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Discovering South Africa’s City of Flowers Bloemfontein

Discovering South Africa’s City of Flowers: Bloemfontein

Also known as the “city of roses”, Bloemfontein is rich in history, stunning architecture, and attractions that captivate any traveller – from its bustling markets to its world-class museums and galleries.

In this article, we’ll give you an insider’s view of what makes Bloemfontein such a special place, from its cultural heritage to its modern-day attractions, and everything in between. 

What’s special about Bloemfontein?

Bloemfontein is the capital of the Free State province and South Africa’s judicial capital. It’s also known as the “city of roses” because of the abundance of the flower in the area and the city’s annual rose festival.

Bloemfontein also boasts a rich culture, beautiful architecture, involvement in important sports events, and picturesque natural beauty.

As the judicial capital of the country, Bloemfontein is a powerhouse for legal and judicial affairs, with the Supreme Court of Appeal at the heart of its legal system. 

Its role in the Anglo-Boer War and as the birthplace of the African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress also greatly adds to its historical significance.

But Bloemfontein is not just a city of the past; it is a vibrant and bustling metropolis that is home to several prestigious academic institutions, including the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology. 

Its importance as an academic centre is evident in the city’s intellectual and artistic atmosphere, making it a hub for creativity, innovation, and knowledge.

Bloemfontein’s strategic location as a transportation hub, with its airport connecting it to other parts of South Africa and beyond, makes it an important gateway to the rest of the Free State province and an essential stopover for travellers exploring the region. 

Places to Visit in Bloemfontein

Here are some cultural spots and attractions you can’t miss out on when visiting the city, whether solo or with a group:

  • Naval Hill
  • Bloemfontein Zoo
  • The National Museum
  • Oliewenhuis Art Museum
  • Anglo-Boer War Museum
  • Loch Logan Waterfront
  • Free State Botanical Gardens
  • Fourth Raadsaal
  • Franklin Game Reserve
  • Freshford House Museum

Don’t worry! We’ll go through each entry for you to know why we recommend these places, so read on.

Naval Hill

Naval Hill is a nature reserve located in the heart of the city, offering panoramic views of Bloemfontein and its surroundings. It’s truly an iconic landmark that captures the heart and soul of Bloemfontein. 

The stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape from 192 metres above sea level are simply breathtaking. But what makes Naval Hill truly special is the massive statue of Nelson Mandela that stands at the peak, gazing out over the city. 

This inspiring and impressive statue is one of the largest of its kind in South Africa and serves as a powerful reminder of the country’s journey towards democracy and freedom.

The nature reserve on Naval Hill is also a must-visit for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The reserve is home to a variety of indigenous wildlife, including giraffes, zebras, and antelope. 

Visitors can also explore the walking trails, have a picnic, or simply relax and take in the natural beauty of the reserve.

2. Bloemfontein Zoo

Bloemfontein Zoo

Bloemfontein Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in South Africa, home to a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, and elephants.

The Bloemfontein Zoo is not your typical zoo, it’s a destination that combines entertainment and education in a delightful way. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and animal welfare is evident from the moment you step foot in the park. 

Visitors can experience an up-close encounter with lions, tigers, elephants, and gorillas while learning about the importance of protecting these magnificent creatures. 

What sets this zoo apart from others is its emphasis on education. The zoo staff works tirelessly to create engaging and informative programs that help raise awareness of conservation issues. 

Moreover, the zoo’s breeding program for endangered species is a testament to its dedication to protecting wildlife. 

We also love how the lush gardens and serene walking paths offer a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, making the Bloemfontein Zoo a must-visit destination for all animal lovers.

3. The National Museum

The National Museum

The Bloemfontein National Museum is not just a destination for history buffs, but also for those who appreciate immersive experiences that transport them back in time. 

The museum’s reconstructed 19th-century street scene is particularly remarkable, with its attention to detail and authenticity. It offers visitors a chance to step back in time and experience what life was like in the early days of Bloemfontein. 

The museum’s collection of Anglo-Boer War artefacts is also impressive, with its intriguing array of weapons, uniforms, and other relics providing a unique perspective on the conflict. 

Moreover, the museum’s art gallery boasts an impressive collection of works by some of South Africa’s most renowned artists, providing visitors with an opportunity to appreciate the country’s rich artistic heritage.

With its educational programs and interactive activities, the Bloemfontein National Museum is a destination that is both entertaining and enlightening.

