December 1998: Holašovice designated UNESCO World Heritage Site


The small South Bohemian hamlet of Holašovice has arguably become the most well-known Czech village, even beyond the country’s borders, since it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List 25 years ago. But the inscription radically changed life for the local people.

Holašovice | Photo: Makalu,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Located 16 kilometres west of České Budějovice, Holašovice made it on UNESCO’s prestigious list because of its well-preserved architecture, including castles, manors, and folk Baroque farm buildings. When you stand in the middle of the central oval village green, you find yourself surrounded by 23 farmhouses, most of them built in the second half of the 19th century, with arched gates and coloured gables.

The village was founded in the 13th century, but it suffered several blows over the ensuing years. In the 16th century it was almost wiped out entirely by a bubonic plague epidemic – allegedly only two of its inhabitants survived – after which it became a largely German-speaking enclave.

Holašovice | Photo: Jitka Cibulová Vokatá,  Czech Radio

After the Second World War, the majority German population were forced to leave, as they were throughout Czechoslovakia by the Beneš decrees, and many farms in the village were deserted and fell into disrepair. It was only after the fall of the communist regime that the village was once again fully restored and inhabited.

Holašovice | Photo: Andrea Poláková,  Czech Radio

Nowadays, some 140 people live there. Most of the buildings are owned by local families, some of whom have been there for centuries. The village remaining a real living community where people actually reside, rather than becoming an open-air museum, was one of the prerequisites for inclusion on the UNESCO list.

The picturesque setting has attracted a number of filmmakers, and the UNESCO inscription has also attracted many other visitors, radically changing the lives of the locals.

Holašovice | Photo: Andrea Poláková,  Czech Radio

Travel agencies began ferrying people in their droves to the once-obscure village after the UNESCO designation. Busloads of tourists from Europe and Asia – up to 70 thousand per year – began flocking to the hamlet, causing problems for parking, damage to property, and taking pictures of inhabitants’ backyards or even the inside of their houses without permission. Although the tourist numbers have decreased slightly since the covid pandemic, the village is still bustling on holidays and weekends.

Holašovice | Photo: Zdeněk Zajíček,  Czech Radio

However, the tourist wave wasn’t all negative. A few locals took the opportunity to make some money, and now the tiny village has two pubs, a grocery store, a pottery shop and an information centre, as well as attractions related to the village’s heritage. Some locals have even opened part of their houses to the public, and say they are proud to share it with them.

Author: Klára Stejskalová | Source: Aktuálně.cz