Top things to do in Halle, Belgium - Easy Half-day trip from Brussels

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali

Halle is a city in the south of Brussels in the Flemish Brabant region. With direct trains from Brussels, it is not only one of the best things to do in Flemish Brabant but also one of the best things to do around Brussels and an easy half-day trip from Brussels.
Located just 20 minutes away from Brussels by fast train (or 40 mins by slow train) a trip to Halle doesn't really require pre-planning and it can be an easy, spontaneous trip from Brussels by train! You don't even have to do all of these in a single trip, multiple half-day trips are possible & easy as well! What you see here is perhaps 3-4 of my half-day trips to Halle from Brussels!
Quite amusingly, apart from the major cities like Brussels, Antwerp, etc., and University towns like Leuven, Gent, etc., a few other places like Halle, Mol, etc have a heavy expats population, esp. Indian population thanks to Colruyt, Nike, etc!

TOP THINGS TO DO IN HALLE
...apart from Hallerbos Bluebells festival...

HALLERBOS HYACINTEN - HALLE BLUE FOREST - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE
Halle and Hallerbos go hand in hand. The best thing to do in Halle is, of course, to visit Hallerbos, a blue-bell forest, right on time, in April, when the whole forest looks like there's a purple carpet laid on it. It is such a magical thing! It is unbelievable. Here's all about Hallerbos Bluebells forest in another article. 

Click to read my dedicated article on all you need to know about Hallerbos

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do


Hallerbos Halle Bluebells Forest
Hallerbos Hyacinten

Brussels Charleroi Canal Biking
Brussels <=> Charleroi canal of river Senna via Halle

Free things to do in Halle
Grazing lands beyond Malakoff Domain

Brussels Charleroi Canal Biking
Along the Brussels <=> Charleroi Canal at Halle

MURALS ON PACAPIME BUILDING & RAILWAY STATIONS - MOST INSTAGRAMMABLE LOCATIONS IN HALLE - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE
I've been wanting to visit the stunning murals on the walls of the Pacapime building along the canal for quite some time. Pacapime building is about 2km from Halle Railway Station and I had been postponing a visit here, with Atyudarini being little and to get her to walk long(ish) distances wouldn't be fun. Now that she's older, I decided to head here. We took Atyudarini's bike on the train and while she biked along the canal, I walked (jogged/ran) beside her. 
The design is called Enchanted Forest and is a creation of Gooze and Bozik, a team from Russia; organized by Treepack Artist Collective. It covers a space of 2000sqm, making it one of the largest murals in Europe. As the name suggests, the mural depicts a magical forest where kids live in peace & harmony with nature. It starts with a kid reading a book under a blanket (don't tell me you haven't done that when you were a young child). Then it continues to 2 more kids who are making origami animals in a forest and magically, those animals become real! There are also the 'guardians' of the forest with a magic wand and a magical tree passage, which 'gives life' to the origami animals! The half-origami and half-real deer was perhaps the most intriguing piece for Atyudarini. Another kid is looking 'at a bright future' through his binocular. The style of the paintings is absolutely adorable and the texture of the wall, adds to the effect. It really gives that magical feeling! Being in Halle, of course, this mystical forest also has bluebells! Here's an interesting piece of information - the children depicted in the mural are local kids from Halle!
Btw, if you're interested in murals, 2 other interesting places to visit in Halle would be the railway station of Halle itself and the railway station of Lembeek, the next station to Halle. Halle railway station murals are called 'Constellations' depicting the Zodiac signs. This 180m wall is the work of multiple artists. The Lembeek railway station murals were made by Nitra Art & an NGO called Killerbee.

Where is Pacapime Building (on Google Maps)? Pacapime Building
How to reach Halle murals of Pacapime building: 1.5km (18 mins walk) from Halle Railway Station
Halle Murals opening timings: Free
Halle Murals tickets: 24x7

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do

Halle Murals Street art tour free things to do

MALAKOFF DOMAIN - MALAKOFF TOWER, EUROPEAN PINE MARTENS & BATS - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE
A short bike ride from Halle along the canal, after crossing the murals of the Pacapime building, you're almost at Malakoff Domain which spreads on either side of river Senne. To the right is the Lembeek Castle (and the Lembeek railway station) and to the left is a lot of greenery with the Malakoff Tower standing proudly in the midst we went here, first. The whole place has beautiful greenery, so much so, that it was once awarded the most beautiful place to visit in Halle. 

