Kortrijk is one of the most picturesque cities of Belgium which has a beautiful River Lei flowing through the city. The River Leie provides many scenic routes to stroll within the city. Kortrijk is a unique city of Belgium with a variety of attractions that include history, architecture, shopping, and art. The city was the first in Flanders region to have a pedestrian street dedicated for shopping. Locals from the region flock to Kortrijk for their shopping desires.
Kortrijk is not far from Ghent, so you can plan to visit both cities one by one. The city was a significant producer of flax and wool which made it the biggest and richest city in Flanders region. There is a texture museum in the city dedicated to the Belgium’s textile industry. The city is a wonderful place for holidays because of its peaceful calm environment and a list of unique tourist attractions and the spectacular riverbank.
History of Kortrijk Belgium
The city of Kortrijk originated from a Gallo-Roman Town near the Leie River which was called Cortoriacum which later changed to Cortrycke and eventually Kortrijk. “Cortoriacum” was a large Gallow-Roman settlement. It was located at the important crossroads near the Leie River who also have their own troops. The town got its city charter from Philip, Count of Flanders in 1190 and new defensive walls were built as the population grew.
The city was destroyed in 13th century as a result of the battles between Fernando of Portugal, Count of Flanders and his first cousin King Louis VIII of France. The city was rebuilt quickly after the battles subsided and the weaving industry was promoted and supported by tax exemptions. In 1302, the population of Bruges started an uprising against the French annexation of Flanders which resulted in a massacre of the French population in the city. This further resulted in a battle near Kortrijk, known as Battle of the Golden Spurs between the common people of Flanders and the Knights of Philip the Fair. The people of Flanders were victorious in this battle, and they started celebrating 11th of July as a national holiday.
The people of Flanders once again stood up in 1323, against their own Count Louis I which resulted in an opportunity for French to Invade the region again. The Flemish again fought a battle with French near the city of Cassel which resulted in their defeat and nearly 3200 Flemish were killed.
The city of Kortrijk was once again regained by the Flemish people in 1381, led by Philip van Artevelde, a Patriot. But the city was captured again in 1382 by Louis II with French Support resulting in the destruction of the city again. The city started to rebuild itself gradually towards prosperity under the Dukes of Burgundy until the end of 15th century. When the Burgundian heiress, Mary of Burgundy died in 1482, the Flemish people again stood up against France. Louis XIV, the king of France, saw and understood the continuous battle between the Flemish and the French and signed the Treaty of Utrecht which assigned the whole area to Austria.
The city and the textile industry, which was mostly based on flax, started to flourish again until 1917 when Kortrijk was heavily bombarded. The city was an important railway hub for the German Army in World War II and that is why it suffered from many air-strikes. In 1944, on 21st of July, 300 Avro Lancasters dropped around 5000 bombs on the city center and a lot of historical buildings, and the old railway station were completely destroyed.
14 Amazing Attractions of Kortrijk Belgium
Walk in the City of Kortrijk Belgium
Walking in the wonderful city of Kortrijk is a joy because of the historic city center, pedestrian friendly streets, the beautiful River Leie flowing through the city, amazing shops, restaurants, and cafes. When you walk around the city, you not only learn about the history but also the on-going transformation of the city. The walking route is indicated by metal rivets in the ground and you can also get a handy map with brief description about almost all the points of interest. The walk is around 6.5 kilometers which takes you through the six creative neighborhoods which are Buda Island, Kortrijk Weide, Muzieksite, 1302, Het Plein and Leieboorden.
Broeltorens of Kortrijk Belgium
The two beautiful towers that you see dominating the pictures of Kortrijk Belgium are called Broeltorens and are made from limestone and sandstone. These towers were part of the first castle of Kortrijk which was built by the Count of Flanders in 9th century. So far, these two towers are the only dominant remains from the castle which were also renovated many times and served different purposes.
The southern Speytorre was constructed in 1385 which was used to control the traffic and the Inghelburghtorre, which dates back to 1415, was constructed as a weapons depot. The bridge between the towers was built in 1385 but has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then.
Béguinage Kortrijk Belgium
Béguinage Kortrijk is an enchanting village of 41 houses within the city of Kortrijk which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These buildings were built in the 13th century by Joan, Countess of Flanders for the religious women. The area was setup between the two main churches of the city of Kortrijk. The village was attacked and rebuilt several times and these 41 houses are actually from the 17th century. The double stepped gable house is the home of the Mother superior. Sint-Annaroom with its distinctive corner tower has a small museum which depicts the significance of this village. The no 41 is the show house which explains the lifestyle at the Béguinage. You can visit the site for free and can also borrow an audio guide during your tour.
Grote Markt of Kortrijk Belgium
Grote Markt is the main square built in 19th century in the historical heart of the city. The city hall and the Belfry (Unesco World Heritage Site) is also located in the Grote Markt. There used to be different smaller squares dedicated to different products like groceries, pottery, clothing, fruit, and poultry. On the eastern side of the market, there are a few traces of the lost walls of the 9th century castle. The square is pedestrian friendly, and no motorized vehicles are allowed in this area.
Historisch Stadhuis is located on the north side of the Grote Markt. This is a wonderful historic town hall which was completed in 1520. The town hall of Kortrijk is a mix of architectural styles as it transited between Late Gothic and Renaissance styles. There are different sculptures of the Counts of Flanders on its first floor. You can also see the amazing Vierschaar (Aldermen’s Hall) which has been turned into a wedding venue.
