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IIf you’re 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.
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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Tel: +27 (0)51 011 0525
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
Visiting hours are Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, 9am to 4pm.
Things to do
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 National Women's Memorial and Anglo-Boer War (South African War) Museum.
Walk around the gallery and 12 hectares of gardens.
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 pack
Pack good shoes for lots of walking.
What to eat
The Terrace Restaurant at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum offers a good choice of meals.
Large exhibitions are hosted every 2 months. Phone in advance and find out what will be on.