Courtray (Dutch: Kortrijk, French: Courtrai) is a city in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium. It is the capital and biggest city of the arrondissement of Courtray, which comprises some 278,160 inhabitants (1 January 2007). The wider municipality comprises the city of Courtray proper and the towns of Aalbeke, Bellegem, Bissegem, Heule, Kooigem, Marke, and Rollegem.
The city is situated on the Leie River, 42 km (26 miles) southwest of Ghent and 25 km (15 miles) northeast of Lille in France. Both Courtray and Lille are part of the same transnational Eurodistrict urban area with around 1,900,000 inhabitants.
As the biggest city of southern West Flanders, Courtray has many schools, a university, hospitals and shopping streets.
Courtray is a medium city, it has a good balance of tradition and innovation/modernism. It is seen as the 'Texas of Flanders', one of the richest and most economic developped areas in Flanders. It used to be the centre of the linen industry and is still known as an important textile industry region.
Courtray has always been famous for shopping, and in 2010 a big shopping centre was opened in the heart of the city. There are numerous traffic-free shopping zones, and lots historical sites in the city centre such as the Beguinage, the Broeltorens (ancient city defensive walls), the medieval city hall, Saint Martins church and the Church of Our Lady (built in 1199).
The city is known as the Guldensporenstad (City of the Golden Spurs), afher the battle of the Golden Spurs on the 11th of July 1302. In this battle an army of Flemish footsoldiers defeated the mighty French army and displayed 500 golden spurs of fallen French soldiers in the Church of Our Lady. July 11 is celebrated as the Flemish 'national' holiday.
Courtray can be easily accessed by various types of transport:
Courtray's main railway station is an intercity train station. Situated in the heart of Courtray, you have easy connections to Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels, Bruges, Ostend, Ypres and Lille.
Next to the train station there is a large bus station, giving access to regional bus lines and a well constructed city bus network. Eurolines buses stop at the train station or at the Kinepolis cinema, outside the city. The Kinepolis site has good connections to the train station.
Thalys/Eurostar/TGV lines do not stop at Courtray. There is a direct connection to the Lille Flandres and Lille Europe train station (30 minutes by train) however. Accessing Courtray from England/Paris through stopping in Lille is easier to do than going to Brussels and taking the regional train in Brussels.
Courtray has an inner circle, the R8. This highway is connected to the A19 (Ypres/Ieper), E403 (Bruges/Brugge, Ostend/Oostende, Tournai/Doornik) and the E17 (Lille/Rijsel, Ghent/Gent, Antwerp/Antwerpen, Brussels/Brussel).
- Courtray Airport. Mainly business travel. No daily passenger services.
- Daily connections by train to Brussels Airport. Lille Airport can also be an option.
Courtray has a well-formed bus system, offering easy transport to main spots like Kortrijk Xpo and most surrounding cities.
As Courtray is a part of Flanders, the main language is Dutch. Many of the inhabitants will be happy to answer you in English or if you ask beforehand, in French, although automatically starting a discussion in French could offend some of the locals. German is also quite prevalent.
- Kortrijk 1302: An interactive museum showing you the Battle of the Golden Spurs (11th of july 1302). This battle is historical because it was one of the first battles where a peasant-based army defeated a knights army. After the battle, the spurs of the fallen horses were kept as a victory sign. The battle gave Flanders its regional holiday.
- Museum of Fine Arts situated in an old 18th-century mansion. Mostly contains regional artists (f.i. Roelant Savery) and an unique collection of ceramic.
- National line museum. Shows a historical image of the line industry in Courtray and the surroundings.
- Groeninge-abbey and the Groeningemuseum. This museum tells the story of Courtray from the Roman empire through the first world war.
- Bakery and mill museum in Marke
- Agricultural museum in Bissegem
- City Hall
- Belfry at the Grand Place (UNESCO-heritage)
- The scenic Begijnhof (UNESCO-heritage)
- 2 almost identical Broeltowers are remainings of the medieval city wall.
- The Baggaertshof.
- Groeningekouter: supposed to be the field where the Battle of the Golden Spurs took place.
- The fontain The Wave at the Schouwburgplein, near the theatre.
- Flanders Festival (link: http://www.happynewfestival.be/)
- Easter Funfair
- Sinksen Festival
Courtray is situated on the "Vlaanderen Fietsroute", a cycling network through Flanders, a network of 800 kilometers guiding you through Flanders nicest spots by bike.
In the neighbourhood
- Brussel: Belgian capital.
- Antwerpen: a large and active harbor city
- Gent: A medieval town.
- Brugge: The entire city centre is Unesco Heritage. Often called: "Venice of the North", due to the many canals and scenic centre.
Courtray offers one of the biggest car free areas in Belgium where one can shop or have drink on a nice terrace. One of these streets, the Korte Steenstraat, was the very first pedestrian street in Belgium. In the heart of this pedestrian area, a large covered shopping centre, named K in Kortrijk, opened during spring 2010. This shopping mall makes the pedestrian link between the Lange Steenstraat and the Veemarkt-square and offers some 90 large stores.
-Frituur Groeninghe has been rewarded with the 'best fries of Belgium' award in the past and has a big offer of vegetarian and vegan options.
-Pauls food boutique is a funky restaurant next to the K in Kortrijk mall with fresh burgers and a big vegetarian offer.
The Reynaertstraat is the main bar zone. The Vlasmarkt attracts a more alternative crowd and has nice terraces during spring and summer. As you want a more typical Belgian bar, try Bar des Amis. This bar was formerly known as "au salon" and is situated at the north-east corner of the grand market square. If you're looking for a more Jazzy-Bleus venue go to Houchie Couchie, witch is located just several meters from the famous "broeltorens".
- Parkhotel next to the Station.
- "Hotel Focus" at the back of the train station in the hovenierstraat, an one-of-a-kind hotel.
- "Hotel Messeyne" is one of the most luxurious hotel in town and is mostly famous for hosting the "Sky" cycling team when there is a cycle race in the large neighborhood.
- "Hotel Broel" located next to the "broeltorens" also known for hosting several cycling teams during races.
- Generally safe, small unsafe areas near the station (at night) and the Venning, a local neighbourhood.
- The local police station is situated at the end of the street in front of the train station(Next to Domino's Pizza). Most of the police officers speak fluently Dutch/English/French.
- Small crimes (vandalism) or information (directions) can easily be reported/asked at some of the city's "guards", who just walk around dressed in purple.
- Brussels: Belgian and European capital.
- Antwerp: a large and active harbor city, famous for its fashion and diamonds.
- Ghent: an important and vibrant university city with beautiful architecture, often overlooked by tourists who visit Bruges or Brussels.
- Bruges: the famous capital of West-Flanders. The entire city centre is Unesco Heritage. Often called "the Venice of the north", due to the many canals and scenic centre.
- Ypres: pretty town famous for World War I battles.
- Lille: French big city with Flemish roots, forms a metropolitan area with Courtray.