Bloemfontein, the “city of roses” and farmer’s stronghold, is the capital of the Free State and its economic and cultural heart. As the seat of the Supreme Court’s Court of Cassation, the city acts as a judicial capital in South Africa. Thanks to its central location in the semi-arid highveld, this mostly modern city is a hub for road and rail traffic and a popular stopover on the journey between the Cape and neighboring provinces. It is also a convenient base from which to explore other tourist attractions in the Free State. To the northeast, Naval Hill looms over the city with its observatory theater and wildlife sanctuary, while in town tourists will find an excellent art gallery, as well as museums with fascinating exhibits on the region’s cultural and natural history. With a name meaning ‘Bloemfontein’, it’s no surprise that Bloemfontein also has a beautiful botanical garden. Nearby, animal lovers can interact with big cats in a number of popular wildlife parks.\
1 Editor’s Pick Cheetah Experience
As the name suggests, big cat enthusiasts can interact with cheetahs and other cats at this popular non-profit nature reserve less than 12 kilometers from Bloemfontein. The “See, Sense, Touch” tour includes cuddling with incredibly cute cheetah cubs, as well as caracals and servals, depending on the residents at the time. The park is also home to leopards, lions and wolves, where avid photographers can get up close shots. The sanctuary’s mission is to focus their love of wildlife on saving “threatened species through captive breeding and awareness,” and many of the staff are passionate volunteers. Outdoor tours last between 60 and 80 minutes and include a presentation on safety and behavior guidelines before visitors venture in for fantastic photo opportunities and hands-on interactions. Bookings are essential.
Address: 1 Maluti Avenue, Bainsvlei, Bloemfontein
Official Site: https://www.cheetahexperience.com/
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bloemfontein
2 Bagamoya Wildlife Estate
Animal lovers will be in heaven at Bagamoya Wildlife Estate. About 30 kilometers from Bloemfontein, this animal park offers visitors the opportunity to interact with big cats under the careful guidance of knowledgeable staff who are happy to share their passion for these powerful creatures. Depending on the animals currently staying at the hotel, visitors can bottle lion and tiger cubs, pat cheetah, and even help feed the adult lions. In addition to great cat interactions, the park has a small zoo where some of the favorite residents include bat-eared owls, wallabies, and jackals. Visitors can also join a guided game drive to see other animals such as giraffes, zebras, antelopes, ostriches, warthogs, and more. Self-catering chalets are available for overnight stays. Please call for feeding schedules and opening times before visiting.
Official Site: https://www.bagamoyawildlifeestate.co.za/
3 Oliewenhuis Art Gallery
In a Cape Dutch mansion, the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery is named after the wild olive trees on the surrounding hills. The gallery is a satellite of the National Museum in Bloemfontein and its permanent collection focuses exclusively on South African art, ranging from the old masters to contemporary paintings and sculpture. Artists are Thomas Baines, Pieter Wenning and Willem Coetzer. Evocative temporary exhibitions are displayed in an underground reservoir. After admiring all the art in the gallery, wander through the beautiful gardens to see sculptures of South African historical figures and explore the 12-acre grounds on several walking trails. This is also a great place for a picnic. Don’t miss the colorful carousel, which depicts both European and African mythological themes representing the country’s mix of cultures.
Address: 36 Aliwal Street, Bloemfontein
Official site: https://www.nasmus.co.za/museum/satellite-museums/oliewenhuis-art-museum/introduction
4 Free State National Botanic Garden
Nestled in a gentle valley between the hollows of the dolerite rocks, it immerses visitors in the natural landscapes of native forest, grasslands, karee trees and sculptural wild olives. The 70-hectare garden nurtures over 400 different species of plants (and yes, they include roses), mainly from the Free State, Lesotho and the North Cape. Part of the grounds is a carefully maintained park with a lawn and a lake, but much of it is native woodland. Other highlights of the garden include a replica old settler’s cottage, a traditional Sotho hut with a herb garden, red-hot pokers native to this region, and a birdwatching hut overlooking the lake, where visitors can see some of the 144 species that have been recorded. in the park. Hike the self-guided wilderness trails and keep an eye out for some of the park’s small reptiles and mammals, such as the mongean. After exploring the park, visitors can enjoy a picnic on the beautiful lawns or refuel at the restaurant.