Malakoff Tower: Ages ago, the Malakoff Castle was here, however today it has completely disappeared. The Malakoff tower is a folly and was built in 1854 by Paul Claes, a jenever baron Paul Claes. The tower was never intended to be a castle and neither was it a part of the Lembeek castle's defense line, it was just a folly, built for entertainment purposes! Being a Jenever Baron that Paul Claes was, he threw a flamboyant garden party here where the Malakoff Battle (during the Crimean War (1853-56) between France & Russia, at Malakoff in Ukraine) was re-enacted, staged!
Also read: Jenever is a Dutch/Flemish Gin. Here's all about Jenever Museum in Hasselt.
It is possible to climb this tower and the view from atop to the surrounding valley is stunning. There are 3 flights of stairs and the thickness of the wall is about 2ft which makes it pretty safe to even look down from there, without falling over, even for children. Quite amusingly, we saw many deer from atop the tower and we immediately got down to go see the deer up & close. There were about 20 deer here with an enclosure to protect them. If luck works out, some deer might come closer to the fence. That said, this part is technically not a part of Malakoff Domain and is private property.
From there we headed further ahead to the other end of the domain - Doktor Spitaelslaan. Beyond this is entirely grasslands and if you're lucky you'll spot horses or cows grazing away. We didn't spot any. 
When compared to many other provincial domains, this is much smaller, but this is much more significant for 2 reasons - Bats & European pine marten! Both the Batbike Route and Boommarter Route go via Malakoff Domain. 

Boommarter route: The Boommarter route is a 14km biking route on the outskirts of Halle to promote a living space for European Pine Martens. The European Pine Martens requires a very large area well connected by forests. So the idea was to connect the Malakoff domain, Lembeekbos, Maasdalbos, and Hallerbos to welcome European Pine Martens back to this region. If you skip Lembeekbos & Hallerbos, this is just a 9km route. That said, the portion of the route within Malakoff Domain & Lembeek Castle is just 2 km. 
Though it is listed as 'Least Concern'  in the Worldwide IUCN list, within Flanders it is on the 'Critically Endangered' list due to loss of habitat, which is why the idea Boommarter project came into being, to increase its habitat. Today the animal is slowly but steadily increasing in numbers in the region. Most probably you may not come across the European Pine Marten on this route because, one - they are active in the evenings & nights, and two - they shy away from humans (we aren't really a friendly species, are we?)!

Batbike route: As the name suggests, this is a biking route that goes via many bat cellars! This is a 21km biking route from Buizingen to Lembeek via Halle. Obviously, this route also goes via Malakoff Domain. Very close to the waterbody in Malakoff Domain is this partially underground cellar which serves as a cool & dark cave-like atmosphere for the bats to call, home! This was most probably a part of the Brussels<=>Charleroi Canal of river Senne which once went through the Malakoff Domaine, in a smaller size (the size of the canal was later made bigger and redirected to as we see it today). It was in a dilapidated condition which was completely renovated, but with a rustic feel & rough edges to help the bats feel 'at home'! A 37 m-long corridor was added to help better ventilation, and there's a gate at its end which is what we see. Obviously, it is locked, to give the bats, privacy and we cannot go in. The Batbike route continues across the River Senne canal to Lembeek Castle. 

Where is Malakoff Domain (on Google Maps)? Malakoffdomein
Where is Malakoff Tower (on Google Maps)? Malakofftoren
How to reach Malakoff Domain? 1.2km (14 mins walk) from Lembeek railway station. 1.3km (15 mins walk) from Pacapime Building Murals.
Boommarter map: via Halle Tourisme - in Dutch language (opens/downloads as PDF)
Batbike route: via Batbike (opens/downloads as PDF)

Malakofftoren Malakoff Tower Free things to do in halle

Malakofftoren Malakoff Tower Free things to do in halle

Malakoff Domain Free things to do in halle

Malakoff Domain Free things to do in halle

Malakoff Domain Batbike Bats protection Free things to do in halle
Bats Cellar in Malakoff Domain

