The sixth largest city in South Africa, Bloemfontein is also the Capital of the Free State and, as home to the Supreme Court, the Judicial Capital of South Africa. Bloemfontein means ‘Flower Fountain’ in English, and the city is also known as the City of Roses due to the 4000 Rose Bushes in King’s Park. Interestingly, however, speculation exists that the city was named after a cow called ‘Bloem’ (Flower) who was “killed by a predator next to a fountain” on the original farm settlement. In support of this theory, the roses only came later.
The Free State Boer history of Bloemfontein is prominently displayed in its architecture, museums and in a Memorial to the Boer women and children who died in British concentration camps in the Anglo Boer War at the turn of the 19th century, but Bloemfontein is also a modern, thriving and cosmopolitan city. The Loch Logan Waterfront boasts world-class shopping facilities, sports stadiums and entertainment venues. Bloemfontein also has thriving arts, culture, entertainment industries, and hosts a number of large annual events. The annual Bloemfontein Show is South Africa’s biggest agricultural, arts, entertainment and expo Fair. Other annual events include the Volksblad Arts Festival, the 10-day Mangaung African Cultural Festival, the Bloemfontein Rose Festival and the Free State Food Fair.
The historical sandstone buildings of Bloemfontein can be toured on the Rose Walk – a self-guide route, the directions for which can be obtained from the Bloemfontein Tourism office.
The Franklin Game Reserve on Naval Hill in the centre of the city is the only game reserve in the world encompassed within City Centre limits, and closes just in time for ‘sundowners’ overlooking the city.
Nearby attractions include the Soetdoring Nature Reserve, about a 20 minute drive from Bloemfontein, and the Free State Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of the city.
‘Bloem’ as it affectionately known, is also the birthplace of author J.R.R. Tolkien. Born the son of the local banker in 1892, the famed writer of ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ lived in Bloemfontein until the age of three, and is quoted as saying he had ‘memories of a hot country’.
Getting there: Bloemfontein has a commercial airport. Otherwise take the N1 south from Johannesburg or the N1 north from Cape Town. The N1 is a major national route and is well sign-posted for travelling distance to Bloemfontein in both directions.