Did you know?
At the Free State National Botanical Garden you can see more than 100 species of birdlife.
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 'fountain of flowers', which gives 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 (also known as the South African War). The National Museum and Anglo-Boer War Museum are highly regarded among historians.
The South African Armour Museum displays tanks, 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 – Orchid House. Colourful flowers also attract visitors to King's Park, where monthly art markets are a popular feature.
Other 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, the Supreme Court of Appeal and Fourth Raadsaal buildings.
Beyond the city, the Franklin Nature Reserve is home to endemic wildlife species. The Cheetah Experience is another must-see opportunity while in Bloemfontein.