The interior is beautiful with stained glass windows, 19th century murals, carvings of Lady Justice and an astonishing late Gothic mantelpiece from 1527. There is another beautiful mantelpiece in the Council Chamber which is carved from sandstone and wood. There are many other carvings in the interior and walls of the town hall which add to the beauty of this spectacular site.
Belfry of Kortrijk Belgium
Belfry of Kortrijk is an iconic landmark of the city that can be seen from a distance. It was built in the beginning of 14th century when the textile industry was flourishing and adding to the city’s prosperity. The free-standing tower was part of the old cloth hall of the city until the 19th century and the tower’s bell was used to indicate the working hours, emergencies and to make announcements. The cloth hall has been moved to a larger area and the houses around this area were torn down in the 20th century for the purpose of improving the old city.
Museums of Kortrijk Belgium
Texture museum depicts the story and history of flax and linen industry of Kortrijk and Flanders. You will learn about the strong roots, craftsmanship and entrepreneurship of the people of Flanders and how they made some daring innovations to achieve their targets. This museum shows how the flax industry brought a revolutionary development in Kortrijk. There are many amazing stories and tales about the workers and how the industry bloomed on the banks of River Leie, and how the flax produced here became the best-known flax in the world.
You can test the usage of flax in the Cabinet of Curiosities. The Leie room is dedicated to the stories about the development of this industry and the Treasure Chamber has a collection of beautiful laces, fine fabrics, and marvelous products of handwork.
This is a wonderful multimedia museum in Kortrijk which is housed in a building that belonged to the Cistercian Groeninge Abbey. The monastery dates back to the 13th century but the abbey was destroyed in 13th century. In 1580 a new one was built within the city walls and the museum is located in the dormitory building that was built in the 17th century. As we talked about the Battle of the Golden Spurs in the history section which happened in 1302, this museum is dedicated to the 1302 era and is named after that. The Flemish people were victorious in the battle and 11th of July became the national holiday in the Flemish community. This museum depicts all the stories of battle, reasons, results, and situations about the Battle of the Golden Spurs.
Flemish population hung the golden spurs of 500 French Knights in this former collegiate church as a symbol of their hard-earned victory. These golden spurs are replaced with replicas as most of them were stolen. Initially this building was a Romanesque church that was built at the end of 12th century and was part of the first castle of the Count of Flanders. Some parts and the western wall of the first building remain today but most of the building has gone through several restorations while the interior was decorated beautifully.
St Martin's Church
St Martin’s Church has been rebuilt and restored several times after a lot of destruction since the 12th century. The church houses a 19th century carillon which is a treasure of works of art. The ‘Triptych of the Holy Spirit’ by Bernard de Rijckere is the main showpiece of the church which is a scene depicting the baptism of Jesus and creation of Adam. The unique Sacrament tower dates back to the 16th century and the 83m tower of the church dominates the city’s skyline and can be seen from a distance.
Buda island Kortrijk Belgium
Buda Island is nestled between the arms of River Leie and welcomes the city’s artistic visitors. Buda Island is the entertainment district of Kortrijk which has a platform for the artists where they can perform different activities alongside a Buda Tower. You can enjoy some amazing non-commercial films in the Budascoop and enjoy the contemporary visual arts in the Bubox. The artists who come to perform in Buda Island, use the space and surroundings in their own artistic ways.
There is also a Buda Beach which is a famous place for the locals and visitors to relax and enjoy the beautiful views of the River Leie and a lovely garden in summer. The Buda Factory covers an area of 3000 m2 where the designers, artists, entrepreneurs, and students display their ideas and creations.
The Banks of Leie
The River Leie was widened and straightened to allow larger ships to navigate easily through it. This resulted in a beautiful wider River Leie in the center of the city with seven new bridges. Spacious walking paths and beautiful parks were also built alongside the riverbanks which have made the banks of Leie an amazing place to stroll, relax and for sports activities. You cannot miss the riverbank if you are in Kortrijk where you can enjoy a superb walk along with a strip of greenery on one side and river on the other side.
Shopping in Kortrijk
Kortrijk has always been famous for its textiles and hence always been famous for the shopping. There are several pedestrian friendly streets that have all kind of shops, boutiques, and famous franchises. The Korte Steenstraat was the first ever pedestrian friendly shopping street in Belgium.
A huge shopping center “K in Kortrijk” was opened in 2010 and was designed by architects Robbrecht & Daem. This impressive shopping center is one of the biggest in Belgium and has a 34000 m2 of shopping space. The shopping center opens on weekdays from 10 am to 7 pm, On Fridays it stays open until 8 pm and is closed on Sundays.
Another famous place for shopping in Kortrijk is the Ring Shopping Center which has a shopping space of 35000 m2 and is located at the edge of the city. This shopping center was opened in 1973 and has huge variety of fashion, leisure, decoration, food, and personal care products. There are many catering and home services providers in this center.
Internationale Rozentuin Kortrijk
This is a magnificent rose garden located in the south of Kortrijk in a manor house that dates back to 1830. The garden was created as an experimental garden in 1959 where 100 to 150 new types of roses are tested which are collected from Europe. These roses are kept and tested for up to 2 years and then an international jury assess and grades these roses on the criteria like scent, appearance, and disease resistance. The garden is free and open to public who can visit the garden and the demonstration area next to the garden which displays a wide variety of beautiful roses with their grades.