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 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 in French, although starting a discussion in French could offend some of the locals. German is also quite prevalent.
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
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.
The Reynaertstraat is the main bar zone. The Vlasmarkt attracts a more alternative crowd and has nice terraces during spring and summer.