A 14th-century monastery in central Utrecht. Grand Hotel Karel V was once home to medieval knights, priests, and emperors. Today it is one of the city’s most surprising hideaways. Step into a monument that is set around a striking inner garden. Wander through heritage, unwind in the spa and indulge in sparkling gastronomy at the foot of the Dom tower. Explore the stories of an iconic retreat, all tucked away on an urban estate with over 650 years of history.
FROM MONASTERY VIA MILITARY HOSPITAL TO GRAND HOTEL KAREL V
Withdrawn from urban life, the Dom guards and the wall protects. The sweet noise of the street ebbs away in the distance. How many footsteps would have been here? Grand Hotel Karel V has a rich history. Walking through the imposing cloister, dining where the knights once ate, having drinks on the old grain loft, signing an important contract in the turret, enjoying a barbecue in the Officierstuin or having a meeting in the former dormitory of the monks … history is everywhere.
The hotel owes its name to Emperor Karel V, one of the prominent guests who stayed here with his sister Maria of Hungary. In 1546 they visited the meeting of the Order of the Golden Fleece which held its chapter meeting in the “Balije van Utrecht”, as the monastery was originally known. It was at the height of his fame: Karel V ruled the largest European empire ever. His motto was “Plus Oultre” or “Continuously”. Karel V was boundlessly ambitious, and he wanted that in his realm ‘the sun would never go down’.
THE GERMAN HOUSE
More than 670 years ago, in 1348, the Knightly German Order ordered the construction of this monastery. Popularly, the Balije van Utrecht was soon called The German House. It was inhabited by knights and priests who had made the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The German House became the starting point for the Crusaders who went to the east to bring ‘the heathens’ to faith. In addition, the monastery, with good facilities for that time, also served as a reception centre for high-ranking kings and nobles. For example, in 1713 the House hosted a Spanish minister, the Count of Osasuna and his entourage, during the negotiations for the Peace of Utrecht.
In 1807, King Lodewijk Napoleon bought the German House of the Knightly German Order for 50,000 florins. He wanted to establish a military hospital here, which was eventually realized in 1823 after the French occupation by King William I of Orange. Until 1990 the estate served as a Military Hospital. Then, the badly maintained building was squatted for a few years.
RENOVATION NATIONAL MONUMENT
In 1992, a renovation was started of the complex that since then has been declared as a national monument. Remains were found of a mantelpiece with the coat of arms of Karel V: the two-headed eagle carved out of sandstone. This can now be admired in the Restaurant Karel 5. The restoration team has tried as much as possible to preserve the authentic functions of the spaces. The halls of the former military hospital have been converted into hotel rooms and suites in classicist style (Napoleonic wing). In 2007 the garden wing was restored and renamed Roman wing. Archaeologists came across the remnants of a Roman burial ground from the period 40 BC. – 275 AD. It is possible that the builders of the Castellum Trajectum are buried here, the fort that lies under Domplein! The Roman wing now houses 49 modern hotel rooms and suites and a luxurious wellness and fitness centre. Throughout the hotel, traces of the past can be found in archaeological findings, exhibitions, archival photographs and historical drawings.