It is the capital and largest city of the judicial and administrative arrondissement of Kortrijk. The wider municipality comprises the city of Kortrijk proper and the villages of Aalbeke, Bellegem, Bissegem, Heule, Kooigem, Marke, and Rollegem. Kortrijk is also part of the cross-border Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai metropolitan area.
The city is on the river Leie, 42 km (26 mi) southwest of Ghent and 25 km (16 mi) northeast of Lille. Mouscron in Wallonia is just south of Kortrijk.
Kortrijk is the largest city in southern West Flanders, with several hospitals, colleges and a university. Kortrijk was the first city in Belgium with a pedestrian shopping street, the Korte Steenstraat.
Cortoriacum was a typical Gallo-Roman vicus at an important crossroads near the Leie river of the Roman roads linking Tongeren and Cassel and Tournai and Oudenburg. In the 9th century, Baldwin II, Count of Flanders established fortifications against the Vikings. The town gained its city charter in 1190 from Philip, Count of Flanders. The population growth required new defensive walls, part of which can still be seen today (the Broeltorens).
In the 13th century, the battles between Fernando of Portugal, Count of Flanders and his first cousin, King Louis VIII of France, led to the destruction of the city. The Counts of Flanders had it rebuilt soon after. To promote industry and weaving in the town, Joan, Countess of Flanders exempted settlers in Kortrijk from property tax. From that time, Kortrijk gained great importance as a centre of linen production.
In 1302, the population of Bruges started a successful uprising against the French, who had annexed Flanders a couple of years earlier. On 18 May the French population in that city was massacred, an event that could not go unpunished. The famous ensuing Battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs (Dutch: Guldensporenslag) between the Flemish people, mostly commoners and farmers, and Philip the Fair’s knights took place near Kortrijk on 11 July, resulting in a victory for Flanders. This date is now remembered as a national holiday by the whole Flemish community.
Following a new uprising by the Flemish in 1323, but this time against their own Count Louis I, the French invaded again. These Flemish acquisitions were consolidated by the French at the Battle of Cassel (1328). Louis I’s son, Louis II, then Philip van Artevelde briefly regained the city in 1381 but lost it again the following year at the Battle of Roosebeke, resulting in a new wave of plundering and destruction.
Most of the 15th century was prosperous under the Dukes of Burgundy, until the death of the Burgundian heiress, Mary of Burgundy, in 1482, which ushered in renewed fighting with France.
The 16th century was marked by the confrontations engendered by the Reformation and the uprising of the Netherlands against Spain.
Louis XIV’s reign saw Kortrijk occupied by the French five times in sixty years and its former fortifications razed. The Treaty of Utrecht finally assigned the whole area to Austria.
After the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era, the textile industry, based on flax, and the general economy of the city could finally prosper again.
Kortrijk was heavily bombed in the summer of 1917, but even more damaged by the allied bombing in 1944. The city was an important railway hub for the German army, and for this reason was the target of several allied air-strikes. On 21 July 1944 (the Belgian National Day) around 300 Avro Lancasters dropped over 5,000 bombs on the city centre. Many historical buildings on the central square, as well as the old railway station, were destroyed.
After the 1977 fusion the city is made up of:I Kortrijk
The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, also consists of Kuurne, Wevelgem, Zwevegem and Harelbeke. Although these municipalities have strong morphologic ties with Kortrijk, they aren't officially part of the city.
Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. The city center is one of the largest carfree areas in Belgium. The béguinage, as well as the belfry, were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1998 and 1999. Interesting highlights are:Medieval City Hall (on the main square, the Grote Markt). The façade of the late-Gothic, early Renaissance city hall is adorned with the statues of the Counts of Flanders.
The belfry is surmounted by a statue of Mercury, god of the merchants. The belfry is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Near-identical medieval Broel Towers with the bridge in between that spans the river Leie. (the Speyetower and the Ingelburgtower)
Mont de Piété (Berg van Barmhartigheid or house of Mercy)
Weigh house (Stadswaag) on the St.Michael-square
Our Lady Hospital (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwehospitaal), founded in 1200–1204.
Baggaertshof, often called Kortrijk's second Beguinage, contains a Botanical garden
Groeningekouter contains the Groeningegate and the Groeninge Monument, to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the famous Battle of the Golden Spurs
The Saint-Martin church dates from the 13th century but was mostly rebuilt after a fire in the 15th century. It now houses a 48-bell carillon. Its 83-meter (272 feet) tower remains the highest building in the city.
The beguinage is one of the quaintest sites in the city. It too, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
The church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) is former collegiate church. Here the golden spurs taken from the battlefield in 1302 were hung. It houses a rich interior with a altar piece of van Dyck.
the Count’s chapel (Gravenkapel), built after the example of la Sainte Chapelle in Paris as shrine for Louis II of Flanders.
Saint-Michaelschurch; a church of the Society of Jesus
Saint-Johnschurch in the St.-Johnsquarter; a Neo-Gothic basilica
Saint-Anthonychurch or Toontjes kerk with the pilgrimage of Isidore of Saint Joseph
Museums in Kortrijk include:Kortrijk 1302: seven centuries in one day, a historic museum about the famous Battle of the Golden Spurs, which gave Flanders its official holiday (11 July)
Broelmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts and archaeological museum), with paintings by Roelant Savery and international Ceramic.
National Flax Museum in honour of the plant that once was the main driver of Kortrijk’s economy. This museum will be relocated.
Groeninge Abbey with the Groeningemuseum. This museum gives you an overview of Kortrijk's history.
Beguinage museum located in the old town, in the béguinage.
Flemish Film museum and archive
Bakery- and Millmuseum, located in an old windmill.
Museum of Agriculture
International Rose gardens, located in the park of the Castle t Hooghe, in the Hoog-Kortrijk quarter just in front of Kortrijk Xpo.
Kortrijk lies at the intersection of three highways:The E17: connects Kortrijk with Ghent, Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp to the northeast, and with Lille and Paris to the south-west.
The E403: connects Kortrijk with Bruges and Ostend to the north, and with Tournai, Mons and Charleroi to the south-east.
The Belgian highway A19: connects Kortrijk with Ypres and the Belgian coast.
In addition Kortrijk also has two ringways:
The R8: connects the outskirts of Kortrijk with each other and the surrounding villages, and also leads to the A19, E403 and E17 roads.
The R36: connects the different downtown quarters with each other, and provides access to the main avenues.
The municipality of Kortrijk has two railway stations:
Kortrijk main railway station: an international railway station with direct connections to Brugge Centraal (Bruges), Brussel Zuid, Antwerp, Ghent, Poperinge and Ieper (Ypres), Oudenaarde, other Belgian towns and Lille in France. The station also offers a direct connection to Brussels Airport.
Bissegem Station: a regional railway station in the village of Bissegem with connections to Ypres.
Kortrijk has an extensive web of public transport lines, operated by De Lijn, providing access to the city centre and the suburbs (city lines, Dutch: stadslijnen) and to many towns and villages in the region around the city (regional lines, Dutch: streeklijnen).City buses:
Line 1: Station – Kortrijk Xpo – Kinepolis – Leiedal
Line 2: Station – Lange Munte
Line 4: Station – Bissegem Station – Heule Kransvijver
Line 50: Station – Kuurne Seizoenswijk
Line 51: Station – Kuurne Sint-Pieter
Line 6: Station – Shopping Center (– Industriezone) – Heule Markt
Line 9: Station – Cederlaan
Line 12: Station – Kinepolis – Bellegem – Rollegem (– Aalbeke)
Line 13: Station – Hoog Kortrijk
Line 80/81: Station – Marke
Line 91/92/93: Station – Zwevegem
At Kortrijk main railway station, there is a bus station where regional buses stop as well.
The city has an airport known as Kortrijk-Wevelgem International Airport, which is mainly used for business travel and medical flights. Kortrijk Airport is located northwest of the citycentre, next to the R8 ringroad.
The national Brussels Airport, one hour away by train or car, offers the best international connectivity.
The Lille Lesquin International Airport is located 35 kilometres from Kortrijk.
The river Leie is an important way of transporting goods through inland navigation. The Bossuit-Kortrijk Canal enables in the city centre a direct connection with the river Scheldt.
From the 1970s on, the planning and later the execution of the so-called Leiewerken (Leieworks) started. These construction works comprise the deepening and widening of the river. This should enable ships with 4400 tons to navigate from France to the Scheldt. At the same time, this project includes a thorough urban renewal of the riversides in the city. Seven new bridges have to give a new architectural impulse to the river quarters as well as the construction of several new parks along the river. Four bridges already opened (Dambrug, Groeningebrug, Ronde van Vlaanderenbrug and Collegebrug). The Noordbrug was scheduled to open in 2010. The Budabrug and Reepbrug are planned after the opening of the Noordbrug. The construction works started in 1997 and should be ready in 2012.
Cars are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. In general, cars are led to large underground car parks in the historic centre of Kortrijk or Park&Ride parking outside the town centre. Large parts of the historic centre are car free.
The city is historically connected with the flax and the textile industry, and still today the textile industry remains important in the region. Major companies which have headquarters in Kortrijk include Cisco, Barco and Bekaert.
Kortrijk serves as an educational centre in south West Flanders, attracting students from the entire region.
There are 55 schools in Kortrijk, on 72 different locations throughout the city, with an estimated 21,000 students.
The city also provides higher education. The Kortrijk University, the KULAK, a campus of the Catholic University of Leuven, is located in on the south edge of the city, in the Hoog Kortrijk quarter. Other institutes of higher education include the Katholieke Hogeschool Zuid-West-Vlaanderen (KATHO) and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (HOWEST) university colleges. There is also a campus of Ghent University.
Even though Kortrijk is a Dutch-speaking town, it borders Wallonia, and is only 9 km (5.6 mi) away from the border with France. This has created an urban area that extends across linguistic and national borders. The mayors of Lille, Kortrijk and Tournai met in Kortrijk on 28 January 2008 to sign a document creating the first European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation within the EU. The purpose of this organisation is to facilitate the movement of people within this area of nearly 2 million people.Kortrijk is a member of the Eurotowns network
Kortrijk has several cultural centres, each comprising different locations:
Cultural Centre Kortrijk
City Theatre (De Schouwburg, see picture), a neo-Renaissance architecture theatre known for its glass ceiling, an artwork of the French-Algerian artist Alberola
Buda Kunstencentrum (Buda Arts Centre), comprising the cinema Budascoop, the artists residence Tacktower and the artists creation space Budafactory
Music Centre Track*
Concert venue De Kreun
Kinepolis, a modern cinema multiplex with 10 screens.
Budascoop, a 5 screen cinema, specialised in European movies.
The city is host to some sizable cultural events such as:Day of the Flemish Community (11 July)
Golden River City Jazz Festival (first weekend of September)
Humorologie: cabaret festival
Next: arts festival in the Eurodistrict Kortrijk-Lille-Tournai
Happy New Ears: festival of experimental modern music
Budafest: theatre festival
The Internationaal Festival van Vlaanderen (April–May): several concerts of classical and modern music.
Novarock: rock festival in Kortrijk Xpo
Easter Carnival (Paasfoor): during the weeks after Easter
Sinxenfestival: one of the most vivid festivals downtown with street artists, concerts and flea markets all over town
Kortrijk Congé (July)
Summer Carnival (weekend in August)
Student Welcome Concert: rock festival to celebrate the start of the new academic year at the Kortrijk University and the Kortrijk Colleges.
Also, trade shows and events such as the international Design Fair Interieur, Busworld and the Eurodogshow take place in the Kortrijk Xpo event center. These fairs attract numerous visitors to the city.
In July and August there are various boat tours on the river Leie.
Local specialities include Kalletaart (apple cake with Calvados), Peperbollen, biscuits, and chocolate little beguines. The town of Heule is the home of the Picobrouwerij Alvinne brewery, while Bellegem is the home of the Bockor brewery.Kortrijk was the first town in Belgium to have a fully traffic-free shopping street, the Korte Steenstraat (1962). Later, a lot of neighbouring streets were also made traffic-free. As a result, Kortrijk nowadays has one of the biggest traffic-free areas in Belgium (comprising Lange Steenstraat, Steenpoort, Sint-Jansttraat, Wijngaardstraat and several squares).
Kortrijk has several indoor shopping malls including the Ring Shopping Kortrijk Noord, Bouwcentrum Pottelberg and K in Kortrijk (opened March 2010). The latter is in the town centre and which links the main shopping street (Lange Steenstraat) with the Veemarket square. It contains up to 90 stores, including Saturn, H&M, Zara and many other clothes, food and houseware stores.
Groeningepark, on the site of the Groeningekouter where the Battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs took place. In contains the Groeningegate and the Groeninge Monument
King Albertpark, with the Leiemonument which commemorates the Battle of the Lys
Gebroeders van Raemdonckpark
Queen Astridpark in the Overleie district
't Plein, a nineteenth-century park, laid out on a former military site
Park de Blauwe Poort
Rozentuin, the International Rose Garden
Kasteelpark 't Hooghe
Stadsgroen Venning, with a butterfly garden
Kortrijk has three official football clubs.K.V. Kortrijk plays in the Belgian First Division Aafter winning the championship in the former Belgian Second Division during the 2007–2008 season.
SV Kortrijk plays in the fourth provincial division.
Wikings Kortrijk is for youth teams.
Kortrijk Sport CB
In Flanders generally, professional cycling is very popular. Many cycling races start, finish or pass through the Kortrijk area. Amongst them are the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, Gent–Wevelgem, the Tour of Flanders and Dwars door Vlaanderen. Kortrijk also hosts an after-tour criterium at the start of August called Kortrijk Koerse
. Many of the riders who participated in the Tour de France usually appear at the start.
Tennis Club De Egelantier
KZK, Kortrijkse Zwemkring, arguably the best waterpolo team in Belgium, having won the Belgian championship nine times. In the 2007–2008 season they won both the championship and the Belgian cup.
Kortrijk participates in town twinning to encourage good international relations. Bad Godesberg, Germany, since 1964
Cebu City, Philippines, since 2005
Frascati, Italy, since 1967
Greenville, South Carolina, United States, since 1991
Saint-Cloud, France, since 1993
Lahore, Pakistan, since 1993
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, since the late 1980s
Maidenhead, United Kingdom, since 1981
Wuxi, China, since 2007