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Despite being outside of the top 10 largest cities in South Africa, Bloemfontein is nonetheless one of the most important in the country. Bloemfontein is South Africa’s judicial capital and the capital of the Free State Province. The city lies almost in the centre of the country and is a regular layover for those travelling between Johannesburg and the coastal cities of Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London.
Typical of all cities, Bloemfontein has its share of schools, parks, business centres, contemporary malls, an efficient transport system and recreational facilities, however, much of the city’s historic architecture has been retained and a great deal of emphasis placed on greening the city.
Aside from the top legal minds resident in Bloemfontein, the city is also an academic hub with the country’s top-ranked school and one of the finest universities located here. It’s a cultured place where those who live here appreciate the sandstone buildings, the clean tree- and flower-lined streets and parks, and the reason why it’s called the City of Roses.
Top 8 reasons to visit Bloemfontein
1. Download a Bloemfontein street guide and explore the town on foot to see the unusual twin-spired church, the city hall, the supreme court of appeal and the many monuments. Stroll through the parks and stop off at Loch Logan Waterfront for a meal overlooking the lake.
2. The Bloemfontein National Museum is worth visiting if only to see the African Cultures exhibition in the anthropology hall. The museum has lighting for the sight-impaired, lifts for wheelchair access and touch exhibits for the blind.
3. Visit the Lamont-Hussey Observatory on Naval Hill, once owned by Michigan University in the USA and now a theatre venue. The observatory was opened in 1928 and built to observe double (binary) stars of which thousands were discovered.
4. The Bloemfontein Zoo has moved to larger premises and houses various indigenous and exotic species of animal in gardened surroundings. The zoo is a participant in a white lion breeding programme to ensure the survival of this unique gene.
5. The Windmill Casino and Entertainment Centre offers fun activities for the family. The centre features a 12-lane ten pin bowling alley, children’s game centre and health spa. Karaoke evenings take place every Thursday.
6. Take a 1-hour guided tour of Cheetah Experience, a big cat centre founded primarily to breed and release cheetahs. The facility has a variety of cats including lion, leopard and panther, and the centre strives to educate the public on the plight of these animals.
7. The Maselspoort Resort and Conference Centre is a short drive out of town to enjoy a day along the Modder River banks either swimming or canoeing, and also a popular spot for fishing. The resort has several swimming pools, mini golf, a 4x4 fun route and other family entertainment. Large grassed sections are ideal for picnics.
8. Bloemfontein is rugby country and Saturday afternoons grind to a standstill when the city’s cherished Cheetahs rugby team take to the field. Get your host to invite you to a live game or find a festive venue to join the locals watch a televised away game.
The city has its own international airport called the Bram Fischer (Bloemfontein) International Airport. There are several car rental companies both at the airport and in the city centre, otherwise order your rental online. Metered taxi operators are available throughout the city and Uber intends to begin operating here in the near future. Main bus liners servicing the Johannesburg-Cape Town route stop off in Bloemfontein.
Did you know?
In the 1880s, a train trip from Cape Town to Bloemfontein (1000km) would take 10 days. This could also depend on the state of rivers, sleepers and railway lines. Often, carriages would be placed on either end of a swollen river and the passengers transported via a river pont to continue their journey.
Author JRR Tolkien, best known for the Lord of the Rings novel, was born in Bloemfontein in 1892 before his family left the country when he was 3 years old, however, we still claim him as one of ours.
Another author, Rudyard Kipling, helped to start a newspaper in Bloemfontein called The Friend, its readership directed at British troops stationed here during the South African War.
More intimate and personalised than larger hotels, guests can expect a warmer, friendlier stay at a Boutique Hotel. Boutique Hotels are high-end accommodation, and guests can expect all the usual luxury amenities expected from a regular/larger hotel, including wifi; tea and coffee facilities; and deluxe bedding, and then some. Most Boutique Hotels pride themselves on personal service that allows them to go the extra-mile - making it an ideal place to stay for guests celebrating special events or anniversaries.