Artistic towns and villages are scattered all over the Free State. Perhaps it’s the wide-open spaces, the enormous African skies, the home-grown bonhomie or the fact that people have time to explore their artistic yearnings. Whatever the reason, Ficksburg, Clarens, Verkykerskop, Rosendal and Parys offer a dose of inspiration.

Did you know?

The Botshabelo Library on the N8 has a vast collection of valuable Sotho arts and crafts.

Artistic towns of the Free State are scattered near and far, between farmlands that extend all the way to the imposing Maluti mountains. For years now, the Free State has witnessed the migration of creative urbanites towards the interior of the country in search of peace, quiet and the need to reinvent their lives. Artists, poets, musicians, chefs and writers have given some of the smaller Free State towns and villages a defined creative edge.

The Free State’s arty villages have no doubt been inspired by the surroundings. This is a province that offers arresting rural landscapes, mind-expanding wide open spaces, and local hospitality that can't be beaten. It is an ancient land that inspired the San to paint their stories in the many caves scattered around the countryside. The Free State also has ties to JRR Tolkien, the 'Boy from Bethulie' (beloved South African actor Patrick Mynhardt), poet and author Antjie Krog, and writer Sir Laurens van Der Post.

Creative towns or "dorps" of the Free State include places like Clarens (home to many artists, studios and art galleries), Verkykerskop, Rosendal, Parys, Smithfield, Zastron and Ficksburg. These are just a few rural hideaways that have been put on the map by the creative set. It’s at these villages that you can stop off and buy beautiful Free State art and local craft (many works inspired by the Basotho and Griqua cultures). You will also find antiques, mohair products, authentic crafts and home-made produce.

You can also get to enjoy the magnificent sandstone architecture of the eastern Free State or experience a culinary safari in Clarens or Smithfield. At certain times of the year there are various courses on offer - whether you want to learn to make koeksusters, learn to paint watercolours or find out how to photograph that perfect Free State sunset. Wherever you go in smalltown Free State, inspiration is always at hand.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Clarens Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)58 256 1542
Email: clarens@bhm.dorea.co.za

Parys Tourism Information
Tel: +27 (0)56 811 4000

Ficksburg Tourism Information
Cellphone: +27 (0)82 920 5551

Smithfield
Tel: + 27 (0)51 683 0423 (Carmel Rickard)
Cell: +27 (0)82 551 3293
Email tradingplaces@iafrica.com

Best time to visit

If you are staying in urban Gauteng, the rural Free State offers a good option for a weekend getaway.

Get around

Having a car will mean you have the freedom to drive around to the various areas of the Free State. Public transport is not readily available in the small towns and villages.

What will it cost

Moving around the Free State can be relatively inexpensive - costs will include transport, meals and accommodation. Inexpensive bed and breakfasts are good options.

Length of stay

A weekend or three to four days, depending on how extensively you want to travel between the main regions.

Where to stay

There are B&Bs and guest houses in most of the small towns, as well as a choice of farmstays.

What to eat

The Free State is known for its excellent fresh produce and there are restaurants in the small towns where you can taste the local fare.

Best buys

Local arts and crafts - mohair blankets, tapestries, woven goods, paintings and sculpture.