Kortrijk (Courtrai in French, Cortoriacum in Latin; pop. 75,000) is a nice little town on the Lys River in south-western Flanders, only 7km from France. Founded by the Romans as Cortoriacum, Kortrijk is one of Belgium's oldest cities. The city was destroyed by the Vikings then fortified in the 12th century. It then prospered as a cloth trading centre during the late Middle Ages.
Kortrijk is famous for its Medieval and Renaissance architecture and for being the scene of one of the most famous battle in Belgian history, the b>Battle of the Golden SpursBattle of the Golden Spurs.
Kortijk is not a particularily beautiful city in itself, but it does have a few noteworthy buildings. Starting from the town square (Grote Markt), the two constructions that immediately catch the attention are the late-Gothic, early Renaissance Townhall (Stadhuis), and the Medieval Belfry (Belfort), the last surviving element of the old Lakenhalle (cloth hall). Just north of the square stands St Martin's Collegiate Church, a Gothic edifice originally built around 1300, but reconstructed after a fire in 1382. St Martin's tower is endowed with a 48-bell carillon.
The grey-stoned Our Lady's Church (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk), erected between 1199 and 1203, is probably one of the most beautiful churches in the country. The adjacent St. Elisabeth Beguinage are the most charming part of town. The cute little orange-roofed white houses, with their narrow paved streets, make up a true oasis of quietness in the middle of the city. The Beguinage was founded in 1238 by Jeanne of Constantinople (1200-1244), countess of Flanders and Hainaut, but the present houses date from the 17th century.
The Beguinage and the Belfry have been classified a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Further north, the two massive round towers known as the Broel Towers are a reminder of the city's military past. The southern tower, named Speyentoren, was part of the 12th century rampart, destroyed by Louis XIV in the 17th century. The northern tower ("Inghelburgtoren") only dates from the 15th century (hard to tell just from looks !). The small Broel Museum is housed in a white neo-classical building by the northern tower.
The last medieval edifice in the list is Our Lady Hospital (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwehospitaal), built between 1200 and 1204. Also note the Neo-Gothic Schouwburg Festival Hall between the Grand Place and the train station.
How to get there
Kortrijk can conveniently be reached by train from Brussels (1 hour), Ghent (20 to 30min), Bruges (40 to 50min), Tournai (30min) or Lille (30min).
By car, take the E17 from Ghent or Lille (France), or the E403 from Bruges or Tournai.
Ask your travel questions on the Benelux Travel Forum