For the Dutch village, see Kortrijk (Netherlands)

Kortrijk (official name in Dutch; French: Courtrai; Latin: Cortoriacum) is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province West Flanders. The wider municipality comprises the city of Kortrijk proper and the towns of Aalbeke, Bellegem, Bissegem, Heule, Kooigem, Marke, and Rollegem. With about 74,000 inhabitants Kortrijk is the seventh largest city in the Flemish region.

The city is situated on the River Lys, 42 km (26 miles) southwest of Ghent and 25 km (15 miles) northeast of Lille in France. Both Kortrijk and Lille are part of the same transnational Eurodistrict urban area with around 1,900,000 inhabitants.

The arrondissement of Kortrijk is both a judicial and an administrative arrondissement.


Origins to the 13th century

Cortoriacum was a typical Gallo-Roman vicus at an important crossroads near the Lys River (Dutch: Leie). It was situated on the crossroads of the Roman roads linking Tongeren and Cassel and Tournai and Oudenburg. In the ninth 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. From that time, Kortrijk gained great importance as a centre of linen production.

Battle of the Golden Spurs

In 1302, the population of Bruges started a successful uprising against the French, who had annexed Flanders a couple of years earlier. On May 18, the French population in that city was massacred, an event that could not go unpunished. The famous ensuing 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 July 11, 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 uprising of the Netherlands in 1539, by Charles V’s heavy-handed reprisal to it, and later by the confrontations engendered by the Reformation. Louis XIV’s reign saw Kortrijk occupied by the French five times in sixty years and its former fortifications razed to the ground. The Treaty of Utrecht finally gave the whole area to the Hapsburgs, as Austrian Netherlands.

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.

Tourism and Culture

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Much of the city's medieval architecture remains intact and is remarkably well preserved and restored. Its center is one of the largest carfree areas in Belgium. The beguinage, 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 beguinage is one of the quaintest sites in the city, taking visitors back to the Middle Ages. It too, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
  • The church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) was where the golden spurs taken from the battlefield in 1302 were hung. It houses a famous van Dyck painting.
  • 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 neogotic basilica
  • Groeninge Abbey
  • Saint Eligiuschurch
  • Saint-Pius X-church
  • Saint-Rochchurch
  • Saint-Elisabethchurch
  • Saint-Anthonychurch or Toontjes kerk with the pelgrimage of Isidore of Saint Joseph
  • Saint-Annechurch
  • Saint-Theresiachurch
  • Father Damienchurch


Museums in Kortrijk include:

  • Kortrijk 1302: one day, seven ages, a historic museum about the famous Battle of the Golden Spurs, which gave Flanders it's 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
  • Groeninge Abbey with the Groeningemuseum. This museum gives you an overview of Kortrijk's history.
  • Beguinage museum
  • Flemish Film museum and archive
  • Bakery- and Millmuseum
  • Museum of Agriculture
  • International Rose gardens

Restaurants and culinary traditions

As most Belgian cities, Kortrijk offers a rich variety of local and foreign cuisine.

Famous local specialities are Kalletaart (applecake with calvados), Pepperbollen, Biscuits, chocolate little beguines


The city is host to some big cultural events such as the Guldensporenfeesten, Golden River City Jazz festival, Humorologie, Happy New Ears, Budafest and the Internationaal Festival van Vlaanderen. Also, a lot of big fairs, like Interieur takes place in Kortrijk Xpo, attracting numerous visitors to the city.

In July and August there are various boat tours in on the river Lys.


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 headquartered in Kortrijk include 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 KULAK, a campus of the Catholic University of Leuven, is located in on the south edge of the city. Other institutes of higher education include the KATHO and HOWEST university colleges.



Kortrijk lies at the intersection of three important highways:

  • The E17: connects Kortrijk with Ghent, Sint-Niklaas and Antwerp to the north, and with Lille and Paris to the south.
  • The E403: connects Kortrijk with Bruges and Ostend to the north, and with Tournai, Mons and Charleroi to the east.
  • The Belgian highway A19
  • 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.


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, stadslijnen) and to many towns and villages in the region around the city (regional lines, streeklijnen).

  • City buses:
    • Line 1: Station - Xpo - Kinepolis (- Leiedal)
    • Line 2: Station - Lange Munte
    • Line 3: Station - Heule Bozestraat
    • Line 4: Station - Bissegem Station - Heule Kransvijver
    • Line 6: Station - Shopping Center (- Industriezone) - Heule Markt
    • Line 8: Station - Pottelberg - Walle
    • Line 9: Station - Cederlaan
    • Line 12: Station - Kinepolis - Bellegem - Rollegem (- Aalbeke)
    • Line 13: Station - Hoog Kortrijk - Station
    • Line 50: Station - Kuurne Seizoenswijk
    • Line 51: Station - Kuurne Sint-Pieter
    • Line 80/81: Station - Marke
    • Line 91/92/93: Station - Zwevegem
  • regional buses

At Kortrijk main railway station, there is a bus station where regional buses stop as well.



Cars are required to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. In general, cars are lead to large undergound parkings in the historic center of Kortrijk or Park&Ride parkings at Hoog-Kortrijk. Large parts of the historic center is carfree.


Kortrijk has three official football clubs. The most famous of them is K.V. Kortrijk, which plays in the Belgian First Division after having won the championship in the Belgian second division during the 2007-2008 season. The second club SV Kortrijk plays in the second provincial division. The third club, Wikings Kortrijk, only has youth teams. KZK Kortrijk is 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.

Notable citizens

Town twinning

Kortrijk participates in town twinning to encourage good international relations.

External links


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