If you are touring the Free State, the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein is a must. It’s situated in a striking neo-Cape Dutch building and features work by top South African artists, art exhibitions, a superb restaurant and magnificent gardens.

Did you know?

The Blind Alphabet is an artwork created specifically for the sight impaired at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum.

While the Oliewenhuis Art Museum in Bloemfontein is called a 'museum' it's really an elaborate art gallery with ongoing exhibitions, an excellent restaurant and magnificent gardens.

The best of South Africa’s non-contemporary and contemporary artists – from Pierneef to Kentridge – are exhibited here in the gallery on the downstairs level and also in the permanent collection upstairs. An additional gallery below ground level is known as 'The Reservoir'.

The permanent collection includes outstanding examples of a wide variety of South African art, including an outdoor sculpture park.

Walkways through the magnificent gardens offer peace and relaxation with plenty of picnic spots, while excitement for the children takes the form of a working outdoor public art sculpture called The African Carousel. Several South African artists collectively worked on this piece that reflects the melting pot of European and African culture that is South Africa.

The neo-Dutch building of the museum was completed in 1941 as the residence for the governor general of the Union of South Africa at the time. In 1972 the building was officially named 'The Oliewenhuis' ('Olive house' in Afrikaans) because of the abundance of wild olive trees growing on the surrounding hills. In 1985 it was converted into an art museum. Several structural alterations needed to be made to provide a suitable environment for the conservation and exhibition of artworks. It was officially opened in 1989.

You’ll undoubtedly spend several hours here, during which time you’ll work up an appetite. An excellent restaurant called The Terrace at the museum offers delicious teas and meals.

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