4. Oliewenhuis Art Museum

Oliewenhuis Art Museum

The Oliewenhuis Art Museum is a contemporary art museum located in a historic building, showcasing the work of South African and international artists. 

It’s a unique and fascinating attraction that showcases a diverse collection of contemporary South African art. 

The museum is housed in a beautiful historic building that was once the residence of the governor of the Orange Free State. 

Visitors can explore a range of exhibitions featuring works by both established and up-and-coming artists, including painting, sculpture, photography, and mixed-media installations. 

One of the highlights of the museum is the extensive collection of works by South African artist Johannes Meintjes, who is known for his powerful depictions of the South African landscape and people. 

We also recommend attending the workshops, lectures, and events that the museum regularly hosts that encourage visitors to engage with the art and artists on display.

5. Anglo-Boer War Museum


The Anglo-Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein is a museum dedicated to the history of the Anglo-Boer War, with exhibits on the war’s causes, key battles, and aftermath.

It’s definitely a must-see attraction for history geeks who want to dive deep into the fascinating history of South Africa. 

Housed in the former government building that served as the headquarters of the Boer forces during the war, the museum has a wealth of artefacts, documents, and photographs that offer an intimate look at the conflict and its impact on the region. 

The interactive exhibits are a highlight of the museum, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to step into the shoes of soldiers and civilians and experience what life was like during this tumultuous period. 

With its extensive research centre, the museum is a valuable resource for scholars and researchers interested in the Anglo-Boer War. 

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or just curious about this pivotal moment in South African history, the Anglo-Boer War Museum is a must-visit destination that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the country’s rich and complex past.

6. Loch Logan Waterfront

Loch Logan Waterfront

With its picturesque location on the tranquil Loch Logan Lake, this waterfront complex offers a feast for the senses. 

Whether you’re in the mood for shopping, dining, or catching the latest blockbuster movie at the Nu Metro Cinema, Loch Logan Waterfront has something for everyone. 

We also recommend that you mark your calendars for the regular events and concerts hosted at this lively destination.

7. Free State Botanical Gardens

Free State Botanical Gardens

The Loch Logan Waterfront in Bloemfontein is more than just a popular attraction – it’s a bustling hub of activity and innovation that embodies the city’s progressive spirit.

With its stunning views of the shimmering Loch Logan and its array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, the waterfront is a true gem of the city. 

We just love spending time here because as you explore the waterfront, you can feel good knowing that you’re supporting a community that values sustainability and is working hard to protect the environment.

8. Fourth Raadsaal

Fourth Raadsaal

The Fourth Raadsaal is more than just a building – it’s a symbol of the rich history and cultural heritage of Bloemfontein. 

Stepping inside feels like taking a journey through time, as you admire the grandeur of the neo-Renaissance style and the intricate details of the decorations. 

It’s easy to imagine the important decisions that were made within these walls, shaping the destiny of the Orange Free State and South Africa as a whole. 

But the Fourth Raadsaal is not just a relic of the past, it’s a living testament to the enduring spirit of democracy and freedom. 

The museum inside is a treasure trove of information, revealing the fascinating stories of the people and events that shaped the Free State. 

9. Franklin Game Reserve

Franklin Game Reserve

The Franklin Game Reserve is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Bloemfontein that offers a unique experience for visitors. 

With its abundant wildlife, the reserve is a playground for animal lovers, offering an up-close encounter with some of Africa’s most iconic species. But that’s not all. 

The reserve’s hiking trails and picnic areas offer a serene setting for a family outing or a romantic getaway. Plus, its convenient location in the city makes it easily accessible to everyone.

What really sets the Franklin Game Reserve apart, however, is its dedication to conservation and education. The reserve is more than just a place to see animals; it’s a hub for raising awareness about the importance of preserving our natural world. 

10. Freshford House Museum

Freshford House Museum

Welcome to the delightful Freshford House Museum! As soon as you step inside this charming historical building, you’ll be transported back in time to the turn of the century. 

Built in 1897, the house was once the residence of the influential Freshford family and is now an excellent museum, showcasing the luxurious lifestyle of the upper class during the Edwardian era. 

The museum is a treasure trove of beautifully preserved Victorian and Edwardian furnishings and an extensive collection of historical artefacts. 

You can explore the house at your own pace, or take a guided tour, where their knowledgeable guides will regale you with fascinating tales of the Freshford family and their extraordinary lives. 

