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Free State

BBloemfontein offers everything from entertainment to culture. When you’re in the Free State, or on the road from Cape Town to Johannesburg, you absolutely have to make a stop in Bloemfontein. With awesome museums, a great zoo, a casino, amazing architecture and a city completely encircled by a nature reserve, it’s a fantastic South African city experience.

Bloemfontein, or “Bloem”, as the locals like to call it, is the judicial capital of South Africa. It’s pretty much in the centre of the country in the Free State province, and also happens to be where the author of The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien was born. So it’s safe to say there’s more than a little magic here.

If you intend adding this Free State gem to your bucket list, here's a guide on how to spend 48 hours in Bloemfontein: 

Getting there: Bloemfontein is a four to six hour drive or 45-minute flight from Johannesburg. It is less than 90 minutes when flying from Cape Town or Durban. 

Stay: Bloemfontein offers a selection of boutique hotels, guesthouses and hotel accommodation to suit any type of traveller and budget. 

Did You Know?
BBloemfontein means fountain of flowers in Dutch.

DDay one

Spend the afternoon checking out what Bloemfontein is famous for - its wealth of roses - the best places to see the roses in full bloom is King’s Park. One of the top Bloemfontein attractions, the park was opened by the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, in 1925 and features more than 4 000 roses. Every October the floral display is celebrated with a rose festival, while a popular craft market is held on the first Saturday of every month. 

After marvelling at the roses, head to your accommodation. Once you have checked into your accommodation and worked up an appetite, head to Mystic Boer, known as one of Bloemfontein’s most famous landmarks. It opened its doors in 1997 and has since become an institution. No visit is complete without trying their famous burritos. Check out their Facebook page to see their latest information on gigs, events in this cool spot. Dine, party and immerse yourself with the locals with whatever’s on tap for the evening.

 

Bloemfontein

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DDay two 

Spend some time immersing yourself in the history and culture of this historical city. The Oliewenhuis Art Museum, which opens at 8am, is a satellite of the National Museum and aims to preserve collections that showcase our South African art heritage. The underground gallery at this museum, the Reservoir - possibly the only one of its kind in South Africa - is quite an experience. This huge underground water storage structure, built in approximately 1904, was discovered by chance in the grounds of Oliewenhuis in the 1990s. With considerable effort the endless structural problems were overcome and it was converted into a large exhibition hall.

Then, head off to lunch at Bella Casa in Westdene for an Italian-style feast. 

The Anglo Boer War Museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to one of our country’s great wars (1899-1902). The museum makes for a perfect after-lunch hangout that will enlighten you about South Africa's history. 

End the afternoon with a picnic at the Botanical Gardens.   

Other places of interest include President Steyn (Boer War President) House, Naval Hill, the Bloemfontein Observatory and the National Museum. Bloemfontein is home to a string of homely restaurants. Among them is One on Park. Be sure to try the blue cheese soufflé. 

Day 3

Head to the De Oudekraal Restaurant. The restaurant has been around for decades and introduces visitors to an authentic South African farm-style dining experience. The venue is famed for its six-course menu that includes traditional fare such as bobotie, oxtail and venison. 

After indulging, walk off the extra calories at the Waterfront or Mimosa Mall. If you are an enthusiastic photographer, take a walk through the centre of town and capture the heart of the city, its historic buildings and ox-wagon-wide main roads. Or visit Naval Hill, the “mountain” in the heart of the city, one of the most sought-after tourist attractions. Here you can also visit the impressive Mandela statue, from which there is a magnificent view over the city, and the new Naval Hill Planetarium which is integrated with the old Lamont-Hussey Observatory.

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