Spring this year is being a bit cold and so, sunny days seem to be heaven sent. A few weeks back, a Saturday dawned so bright and warm, that we imagined the weather to last the whole weekend. We made plan for a day trip to Halle in Belgium, filled up gas in the car and packed a nice picnic hamper. Sunday, however, dawned grey and cloudy, and it was a real mood killer. To escape the Cologne dullness, we stuck to our day trip plan, put the baby in the car and drove nearly 200 kilometres to a little Belgian municipality of Halle. Our destination was Hallerbos and the reason of our visit was the spectacular mass blooming of blue bells.
Every year, in spring Hallerbos gets carpeted by dense purple blue and it is one of Belgium‘s best kept secrets. This truly magical natural phenomenon happens around 15 kilometres south of Brussels and Hallerbos is also known as Belgium‘s blue forest. Also known as Bois de Hal in French, Hallerbos is situated in the Flemish municipality of Halle and though the forest is a lovely place to explore at any time of the year, in spring it is breathtaking. Much sought after by both photographers and nature lovers, the blue bells usually start blooming in mid April and they last for a few weeks.
The sight of the blue forest in full bloom is out of this world and the flowers spread like a sea of endless purple. Up close, the bluebells are delicate flowers and they fill the air with an intensely sweet wild fragrance. It is their density which creates this unbelievable bluish haze and flowers range from violet, lilac to dense purple. Popularly known as Common Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a spring-flowering bulb, which is also a perennial plant and it thrives under the shade of beech trees. In fact, beech trees and blue bells are best of friends and the neon green young leaves amidst a sea of blue flowers make terrific photos as well.
They say, pictures speak louder than words and to get an idea of what Hallerbos Blue Forest is like, take a look at this photo essay.
TRAVEL TIP – The bluebells of the Hallerbos create a spectacular wild flower phenomenon and it is an unforgettable experience. However, the blooming is extremely short lived and with increasing temperatures, trampling, weather changes etc, soon it might be a thing from the past. So, enjoy the flowers till they last.
How to get there – Hallerbos forest is located 20 km South of Brussels. There are several ways to reach the park. One option is to take a train to Halle from Brussels and a bus connection to the forest is available from there. During the week, the bus line 114, operated by TEC takes you to halte “Vlasmarkt” on the Nijvelsesteenweg. From there the entrance of the Hallerbos is easily walkable. On the weekends, use the bus line 156 operated by De Lijn to the stop “Lembeek Congo”. The entrance to Hallerbos is a 15 minutes walk from there. During the flowering season of the bluebells, free shuttle bus service is available from the train station in Halle to Hallerbos. Alternatively, you can rent a bike at the station for Hallerbos or like us, go there by car. Either enter “Vlasmarktdreef Halle” into your GPS system or go to “Bosmuseum Halle” in Google Maps.
When to go there – Hallerbos is lovely at any time of the year and there are some excellent hiking and cycling trails. The bluebell flowering season, however, is somewhere in the second half of April. Being a natural phenomenon, the flowering depends on the weather and it makes sense to keep a watch on the Hallerbos website to stay updated on the best time to visit. Young beech leaves and flowering bluebells with good sunshine creates best photos. Weekends are busy during the flowering season, so try to go there on a weekday. Early mornings and late afternoons to evenings also see less people.
The Bluebells Walking Route – Hallerbos has 3 marked walking routes and one of them is a dedicated Bluebell Walk. It is a 7 kilometre route and can take approximately 2 hours. The most beautiful part of the forest where there is maximum chances of sighting mass flowering is the yellow walking path – Reebokwandeling. You can find the map of the forest on the official Hallerbos website.
Other Travel Tips – The entrance to Hallerbos is free. Bring your camera and do not stray from the marked areas to avoid trampling on the flowers. Prior permission is required for professional photo and videography. Other facts to keep in mind is that there are no toilets in the forest, except for the museum and only a few restaurants nearby. Carry snacks and water with you if you plan to stay for a few hours. If visiting with a baby stroller, do bring a sturdy one and be prepared to push it uphill once a while. Rain can make the walking tracks muddy, so wear sensible shoes and carry rain proof jackets. There are many flowers to be spotted at Hallerbos and white bluebells can also been seen there.
Travel Trivia – .Hallerbos has a very interesting World War history. During the WWI a large part of the original forest was destroyed. However, the years between 1930-1950 saw a massive reforestation drive and Hallerbos has been thriving ever since.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE