Kortrijk originated from a Gallo-Roman town, Cortoriacum, at a crossroads near the Leie river and two Roman roads. In the Middle Ages, Kortrijk grew significantly thanks to the flax and wool industry with France and England and became one of the biggest and richest cities in Flanders. The city is often referred to as City of Groeninge or City of the Golden Spurs, referring to the Battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs which took place on 11 July 1302 on the Fields of Groeninge in Kortrijk. In 1820, the Treaty of Kortrijk was signed, which laid out the current borders between France and Belgium. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, the flax industry flourished and remains important within the Belgian textile industry today.
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.
The Roman name Cortoriacum meant in latin, the settlement near the curb in the river.
There is also mention of Cortoracum in some literature.
Its name later evolved to Cortrycke, Cortryck, and Kortrijk (19th Century). The French Called it Courtrai.
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.
15th century to modern times
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.
Kortrijk was heavily bombed in the summer of 1917, but was liberated by the British Army the following year. During World War II 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.
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 centre is one of the largest car-free 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:
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 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 an altar piece of van Dyck.
Bissegem Station: a regional railway station in the village of Bissegem with connections to Ypres.
Public city transport
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).
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.
Within the City, the river briefly splits in two, to re-join about a mile further.
Oude Leie (Old Lys) original southernmost riverbed where the Broel towers still stand.
Nieuwe Leie (New Lys) New bed that was dug around 1585 by Humans to accommodate water powered equipment
From the 1970s on, the planning and later the execution of the so-called Leiewerken (Leieworks) started. These construction works comprised the deepening and widening of the river. This would enable ships with 4400 tons to navigate from France to the Scheldt. At the same time, this project included a thorough urban renewal of the riversides in the city. Seven new bridges were to give a new architectural impulse to the river quarters as well as the construction of several new parks along the river.
The following bridges were built during the period of 1997 and 2012:
Groeningebrug near the AlbertPark
Ronde van Vlaanderenbrug near the new Nelson Mandelapark
Collegebrug referring to the St Amands college
Reepbrug (to be constructed)
More recently (2018), the banks in front of the Broel Towers were lowered to allow the public to enjoy the historic river banks alons both side of the River Lys (Leie). This area is now known as the Leieboorden (or Banks of the River Lys), a place for pedestrians with bars and restaurants.
Other Smaller Waterways with Historic and Geological value
Several small streams or Beken in and around Courtrai were of significant topological, historical and Geological value.
Lange Mere Mentioned in the Town accounts of 1412-13 as Langhe Meere.
Mosscher (High Mossher and Low Mosscher) ending in the Southern Moat (Sanderus Map mentions only the 'Mosscher as a single toponym. It was also mentioned in almost full length on the Deventer Map.
Groeninghe (first mentioned as Groeninc in 1412 ) Its name came from the green color of the flooded meadow where it originated.
Grote Vijver (first mention as Hoghen vivere in the town accounts of 1416-17).
St-Jan's stream - Human Dug connecting stream
Moat around the City (south of the Leie or Lys)
Cycling and pedestrian areas
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.
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.
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)
Alcatraz Hard Rock & Metal Festival (August)
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.
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.
^AC02717376, Anonymus (1966). Acta Historiae Neerlandica. Brill Archive. p.11
^Verbruggen, J. F. (2002). The Battle of the Golden Spurs (Courtrai, 11 July 1302): A Contribution to the History of Flanders' War of Liberation, 1297-1305. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN978-0-85115-888-4.pp. 135-150