Bloemfontein is South Africa’s judicial capital and the Free State’s capital city. The place might be the busy epicentre of the Motheo region but it has a laid-back feel to it and, in essence, boasts the friendly vibe of your regular Free State town.
“Bloem” falls into the Mangaung municipality (which also includes Thaba Nchu and Botshabelo). The area was named Mangaung (Place of Leopards) by its early Basotho inhabitants. The city is also referred to as The City of Roses because of the rows and rows of rose bushes planted in King’s Park.
If history is your thing, there is plenty to explore. Start by taking a stroll down President Brand Street to imbibe the historical architecture. There are a number of notable Bloemfontein buildings, including the gracious City Hall, the First Raadsaal, the 1982 Fourth Raadsaal and the National Museum.
The Anglo-Boer War Museum is a chilling reminder of the Free State’s turbulent past, as is the Women’s Memorial, which is adjacent to the museum.
The Franklin Nature Reserve and Naval Hill are a good place to get a bird’s-eye view of the city – and many locals enjoy the spot for sundowners. King’s Park is definitely worth a visit, as is the Botanical Garden. For entertainment, the Loch Logan Waterfront offers a mall crawl just like you’ll find in any other city in South Africa – complete with some decent restaurants and a few familiar chain stores. To the northeast of the city, you’ll find the 7 500-hectare Soetdoring Nature Reserve.
Look out for
Historical buildings such as the Appeal Court, the Anglican Cathedral, the First Raadsaal and the Fourth Raadsaal, as well as the stately City Hall on President Brand Street.
King’s Park and Zoological Gardens: popular with local inhabitants, the zoo is the only one of its kind in the Free State, while the manicured gardens at King’s Park are definitely worth a visit.
The National Women’s Memorial is dedicated to the women and children who died in Anglo-Boer War concentration camps.
The Oliewenhuis Art Museum is home to celebrated local and international artists.
The Botanical Gardens on Rayton Road has bird-hides, walks and trails, as well as a nursery and tea garden.
The Choet Visser Rugby Museum has one of the largest collections of rugby-related memorabilia on the planet - a must for sports fans.
Maphileka House, a national monument dedicated to the struggle history of the African National Congress in the mid-1930’s.
The Mystic Boer pub is a Bloemfontein legend. It’s almost compulsory to pop in and have a pint or two if you’re passing through.