Official site: https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/free-state
5 Naval Hill and the Franklin Nature Preserve
A panoramic view of Bloemfontein is Naval Hill’s main draw, but the area is also home to an abundance of wildlife and a few other surprises. This gentle hill to the northeast of the city is also home to the Franklin Free Nature Preserve, which is home to zebra, springbok, eland, and giraffe, as well as many birdlife. Also on the hill is the former Lamont-Hussey Observatory, now converted to the Observatorium Theater, which hosts educational shows. While in the area, check out the large white sculpture of a horse on the east side of the hill, erected during the Boer War and serving as a landmark for the British cavalry. At the foot of Naval Hill, the Orchid House in Hamilton Park has a collection of hundreds of exotic varieties of these beautiful flowers.
6 The National Museum
Established in 1877, the National Museum is a great place for tourists to learn about the region’s cultural, natural, and political history, as well as its artistic traditions. The museum has a large collection of fossils and archaeological material, including a chronological overview of tools from the Stone Age and Iron Age. In the ethnology section, visitors can learn about the lives of the Bushmen, Himba, Zulu and other cultural groups, and see African musical instruments. Particularly educational for children are the astronomy section, the mammal section, and the historic street scene with recreations of everyday life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A satellite museum in Bloemfontein’s oldest building, the First Council Chambershows exhibits on the history of the Free State.
Address: 36 Aliwal Street, Box 266, Bloemfontein, Free State
Official Site: https://www.nasmus.co.za/
7 Anglo Boer War Museum
The Anglo Boer War museum traces the history from the Boer perspective of this bitter conflict, which took place from 1899-1902. History buffs can gain insight into the context of the war and life in the brutal prison camps through dioramas, a collection of art, audiovisual presentations, artifacts, and other exhibits. The permanent collection focuses on some of the key figures of the time and includes a collection of firearms. Particularly poignant are exhibits that highlight the impact of the war on black South Africans, as well as a bloodstained baby hat that shows the holes of stray bullets. Outside the museum are several memorials including the National Women’s Monument, a 37 meter high obelisk that commemorates the 26,000 women and children who died in British concentration camps during the Boer War. In the base of the memorial is an urn containing the ashes of Emily Hobhouse, an Englishwoman who campaigned for better treatment of the internees.
Adres: Monument Road, Bloemfontein
8 Loch Logan Waterfront and the Free State Stadium
Overlooking a lake, the Loch Logan Waterfront’s cry is to make it known as the largest shopping center in central South Africa. The mall is usually a hive of activity with many shops, restaurants and boutiques. On rainy days, this is a great place to catch a movie at the cinema or enjoy some retail therapy. When the sun shines, customers can relax in one of the waterfront restaurants or cafes. There is ample parking and many sports fanatics snag a spot here when catching a rugby game at the nearby Free State Stadium.
Address: 105 Henry Street, Willows, Bloemfontein
Official site: https://www.lochlogan.co.za
9 Fourth Council Chamber
Opposite the Court of Appeal is the Vierde Raadsaal, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The foundation stone was laid by President FW Reitz in 1890. and the building was completed in 1893. The red-brick Renaissance-style building boasts a prominent dome and portico of Ionic columns. The last session of the parliament of the old Boer Republic of the Orange Free State was held here before the occupation of Bloemfontein by British troops in March 1900. It is now the seat of the Free State Provincial Council. In front of the building is a monument (by Coert Steynberg) to Christiaan de Wet, a general during the Boer War. One block west of here, the Bloemfontein City Hall was designed by Sir Gordon Leithe in 1935 and is decorated with Italian marble and intarsia work in Burmese wood.
10 Langenhovenpark Boeremark (farmers market)
The popular Boeremark (farmers market and craft market) is a great place to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and flavors of Bloemfontein. Tourists and locals come here to taste and buy local food, such as delicious pannekoek (Dutch pancakes), homemade jams, dried fruits and fresh farm produce. Other stalls are full of second-hand books, clothing, plants and furniture. This is also a great place to shop for souvenirs from the arts and crafts stalls. The market is held every Saturday from 06:00 to 14:00 in the Langenhovenpark.
Address: Bankovs Boulevard, Langenhovenpark, Bloemfontein