red hill)/Hellegatbos forest in Westouter
  • The Scherpenberg hill in Heuvelland
  • The Kemmelberg (Kemmel Hill) in Kemmel
blue forest Belgium Hallerbos

There are plenty of alternatives! And all these spots are at least just as pretty.

A forest for sporty types.

Not only nature lovers can enjoy the bluebells of the Hallerbos forest. Also sporty types can have a field day during the yearly Hyacintenjogging (Bluebell Run) which swings through the forest. In 2018 this Bluebell Run was already organized for the 37th time in a row and 1,200 sporty types participated in the competition.
The Koninklijke Atletiekclub Olympic Essebeek Halle (The Royal Athletics Club Olympic Essebeek Halle) organizes the run and there are youth series and series of 7,5 – 14 and 21 kilometers (respectively 4,66 – 8,7 and 13,05 miles).

I’m already tying my running shoes for the 7,5k next year!

A delicious treat: The bluebell praline!

The bluebell praline of chocolatier Praleen in Halle may resemble a regular praline in white, milk or dark chocolate. The inside however, looks just as purple as the flower carpet in the Hallerbos forest.
Praleen produces artisanal chocolate. The full-bodied taste of real chocolate occupies the center stage here. Quality butter, fresh cream and noble chocolate are the most important ingredients. It is chocolate maker Marleen Van Volsem of Praleen who came up with the bluebell praline. The purple filling is a ganache which was colored with natural coloring agents, its taste is quite neutral and does not contain any actual bluebells, just to be clear. The bluebell praline can only be found during the bluebell period.

Do you want to have a taste of this exclusive delicacy? You can find the chocolaterie of Praleen on the Ninoofsesteenweg 32 in Halle.

bluebell praline Hallerbos Belgium

After all that walking around, of course you can treat yourself for a moment…

Is the bluebell at risk of becoming an endangered species?

Originally the Chinese muntjac deer (Muntiacus reevese) only used to live in China and Taiwan. The past few years however, people have also spotted a number of them in Belgium.

Chinese muntjacs mostly pose a threat in our country to bluebells, primroses and other plant species. They like eating plant heads, which results in an empty forest with only treetops and no shrub layer. This causes songbirds and butterflies to stay away.

Because the muntjac deer is on the list of alarming invasive, exotic species it is illegal to import, keep or breed them. The Agency for Nature and Forest is appealing to hunters who have a permit. That’s how they want to stop the rise of the muntjacs.

chinese muntjak deer Hallerbos

This little fella looks really cute, but he’s eating all that natural beauty…

Become a volunteer!

The fairylike Hallerbos forest is not much of a secret anymore for a long time. People from all over the world come to visit this Belgian phenomenon every year. This also means however, that the whole event should be managed accordingly. It happens far too often that tourists trample the flowers or are even having a picnic in the middle of all this natural beauty.
To make sure that the bluebells can be admired by many other generations as well, the Hallerbos forest is looking for volunteers every year again. These people have to inform visitors, but also raise awareness amongst them to stay on the trails.

Every year they’re looking for about 40 people. Are you interested? Then you should definitely send the Hallerbos forest an email!

Did you know?

  • The admission to the blue forest in Belgium is totally free! There are also many free parking lots. In 2018 there were 11 of them. Just follow the P signs for the parking route.
  • Every year the Hallerbos forest attracts more visitors than the renowned Rock Werchter music festival. De Lijn (the national bus company) transported no fewer than 17,000 visitors to the forest in 2017.
  • The Hallerbos forest is not a park, but a natural forest.
  • In the woods you can find signs with QR-codes. By scanning these with your smartphone you can make a financial contribution to safeguard the Hallerbos forest and the bluebells for future generations.
  • Bluebells are popularly called “boogers” by the local inhabitants of Halle, because of the slime which comes out of the stem. In Ronse and its surroundings then again, people call them “blue socks”.
  • The social media have turned the bluebells in the Hallerbos forest into real stars. The entire world is at their feet. Chinese people, Japanese, but also Indians, Americans, Peruvians, Russians, Brazilians, Hungarians and Finnish people have been spotted here. Visitors find them even more beautiful in real life than on pictures. Which makes perfect sense, since you also get to enjoy the incredible, wonderful perfume of the flowers. A proper feast for your senses!
  • According to experts, the best days to visit the bluebell forest in Belgium are the seven to ten days which follow the budding of the beech leaves.
  • Additional toilets have been provided at the edge of the forest.
  • For a long time, the Hallerbos forest was connected to its “big brother”, the Sonian Forest. In the Hallerbos forest you will find mammals such as deer, squirrels or mustelids. The fire salamander lives here as well. The black woodpecker, the biggest species of woodpeckers in Belgium, excavates large holes in the tree trunks of the forest. These form a shelter for rare bats.
magical forest Belgium bluebells

Every year again people are looking forward to the bluebells of the Hallerbos forest.

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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