You can even play a game of croquet on the lawn, just like the Freshfords would have done over a century ago!

Group Activities in Bloemfontein You Should Try

Below, we listed some fun group activities you can try out in Bloemfontein:

For adventurous thrill-seekersGo abseiling.
Try out white water rafting.
Dare to go skydiving.
For nature loversVisit animal sanctuaries.
Try camping.
Go hiking.
For those just looking for a chill timeBook a relaxing spa day.
Go out for a dinner date at Seven.
Drop by Farmer’s market at the Boeremark.

Keep reading for more details!

1. Go abseiling.

Go abseiling.

This thrilling activity involves descending down a vertical surface using ropes and safety equipment, and the city has several locations that offer group abseiling experiences suitable for both beginners and experienced abseilers. 

From the stunning views of Naval Hill to the challenging 22-metre high water tower at the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, there’s no shortage of excitement to be had. 

2. Try out white water rafting.

White water rafting with a group of friends or family members is an exciting adventure activity that involves navigating a river in a rubber raft. 

If you’ve always wanted to try it out, you’re in luck as there are several locations in Bloemfontein that offer group white water rafting experiences, ranging from gentle rapids to more difficult routes.

The Ash River, located in the nearby town of Clarens, is a popular spot for group white water rafting in the city. This route includes a series of class III and IV rapids that will put your skills to the test while also providing an exhilarating experience.

The Vaal River, which offers a variety of routes and rapids suitable for different experience levels, is another option for group white water rafting in Bloemfontein.

It’s about an hour’s drive from Bloemfontein, and numerous companies provide transportation to and from the river, which is awesome.

Don’t worry, we were nervous on our first try, too. Before each rafting trip, professional guides provide safety equipment and training which proved to be very useful during the real thing.

3. Dare to go skydiving.

Dare to go skydiving.

If you’re a group of daredevils, we dare you to try out skydiving in Bloemfontein! 

You’ll find several locations in Bloemfontein that offer group skydiving experiences, each with its own unique views and atmosphere. One popular location is the Tempe Airport, which offers stunning views of the city and surrounding countryside. 

Experienced skydiving instructors provide all necessary safety equipment and training before each jump, so even we first-timers can feel safe and confident.

Group skydiving is an excellent way to bond with friends or family members and create unforgettable memories. Plus, the rush of freefalling through the air is sure to leave you feeling exhilarated and energised – there’s nothing quite like it!

4. Visit animal sanctuaries.

Visit animal sanctuaries.

Bloemfontein is home to several animal sanctuaries, providing visitors the chance to see and learn about a variety of wildlife. 

We recommend this experience as these sanctuaries offer a unique adventure to observe and interact with animals in their natural habitat, while also contributing to conservation efforts.

One of the most popular animal sanctuaries in Bloemfontein is the Cheetah Experience, which provides visitors with an up-close encounter with these majestic big cats. 

The sanctuary also houses other endangered animals such as African wild dogs, servals, and meerkats. 

Another animal sanctuary worth visiting is the Bagamoya Wildlife Estate, which offers a chance to see a variety of African wildlife in a natural and unspoiled environment. 

The estate is home to a range of animals, including giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, and antelopes, among others. Visitors can take a game drive through the estate or even go on a walking safari to get a closer look at the animals.

For those interested in bird watching, the Soetdoring Nature Reserve is a must-visit. The reserve is home to over 250 species of birds, including rare and endangered species such as the bald ibis and the bearded vulture. 

You can also take a bird-watching tour or go on a self-guided hike through the reserve’s scenic trails.

5. Try camping.

Try camping.

If you and your company are feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of city life and in need of some fresh air, Bloemfontein’s got the perfect solution for you: camping!

One of our top recommendations for camping in Bloemfontein is the Maselspoort Resort. We’re big fans of this resort because they offer a variety of camping options, from the traditional camping sites to the luxury chalets – there’s something for everyone.

Plus, there are endless activities to keep you and your friends entertained, such as swimming, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking. Trust us, you’ll never run out of things to do here.

We also have to give a shoutout to the Rooipoort Nature Reserve, which stole our hearts with its stunning natural beauty and diverse wildlife. You can spot giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests while hiking along one of several trails and camping sites.

6. Go hiking.

Go hiking.

Hiking in Bloemfontein with friends is an absolute blast, trust us! It’s a fantastic way to get some fresh air, explore new landscapes, and spend some quality time with your closest pals.

