Known to some as the 'City of Roses', Bloemfontein is a beautiful historic town with a rich heritage. The city is a major stop when crossing the country, so why not take some time out to linger a little and explore.
More or less in the centre of South Africa, Bloemfontein is the Judicial Capital of South Africa as well as our sixth largest city. The town became part of a transport route and grew rapidly in the late 1860's with the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley and gold on the Witwatersrand. During the Anglo-Boer war the town fell to the British, and it was used as a communications centre. Today there are many monuments, museums and buildings which depict the history of the town.
The town is a relaxed and friendly one, offering warm hospitality and historical attractions as well as opportunities to explore the surrounding area and its natural beauty.
Breakfast at Avanti
Enjoy a fresh start to the day with a breakfast at Avanti, a great Italian restaurant. Enjoy an Italian cappuccino with imported beans, along with one of their simple but delicious breakfasts.
In typical Italian style the restaurant is made to make you feel at home. Relax in their comfortable tub chairs, enjoy your food and stay as long as you like.
Free State National Botanical Gardens
Stretching over 70 hectares, the Free State National Botanical Gardens is located in a valley with a number of dolerite koppies (small hills) marking the landscape. A meandering path takes you through the gardens past wild olive and karee trees, grassland and woodland, and a petrified tree that is thought to be over 150 million years old. The best time to enjoy the gardens is in spring when the flowers are in bloom.
The gardens also feature two displays - one showing medicinal plants and the another demonstrating water-wise gardening. The Botanical Society organizes summer sunset concerts, moonlight walks, and educational talks.
Standing tall above the skyline in Bloemfontein, Naval Hill offers wonderful panoramic views of Bloemfontein and the surrounds. During the Anglo-Boer War the Naval Hill was the location of the British naval-gun emplacements, and served as a landmark for the British cavalry.
Naval Hill is also home to the only nature reserve in the world to be located in the middle of a city. The reserve covers over 250 hectares and is home to a variety of African wildlife including giraffe, zebra, eland, and springbok. Walking is permitted in the reserve, so get out of the car for a good walk through the bush. The Franklin Game Reserve is open between 8h00 and 17h00 and admission is free.
It is best to avoid the hill at night though, as unfortunately there has been a crime problem.
Lunch at Primi Piatti
Enjoy lunch at Primi Piatti. Their veranda overlooks views of the Loch Logan Waterfront making for a scenic lunchtime experience. Or, if you are a sports fan and find yourself here in the middle of rugby season, you will be able to catch the game on one of the big screens.
Bloemfontein is filled with history, so take some time out to visit the National Museum. Established in 1877 the National Museum of South Africa stands as an international institution, focussing on natural and cultural history and art. The museum's palaeontology and archaeology section has many interesting exhibits and seeks to show visitors what the world was like millions of years ago. The only complete skeleton of the Euskelosaurus, the earliest known plant-eating dinosaur, is on display at the museum.
The Oliewenhuis Art Museum is part of the National Museum and is aimed at conserving and collecting works of art that represent the heritage of South African art. Guided tours through the museum are available, or browse the many exhibits at your leisure.
Entrance costs R5 for adults, and the museum is open from 8h00 to 17h00pm on weekdays, 10h00 to 17h00 on Saturdays, and 12h00 to 17h30 on Sundays and public holidays.
Anglo Boer War Museum and Battlefields
If you're still up for another museum, head to the Anglo-Boer War Museum. The museum offers a great degree of insight, and is a great stop if you're interested in the history of the war. Bloemfontein was one of the central towns during the Anglo-Boer War, and there are numerous battles which took place in and around the city.
The museum comprises art collections, exhibits and dioramas which seek to explain the war and the different people affected by it. The museum also gives insight into the concentration and prisoner-of-war camps which were set up during this time.
Visit the museum on Monument Road from 08h30 to 16h30 on weekdays, 10h00 to 17h00 on Saturdays, and 14h00 to 17h00 on Sundays.
Mangaung Cultural Route
Take a tour of the Mangaung township, the birthplace of the African National Congress. A cultural route has been set up in Manguang in order to empower the community, and bring awareness to the area and its rich and interesting history.
The tour takes you past Maphikela House, which is a national monument where Thomas Maphikela, the founder of the ANC, once lived. The tour also takes you past Waaihoek, one of the original townships that existed before forced removals. You can also go on a night tour which takes you on a tour of the township's shebeens (local bars) for a fun night out. Both day and night tours are informal, and cost about R300. Book at the Tourist Information Centre in Bloemfontein.
Dinner at Seven on Kellner
Seven on Kellner offers a great breakaway for a wonderful meal in peace and tranquility. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful Victorian mansion with pressed ceilings, brightly imbued with warmth and colour. The decor is eclectic and has a wonderful welcoming feel. Head outside to the garden to eat al fresco, or stay warm inside.
They have a reputation as the destination of choice for out-of-town visitors, and for offering great fine dining in Bloemfontein. Each plate is created individually with the highest care and quality of ingredients.