Belgium’s Blue Forest

Every Spring, thousands of people flock to a forest just outside Brussels to witness a breathtaking natural spectacle. It’s the transformation of the Hallerbos from a sea of green into a sea of blue.

The Hallerbos undergoes this remarkable transformation from green to blue due to bluebells. Millions of them. It’s a sight not to be missed. It’s magical, enchanting, beautiful, … words fail to do it justice: you have to go and see them for yourself. And if you go on a hot sunny day the sweet scent will waft towards you long before you see the first bluebell.

Hallerbos, Belgium is full of bluebells in the spring

When is the best time to see them?

That’s what everyone wants to know, especially as we move into April. The timing is crucial. You don’t want to go too early and just see leaves, nor too late and just see dead-heads. A rule of thumb is from the middle to the end of April.

However, the precise flowering season varies with the weather. If late March is unseasonably warm, then they could first appear in early April. If March is cold, then they might not start making an appearance until the end of April. And who knows what effect climate change is having on them? In 2023 the weather in March was slightly under average temperature, but I don’t think it will have delayed blooming.

My recommendation is to keep an eye on this Bluebell Webcam. Actually it’s not a webcam at all (I’ve just called it that to pique your interest). It’s short videos that regularly appear to keep you informed of the progress of the bluebells. The English version that I linked to above is sometimes not as up-to-date as this Dutch version. So if you understand Dutch, or can pick up the key messages from the pictures, check out the Dutch version.

Hallerbos, Belgium: bluebells wood

What is the Hallerbos?

The Hallerbos is a pretty sizeable patch of ancient woodland. It’s 542 hectares or 5.82 square kilometres or 2.25 square miles. But whatever the number, it’s plenty big enough to find somewhere to wander away from the crowds. Unless, that is, you go on a hot Sunday afternoon in bluebell season when it’s as crowded as a seaside promenade (but without the seagulls).

The owner of the Hallerbos is the Belgian State, but the forest has been passed from owner to owner like scouts around a campfire throwing a hot potato to each other. Its first known owner is probably the Abbey of St. Waltrudis in the 7th century. By the 13th century the forest had become the property of the Lords of Brussels, and in the 17th century most of it belonged to the Duke of Arenberg. The forest at that time extended to over 1125 hectares. That’s double its current size.

Ownership passed to the French Republic after invasion by French troops in 1794; to the Netherlands in 1815 after the defeat of Napoleon; and then in 1831 it returned to the Arenberg family. Unfortunately, during the First World War, the German Army decided that they owned it, and proceeded to cut down all the big trees, leaving the Hallerbos virtually ruined.

In 1929 however the Hallerbos (now reduced to 569 hectares) became property of the Belgian State and between 1930 to 1950 it was completely reforested, which explains why it looks fairly young.

The bluebells of the Hallerbos, Belgium are a superb natural spectacle

Is the Hallerbos a nature reserve?

Part of it is. Four separate areas covering around 100 hectares are designated a forest nature reserve. Here, other interesting wild flowers grow, such as wood spurge, spiked rampion, wild orchids, golden saxifrage and herb Paris. Non-native plants and trees have been removed to give the natural flora and fauna the best possible chance to thrive. Trees that die are left to fall and rot, as they form excellent habitats for mosses and fungi and all sorts of creepy crawlies.

Some of the trees are used for timber. A strict forest management plan is implemented to care for the forest and ensure a sustainable woodland for years to come.

Hallerbos Belgium is famed worldwide for its display of bluebells

Why do so many bluebells grow here?

A good question! A carpet of bluebells is a sign of an ancient woodland. The Hallerbos is part of the ancient carboniferous forest that stretched over most of this part of Europe. So unless your local forest is part of an ancient woodland, you probably won’t find bluebells in vast numbers.

Hallerbos, Belgium: bluebell wood

How do I get to the Hallerbos?

Here are the instructions to get to the Hallerbos by car and by public transport.

If you want to walk there, you can use this general hiking map of the Hallerbos. To go right through the heart of the bluebell area, follow this Bluebell Walk map. Note that you are not allowed to walk everywhere in the Hallerbos. Bluebells are fragile, so all visitors are requested to keep to the paths and not wander into the forest to look at the flowers in close-up. Nor pick them, of course.

Anyway, if you make it to the Hallerbos, I hope you enjoy it as much as I always do.

The beautiful blue forest of Hallerbos thanks to its bluebells

(This is a shorter version of an article that first appeared on my other blog, Discovering Belgium)

Also my submission to Cee’s Flower of the Day photo challenge.


  1. Wow, how wonderful! And you’ve captured them so beautifully too 🙂 As Jude says, this sort of shot isn’t easy, the results can be disappointing when compared with the actual sight, but these are excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing and it’s great that it happens every year 😀. Why do I say this? Because in South of India, there is a hill region known as the Nilgiris which turns blue (hence the name Nil – pronounced Neel meaning blue) once in 12 years and I missed seeing it because of my ignorance of the phenomena, going there 2 months later after the event, in one of the years that it happened!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous photos! It is so strange, one of my son’s sent a photo of this place to me years ago, and I’d guess that within the past 2 weeks, I just thought of it… out of the blue! Now here are many photos with interesting information.

    Liked by 1 person

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