LEMBEEK CASTLE - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE WITH KIDS
As the name suggests, the castle was the home to the lords of Lembeek for several centuries and then fell to ruins. The same jenever baron Paul Claes who built the Malakoff Tower, bought and restored this castle. In the early 1900s, it was taken over by a Catholic Congregation school, which made its own changes in the domain with an expansion of buildings & inclusion of religious sculptures, etc. All that remains today is a small portion of the castle building and its attic is also home to bats! There are small openings on the roof to help the bats get in & out of the attic! Again, this is not accessible for us to protect the habitat of bats!
In front of the castle is a very nice playground which Atyudarini absolutely loved. Beside the castle, on the castle grounds and a walk through it takes you behind the garden where the ruins of the church were built by the Catholic Congregation. 

Where is Lembeek Castle & Playground (on Google Maps)Kasteelpark Lembeek
How to reach Lembeek Castle & Playground450m (5 mins walk) from Lembeek railway station. 700m (8 mins walk) from Malakofftoren
Lembeek Castle & Playground Tickets: Free
Lembeek Castle & Playground Timings: 24x7

Biking along Brussels Charleroi canal

Lembeek Castle | Places to visit near Halle

Lembeek Castle | Places to visit near Halle

Lembeek Castle Playground | Things to do in Halle with kids

Murals & Street art at Lembeek Railway Station
Murals & Street art at Lembeek Railway Station

DEN AST MUSEUM -  TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN HALLE WITH KIDS
The only museum of Halle is Den AST museum and it is the local history museum. Once upon a time, Halle has the most number of malthouses because it was beer central! One of these malthouses, the Van Roye malthouse has now been repurposed as Den AST Museum. It was a functional malthouse till 1984. 
Today, the museum is in 3 sections - The ground floor is dedicated to the religious importance of Halle, almost entirely about Saint Martin Basilica and the legends about it. 
The next floor is dedicated entirely to beer. This is even more special here since this was a brewery itself! The floor is very child friendly and begins with a lab coat that they could wear. Then there are the various steps of brewing that begin with the thrashing of hops! There are fake instruments that they could try out thrashing, lifting the sacks, and understanding the taste & color of toasted hops!
The upper floor is what is fantastic for kids! There's a room dedicated to the Lembeek Procession which includes, a Lego set of the procession itself along with buttons to activate music, dance, etc. The next room is dedicated to makeovers! There are various clothes & accessories - princess costumes, knights costumes, cheerleader pompoms, hats, and many more things to deck up. This is where Atyudarini spent at least an hour! This is a small museum and to spend an hour just in this room was quite something!  

Where is Den AST Museum Halle (on Google Maps)? Den AST
How to reach Den AST Museum Halle1km (13 mins walk) from Halle Railway Station. 250m (3 mins walk) from Halle Basilica. 
Den AST Museum Halle Tickets: €3. Included in MuseumPASSmusées
Den AST Museum Halle Timings: Wed-Thu: 9:00-12:00 & 14:00-17:00; Sun: 14:00-17:00. Closed on all other days.

Den AST Museum Halle | Places to visit in Halle with kids

Den AST Museum Halle | Places to visit in Halle with kids

Den AST Museum Halle | Places to visit in Halle with kids

Den AST Museum Halle | Places to visit in Halle with kids

Den AST Museum Halle | Places to visit in Halle with kids

HALLE CARNAVAL
Halle Carnaval is not only one of the best carnivals in Belgium but also the nearest to Brussels and the easiest one to reach from Brussels by public transport. Halle Carnaval happens in the month of March every year. It would be updated regularly on their website.