One of our favourite hiking spots in Bloemfontein is the Franklin Nature Reserve. The trails are clearly marked, so you won’t have to worry about getting lost, and the varying difficulty levels mean that everyone in your group can enjoy the hike. 

We always love spotting wildlife along the way, and Franklin Nature Reserve is a haven for antelopes, zebras, and giraffes.

If you’re looking for breathtaking views, then the Modderpoort Trail is a must-visit. The trail offers stunning views of the Modder River and surrounding mountains, making it a prime spot for nature lovers and photographers alike.

The Soetdoring Nature Reserve is also worth checking out. Just a 30-minute drive outside of Bloemfontein, this reserve offers a variety of hiking trails with varying difficulty levels.

7. Book a relaxing spa day.

Book a relaxing spa day.

If your group is looking to pamper yourselves, you’re in luck. Bloemfontein has some of the best spas around, and we’ve got the inside scoop on the top spots.

First on our list is the Windmill Casino and Entertainment Centre. 

Their spa is a haven of tranquillity and relaxation, with plenty of amenities to make your day extra special. From the sauna to the steam room and indoor pool, you’ll have everything you need to relax and rejuvenate. 

Plus, their customisable packages mean you can tailor your spa day to your liking, which is a big plus for us.

If you’re in the mood for something more intimate, we recommend checking out the Body Bliss Day Spa. This spa is perfect for those who want to indulge in a range of treatments, including massages, facials, and body scrubs. 

They also offer couples and group massages, so it’s an ideal option for a romantic getaway or a bonding experience with your friends.

For a unique spa experience, you can’t go wrong with the Emoya Spa. Located in a serene bushveld setting, this spa offers traditional African-inspired massages and body treatments. 

It’s the perfect place to relax, unwind and rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

Don’t forget to book your spa day in advance to secure your preferred time slot. We also recommend bringing your swimsuit so you can take full advantage of the pool and any other water amenities.

8. Go out for a dinner date!

Go out for a dinner date!

You already have great company, the only thing missing is great food! 

From our experience, going out on a dinner date with friends is always a blast. Especially because Bloemfontein offers so many good restaurant options, you wouldn’t be disappointed. 

One of our top picks for a dinner date with friends is the Mystic Boer. 

This lively spot offers a fun and casual atmosphere, along with delicious pub-style meals and live music to keep you entertained. It’s the perfect spot to let your hair down and have a good time.

For those seeking a more sophisticated dining experience, we recommend trying Seven on Kellner. This chic restaurant boasts a diverse menu with something for everyone, from succulent seafood to mouth-watering steaks. 

Plus, their extensive wine list is sure to impress even the most discerning wine lovers in your group.

If you’re feeling adventurous and in the mood for some exotic flavours, look no further than Aroma Ghar. This cosy Indian restaurant will transport you to the streets of Mumbai with its authentic dishes and warm hospitality. 

It’s a unique and memorable dining experience that you and your friends won’t soon forget.

No matter which food spot you choose, we suggest picking a place where all of your friends will have fun. 

It’s also a good idea to plan ahead and decide on the cuisine, budget, and even the theme– if you’re that kind of friend group, to ensure that everything goes well.

9. Drop by Farmer’s market at the Boeremark.

Drop by Farmer’s market at the Boeremark.

The Boeremark Farmers Market is a perfect destination on a weekend with friends. It’s  a bustling market that’s a feast for the senses, offering an array of tantalising flavours, unique finds, and a lively atmosphere. 

We recommend dropping by primarily for the experience. As you make your way through the stalls, you’ll be greeted by vendors eager to share their local products and knowledge. 

From the freshest farm-to-table produce to handmade crafts and artisanal cheeses, you’ll discover a range of treasures you won’t find anywhere else.

But the Boeremark isn’t just about shopping – it’s also a foodie paradise so go ahead and plan brunch too while you’re at it!

You can indulge in delicious food from a variety of vendors, like freshly baked bread, savoury pies, and sweet treats. And of course, you can’t leave without trying some of the homemade jams and preserves.

One thing we love about this market is its lively atmosphere. It’s truly infectious, and you’ll feel the energy as you browse through the stalls, chat with vendors, and listen to live music. 

The Boeremark Farmers Market is a great place to relax, unwind, and soak up the local culture with your best buds.

Did we miss any Bloemfontein attractions or experiences that should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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