Few football stadiums are named after medieval battles – but proud Flemings put their French masters to the sword at the Battle of the Golden Spurs in Kortrijk in 1302 and, 645 years later, the Guldensporenstadion was unveiled.
The team who stepped out into the new ground in 1947 weren’t KVK Kortrijk, consistent competitors in Belgium’s top flight since 2008.
The club based here at the time went under Kortrijk’s French name of Courtrai: Courtrai Sports. In fact, football in Kortrijk started out with SC Courtraisien, who competed in the Belgian League in 1899-1900 – and then blipped out.
In 1919, SC merged with FC Courtraisien to form Courtrai Sports, who moved into a ground on Meensesteenweg, just over the Leie north-west of town, in 1921. This is the site upon which architect Maurice Delahousse built the Guldensporenstadion, for the then substantial sum of two million Belgian francs, in 1947.
A few hundred metres along Meensesteenweg, Stade Courtrai, created from a merger of Eendracht Kortrijk and Patronaat Sint-Rochus in 1923, played at a ground on parallel Weverstraat.
Courtrai Sports twice won the Third Division title, in 1927 and 1943, and added a ‘Royal’ to their title. They also took the relatively prestigous matricule number of 19, showing their status in the Belgian game.
After the war, both main clubs ditched the name of Courtrai in favour of Kortrijk.
Success, though, was very far off. Stade played in the provincial leagues until 1963, then fourth-tier football until relegation in 1970. Kortrijk Sport had also sunk to the fourth flight. That perennial Belgian solution, a merger, was inevitable.
Koninklijke Voetbalclub Kortrijk, created in 1971, duly assumed matricule 19 and moved into the Guldensporenstadion. Youth and reserve sides played at Weverstraat, a situation in place to this day.
From 1976 to 1992, KVK had a near unbroken spell in the top flight, and returned in 2008. De Kerels, the Boys, came close to glory in 2012, losing out to ten-man Lokeren in the Belgian Cup final by a late goal.
The nearest airport to Kortrijk is Lille over the border in France, 42km (26 miles) away. Most flights are domestic or linked with holiday destinations.
A shuttle bus runs hourly (half-hourly Thur-Fri) to Lille-Flandres station (journey time 20min, €8 single, €10 return). A taxi should cost €25-€30. The Lille Eurostar terminal is a short walk away at Lille Europe. An hourly direct train from Lille Flandres to Courtrai/Kortrijk takes 40min (€8 advance single).
From Brussels Airport 105km (65 miles) away, an hourly direct train to Kortrijk (€20) takes 1hr 30min. Alternatively, it’s only an extra 10min to change at Brussels-Midi, terminus for the Eurostar. If you’re coming direct from Midi (€13), it’s just over 1hr.
From Charleroi Airport 127km (79 miles) away, there’s no direct bus to Kortrijk – you’ll have to go to Ghent or Lille, from where a train is 35-40min. If you’re coming from Charleroi-Sud train station, you’ll need to change at Brussels-Midi or Tournai, overall journey time just over 2hrs, single ticket €17.
Kortrijk station is just south of town a 7-10min stroll away – the stadium is just the wrong side of a long walk.
Local buses are run by De Lijn.A single ticket (valid 1hr) is €3 from a machine, a Lijnwinkel kiosk or on board. A day pass is €7, €9 on board. Pass tickets through the yellow machine by the driver.
Based at the station, Cheaptaxi can be called on +32 56 20 01 20. They also offer airport transfers.
The nearest hotel to the stadium is, in fact, a boat, Ahoi on Handelskaai, nine cabins with a shower each and breakfast taken on deck. The ground is 15 minutes away, over the water.
On the main square of Grote Markt, the swish Damier comprises 65 stylish rooms, each equipped with an iPad, behind a 1769 façade. Just behind it, the three-star Center Hotel on Graanmarkt exudes the same contemporary style as its stablemate Parkhotel opposite the station, where a spa, bar and bistro complement the convenient location.
The local ibis, handily located on Doorniksestraat halfway between station and city centre, offers a 24/7 bar and affordable rooms.
Close to the water and landmark sight of Broel Towers, the Hotel Messeyne on Groeningestraat is probably the loveliest lodging in town, with its own hammam and gourmet restaurant. A few houses along, more budget conscious visitors staying at the business-focused, partner Square Hotel can use the spa and eatery nearby.
Terrace drinkeries line the main square, Grote Markt, including the Kortrijk branch of the popular Belgian chain Bar des Amis, next door to TV-themed bistro allo allo, and the cuisine-oriented Café Leffe and Muze. Tucked in behind them, the Café West-Vlaanderen serves older locals in homely bar-like surroundings.
For something more contemporary, head to Vlasmarkt, where an alternative crowd gathers at the late-opening Gainsbar, with its 100 beers and live agenda. Next door, De Gouden Aap attracts a savvy crowd sipping cocktails in industrial-chic surroundings.
For a change of scene, try convivial riverfront Balthazar by the boatel Ahoi on Handelskaai or upscale pub Winstons, attached to the Hotel Messeyne on Groeningestraat. On nearby Houtmarkt, Cusco is a high-design bar/café open until midnight most days.
For lively bars and TV football, head for the station. On Burgemeester Reynaertstraat, neighbouring party-focused Café 56 and De Geverfde Vogel keep the party going pretty much all night at weekends, while honest Den Bras on the corner is a real KVK hangout.
Across the junction, Falstaff is a stylish spot for a quiet drink afterwards.