Hi Buzztrippers! Last week I went to Belgium on a business trip, and I took advantage of a short break to Buzztrip a little! 🙂 I discovered a small and gorgeous town, located in the Flemish Province of West Flanders: Kortrijk (Flemish) or Courtrai (French), close to the French town of Lille. As a matter of fact, Courtrai and Lille form the first “Eurodistrict” ever created, counting up to 1 900 000 inhabitants.
Kortrijk in a nutshell
Kortrijk does not belong to typical Flandres tourist routes, that primarily include Gand and Bruges: nevertheless it is surely worth a visit. If you wind up in this area while visiting Lille do not miss to schedule a little break here, bearing in mind that locals prefer speaking English (as in every other town in Flandres) instead of French. This is why you will not hear a lot of French words here, being Flemish the inhabitants’ mother tongue.
The town knew its golden period during Middle Ages, thanks to wool and linen production: it is remembered for the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), with the Flemish armies rising against French taxes (France imposed high duties on wool import from England). For Flemish people, this battle epitomizes the birth of national pride and independence, and its anniversary is celebrated every year on July 11th. The wealthy area of Kortrijk, focused on textile productions, has long been the point of contention among European powers. Throughout the 20th century, the old town has been heavily bombed (1917 and 1944).
Every hotel will provide you with a handy map where to spot Kortrijk most important attractions. Here you find the list of the ones I managed to admire, starting from the main square:
The Medieval City Hall, located right in the Grote Markt (main square), built in 1520. It presents both Gothic and Renaissance elements as well as several statues celebrating the glory of Flemish counts, the region rulers.
The belfry, an impressive tower that stands out in the empty Grote Markt space. Protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it was used as archive, treasury and point of observation. It originally was the main tower of the “Cloth Hall”, transformed into a house block in 1550: inhabitants firmly protested against its destruction in 1896, making it a symbol of the city’s glorious past.
Saint-Martin’s Church, that really thrilled me, thanks to its magnificent gothic inlaid portal and its mysterious atmosphere. Built between 1390 and 1466, it presents a huge bell tower that dominates Courtrai.
The beguinage, one of the most evocative parts of the old town. As you may know, most of towns in Belgium and the Netherlands have beguinages, small neighbourhoods once populated by women only. The beguines were religious women that chose to dedicate their lives to charity, helping their community without taking vows. They could come and go as they pleased at daylight, whereas the gates of the beguinage (small houses with private courtyards, enclosed by walls to protect women’s privacy) were closed at night. Kortrijk beguinage is neither the biggest nor the best preserved in Belgium, but it surely has its charm.
Broeltorens : these are the real city symbols! They look the same in spite of different constructions years (1385 vs 1415). The Southern tower (part of the medieval city walls once surrounding Courtrai) was built to monitor the river Lys, whereas the Northern tower was used to store weapons. In the middle of the bridge connecting the two towers you will see the statue of St. John of Nepomuk (invoked as protector from drowning and floods)… that ironically has fallen in Lys waters several times, due to wartime destructions.
Dinner and accomodation
I personally stayed at Center Hotel, a three-star hotel located in the old town, close to the main city car park (excellent location, wide rooms, cleanliness, good breakfast with sweet and savoury specialties) and had dinner in a cozy and intimate restaurant, Sint Medard, found during my evening wanderings: high-quality beers, typical Belgian specialties (croquettes, fish dishes) as well as international food, kind and warm service (the waiter patiently helped me in choosing the best options from the Flemish menu 🙂 ).This entry was posted in Belgium