ERDF Beliris
The Grandstand. © Copyright Tim Van de Velde

A new lease of life for the Boitsfort Hippodrome

Work has resumed on the site of the Boitsfort Hippodrome, following a partnership between the Brussels public authorities and the private sector. Their ambition is to transform the site into a natural, educational and leisure hub for the Brussels-Capital Region.

The Boitsfort Hippodrome, which is open to everyone, is located at the intersection of the city and forest, as a gateway to the forest and its precious biodiversity. The objective is to reconcile the reception of visitors with nature conservation, in a harmonious way.

Path, pasture and trees on the estate
The site has several lovely green areas. © Bruxelles Environnement

A public-private partnership

The new “Hippodrome” project does not mean that all the private activities that were set up on site or the project that was underway since 2016 (miniature golf, hospitality establishments) have to make way for the new project. The latter, which was jointly developed by the three partners involved, i.e., Bruxelles Environnement, SAU/MSI, the Urban Development Corporation of the Brussels-Capital Region and Drohme, aims to create a diversified visitor experience, while preserving the site’s biodiversity.

The project received financing from 2014-2020 ERDF Operational Programme of the Brussels-Capital Region.


A unique regional project

Climate issues require us more than ever to make the transition to a more environmentally-conscious society. The need to preserve nature in cities is also increasingly apparent.

But how can we preserve the forest and its biodiversity, whilst giving the people of Brussels and visitors the opportunity to reconnect with nature? These questions are all the more relevant given the current health crisis.

In order to provide an adequate response, the Brussels-Capital Region decided to create a regional educational and recreational green space on the site of the old Boitsfort Hippodrome. This ambitious and innovative project is part of a larger, multi-generational logic of social utility, with particular attention being paid to families, children and schools.

Path and trees in the forest
The site has several lovely green areas. © Bruxelles Environnement
view of the Betting Village on a sunny day.
The Betting Village has always served as the main entrance to the race course. In the old times, spectators would come here to place a bet or for festive events. © Bruxelles Environnement

The Hippodrome: where the city and the forest meet

Since its inception at the end of the 19th century, the Hippodrome site has always positioned itself as a recreational hub. The new project adds a nature and educational layer to the site.

As a gateway to the Sonian Forest, this site is instrumental, in that forest conservation and the reception of visitors can be combined, while educating people about how to properly use it. The site will be added to the existing network of gateways to the Sonian Forest (Groenendael, Tervuren Park, Rouge-Cloître, etc.).

The gateways concept is one of the guiding principles of the management plan for the Sonian Forest. The idea is to guide the visitors flows to accessible places, with amenities (for walking, sports, etc.) in order to preserve the more fragile environments.


A regional nature, educational and leisure hub

The environment education aspect will be ensured by the future Forest Centre that will be established onsite. It will combine a visitor reception area with a museum space. Here families and schools will be able to find out the answers to questions related to nature and the forest, in a fun and interactive way.

The site will also offer social-recreational and sports activities, that are adapted to the natural surroundings, including hiking trails, a playground and a relaxation meadow. The fact that no charge will be asked for these activities will genuinely help make the site an inclusive meeting place for all.