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.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Tel: +27 (0)51 447 9609

Free State Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)51 411 4300

How to get here

From the N1 take the Eeufees Road and follow Milner Road for several kilometres until you reach Harry Smith Street. Turn right and you will find the Oliewenhuis Art Museum at 16 Harry Smith Street.

Best time to visit

All year round or contact the museum and find out when their temporary exhibitions are taking place.

Around the area

The famous Bloemfontein Rose Festival takes place in October each year.

Tours to do

Bloemfontein is culturally rich and diverse. It's worth taking a walk or drive along the historic President Brand Street in the city centre, visiting the nearby Franklin Game Reserve, and going to the the National Women's Memorial and Anglo-Boer War (South African War) Museum.

Get around

Walk around the gallery and 12 hectares of gardens. Wear good shoes for lots of walking.

What will it cost

The Oliewenhuis Art Museum does not charge an entrance fee.

Length of stay

You'll need several hours to do the museum and gardens justice.

Where to stay

There is a wide range of accommodation in Bloemfontein. Check the listed websites for ideas.

What to eat

The Terrace Restaurant at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum offers a good choice of meals.

What's happening

Large exhibitions are hosted every two months. Phone in advance and find out what will be on.