All about Halle Carnaval: via the official website of Halle Carnaval

BASILICA OF SAINT MARTIN (SINT-MARTINUS BASILIEK) - CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF HALLE
The main church of Halle is the Basilica of Saint Martin. The original chapel here dates back to 1335 CE and a church dates back to 1409 CE. However, the current structure belongs to 1775, built in a totally Baroque style architecture. 
The altar has a sculpture of Our Lady of Halle. The sculpture dates back to 1267 by Sofia Van Thüringen, who is a descendant of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. It is all the more special for me because it depicts Mother Mary breastfeeding Infant Jesus. According to the legends, her sculpture is black in color because she caught all the cannonballs that were aimed at Halle during the siege, which are on display as soon as you enter the church. One of the oldest parts of the church is in the Chapel of Trazegnies 1467 CE, to the right. Here's another old sculpture - the alabaster altarpiece in Renaissance style dating back to 1533.
The crypt mentions 59 Miracles of Our Lady, which is why this is a Basilica, which unfortunately I couldn't since it was closed when I visited. The baptismal font in brass dates back to 1446 and are from Tournai. The brass lectern in the form of an eagle with outspread wings also dates back to the 15th C CE.

Where is Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek (on Google Maps)Sint-Martinus Basiliek Halle
How to reach Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek? 900m (11 mins walk) from Halle Railway Station
Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek Tickets: Free
Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek Timings: 8:00AM to 5:30PM Everyday

Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek | Top things to do in Halle

Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek | Top things to do in Halle

Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek | Top things to do in Halle

Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek | Top things to do in Halle

Halle Basilica of Saint Martin - Sint-Martinus Basiliek | Top things to do in Halle

PATERSKERK (FATHER'S CHURCH) - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE 
While the Basilica of Saint Martin is the most important church in Halle, Paterskerk needs a special mention. Originally, the monastery with a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows was constructed in 1646. In the 19th C, it was taken over by the Fathers of the Recollect Monastery. They left this place very recently in 2013 and since then, this has not been a functional church. 
Why Paterskerk in Halle needs a special mention is because of its stunning murals! Today the monastery part has been repurposed into an assisted living apartment called Residentie 't Convent, but the church is more like an events space that is filled with murals painted by 2 Belgian artists Bart Smeets and Steve Locatelli. Here too, like the Pacapime building, the theme is Enchanted Forest.

Where is Paterskerk (Residentie 't Convent) (on Google Maps)Paterskerk
How to reach Paterskerk (Residentie 't Convent)800m (9 mins walk) from Halle Railway Station. 400m (4 mins walk) from Halle Basilica. 
Paterskerk (Residentie 't Convent) Tickets: Free
Paterskerk (Residentie 't Convent) Timings: 24x7 (Update 2023: This isn't open to the public anymore. The building has been closed for renovation. )

LA SENNE RIVER VIEWPOINT - FREE THINGS TO DO IN HALLE
While within the city of Brussels, river Senne goes underground into the canal (a part of which you see inside Sewer Museum) that continues all the way to Charleroi as Brussels<=>Charleroi Canal, just beyond Gare du Midi, the river also re-emerges over the ground! The river almost runs parallel to Brussels <=> Charleroi canal and in Halle, there's a beautiful viewpoint to see the river and perhaps have a picnic too! There is a series of circular platforms that go from the street level to the river. Depending on the flow of the river, the last few of the platforms might be inside the river! 

Where is La Senne River Viewpoint (on Google Maps)La Senne Viewpoint
How to reach La Senne River Viewpoint550m (6 mins walk) from Halle Railway Station. 270m (3 mins walk) from Halle Basilica. 
La Senne River Viewpoint Tickets: Free
La Senne River Viewpoint Timings: 24x7

La Senne viewpoint in Halle | Free things to do in Halle

La Senne viewpoint in Halle | Free things to do in Halle

Halle Railway Station Street Art | Free things to do in Halle
Halle Railway Station Street Art - Zodiac - Aries

Halle Railway Station Street Art | Free things to do in Halle
Halle Railway Station Street Art - Zodiac - Leo

Malakofftoren Malakoff Tower Free things to do in halle
View from atop Malakoff Tower (above & below)

HALLE ITINERARIES

HALLE ITINERARY BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
1 Day Halle Itinerary (when it's not the Carnival or Hallerbos)
Reach Halle Railway Station by SNCB-NMBS Belgian railways train 
Morning - Den Ast, Sint-Martinus Basiliek & La Senne viewpoint 
Afternoon - Walk along the canal to Pacapime building murals, continue to Malakoff domain, climb Malakoff Tower, visit Lembeek castle, and return from Lembeek railway station

