Bloemfontein, Free State

Bloemfontein tourist destinations are becoming more popular along with the city, which has been listed as one of South Africa's best cities in which to live. It has excellent museums, a fine zoo, casino, cheetah reserve, architectural icons and a nature reserve within the city limits.

Bloemfontein, the judicial capital of South Africa, lies in the centre of the country, in the Free State province, where The Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien also happened to be born.

Bloemfontein is unique in that it is the size and heft of a large African city, yet has the feel of a small country town, with thousands of rose bushes lining its streets. The literal translation of Bloemfontein from Afrikaans is "flower fountain", which gave the city its nickname "the city of roses". An annual rose festival is a popular local event.

Bloemfontein is also a city of historical significance where museums and military buildings record its association with the Anglo Boer War. The National Museum and Anglo Boer War Museum are highly regarded among historians.

The South African Armour Museum displays tanks and weaponry and an original military hospital. Overlooking the city is Naval Hill, with a striking white horse marking its slopes. The horse was laid out during the Anglo-Boer War as a landmark for approaching horsemen.

Despite its dry and dusty appearance, Bloemfontein is home to the province’s only botanical garden, and a tropical oasis – the orchid house. Colourful flowers also attract visitors to Kings Park where monthly art markets are a popular feature.

Family destinations include the Windmill Casino and the zoo for outdoor picnics.

Lovers of architecture should include in their visit the only twin-spired Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, built in 1880; the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery – a neo-Cape Dutch manor house; Freshford House Museum – a window to life in the 1890s, and the magnificent City Hall, Appeal Court, Fourth Raadsaal and Supreme Court buildings.

Beyond the city the Franklin Nature Reserve is home to endemic wildlife species and the Lamont Hussey Observatory, now a theatre. The Cheetah Experience is another must-see opportunity while in Bloemfontein.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

Bloemfontein has an airport, and is located roughly in the centre of the country.

Best time to visit

Bloemfontein experiences extreme temperatures in mid-summer and mid-winter, so spring and autumn are the most pleasant times to visit – May and September.

Around the area

Bloemfontein is conveniently situated near Lesotho, the Horizon Route which starts at Philippolis in the south, and the scenic uplands of the eastern Free State.

Tours to do

The Cheetah Experience is a must.

Get around

Many attractions are within easy walking distance, but having your own vehicle to explore in would be very convenient.

Length of stay

Two nights, or more if you're interested in local battlefields and history.

Where to stay

Bloemfontein has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. The Protea Hotel, Urban Hotel and Golf Lodge are popular venues.

What's happening

There's the week-long Bloemfontein Rose Festival in October.

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