1 Day Halle Itinerary during Hallerbos
Reach Halle Railway Station by SNCB-NMBS Belgian railways train 
Morning - Hallerbos
Afternoon Opt 1 - Den Ast, Sint-Martinus Basiliek & La Senne viewpoint 
Afternoon Opt 2 - Walk along the canal to Pacapime building murals, continue to Malakoff domain, climb Malakoff Tower, visit Lembeek castle, and return from Lembeek railway station

Half-day Halle Itinerary options
Opt 1 - Just Hallerbos
Opt 2 - Den Ast, Sint-Martinus Basiliek & La Senne viewpoint, walk along the canal to Pacapime building murals
Opt 3 - Walk along the canal to Pacapime building murals, continue to Malakoff domain, climb Malakoff Tower, visit Lembeek castle, and return from Lembeek railway station

HOW TO REACH HALLE

Halle is one of the places that have direct train connections from not only the major railway stations in Brussels but also the minor station including Evere, Merode, Meiser, Germoir, etc. The S4, S5, and S7 lines of SNCB-NMBS Belgian Railways connect all the smaller railway stations of Brussels to Halle. However, these lines cater to office-goers and do not run on weekends. During weekends you'll have to go to Brussels Central, Nord, Sud, Schuman or Luxembourg.

PIN IT / BOOKMARK IT NOW, READ LATER 

What to do in Halle? Wat te doen en Hal? Street Art in Halle

Top things to do in Halle Belgium Malakoff Domain | Malakoff Tower | Batbike route | Boommarter route | Places to visit in Halle, Belgium

Half day trip from Brussels to Halle Half day trip from Brussels to Halle with kids

VIDEO OF HALLE STREET ART AT PACAPIME BUILDING

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

7 comments:

  1. Halle certainly does look like a great day trip from Brussels. Love that we could do it by train. And see such beautiful murals when you arrive. I like the idea of getting bikes and wandering around. Climbing the Malakoff Tower would give us a good view of the path we might want to take. Glad to read that the Lembeek Castle was restored so that visitors can enjoy it. Linda (LD Holland)

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  2. Puloma BhattacharyaApril 28, 2023 at 7:04 AM

    Halle, Belgium has lot of things to do and it's a wonderful place to spend time with kids. The murals of Pacapime building are amazing and it's really inspired how the kids in the murals were from real life.The Malakoff domain is yet another fascinating place with its war history.And Halle carnival must be such an exciting event for kids to enjoy.It's inspiring how the Paterskerk church monastery has been transformed into assisted living.It's interesting how the Den Ast museum was once a malthouse and the Sense river viewpoint is beautiful!

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  3. That 2000sqm wall looks like something straight out of a fairytale. The murals of Halle are breathtaking. Even the location is so green. Martens were the first animals I saw in Corbett National Park, India. And it's nice to know that there is a project for the European counterparts there. From your post, it seems more like a place that one would enjoy a rejuveating weekend in.

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  4. Halle sounds like a great place to visit if you are looking for a short day trip from Brussels in nature. I love that there is a bluebell forest nearby. It's actually the season for them here in the UK and I am looking forward to actually going for a walk in my local forest to see them. The murals in Halle also look pretty spectacular! And for a small place, they have so many. It's great that you can explore the area by bike, cycling is such a great way to both exercise and spend time in nature.

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  5. There is so much to see and do in Halle that, as I read the post, I felt eager and interested in visiting. The wonderful murals completely astounded me! The interior of Saint Martin's Basilica is breathtaking. I was also intrigued by the historic Den AST Museum. I find it incredible that you can see these places in only half a day. Fantastic!

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  6. Wow, I'm pleasantly surprised to see the amazing views and sights to see in Halle! I have a good friend living in Antwerp, so I'm dying to make my way over to Belgium one of these days. I love visiting churches in different countries so the Basilica of Saint Martin would be on the top of my list, but I'd also love to visiti Lembeek Castle and take a walk around the lush green area!

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  7. Indeed a beautiful place to discover and the larger than life murals are so damn amazing! I’ve only been to Brussels and I haven’t notice any murals on most walls. It’s sad didn’t have time to explore the beautiful province of Flemish Brabant.

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