Bloemfontein Travel Guide

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings was born in Bloemfontein in 1892.

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All the info to prepare your trip to Bloemfontein. How to get in, maps, activities...
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Bloemfontein (Fountain of flowers), is the judicial capital of South Africa. It is also the capital of the Free State Province. Bloemfontein was founded in 1846 and now has a population of around half a million people. J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings was born in Bloemfontein in 1892. In 1923, the African National Congress (ANC) political party was founded in Bloemfontein.Today, Bloemfontein is a compact city surrounded by sprawling suburbs.

Happily, the city centre is safe to walk around during the day, but many of the city’s activities are focused on the Waterfront and Mimosa malls and on the large sporting complex. Second Avenue, north of the Waterfront mall, has the majority of the city’s bars and restaurants.

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By plane

Bloemfontein Airport is just outside the city and a number of flights to major South African cities take off from here, operated by South African Airways and SA Airlink. and Mango airlines [5] fly to Cape Town

By train

Bloemfontein is a major rail junction in the middle of South Africa, but many of the trains are not running anymore. From here, Spoornet operates regular trains to all points of the country : south to Port Elizabeth, East London and Mthatha, west, north to Johannesburg.

The train station is in the city centre, on the corner of Maitland and Harvey streets. For train ticket bookings, phone 086 000 8888 (from within SA) or +27 (0)11 774 4555 (from outside SA).

By car

The N1, N6 and N8 national highways meet in Bloemfontein, making it easily reachable from any part of the country. The N1 northbound from Bloemfontein towards Gauteng is a toll road.

Distances
  • Bloemfontein-Johannesburg: 398 km.
  • Bloemfontein-Cape Town: 1004 km.
  • Bloemfontein-Maseru: 137 km.
  • Bloemfontein-Port Elizabeth: 677 km.
  • Bloemfontein-Kimberley: 160 km

By bus

A number of bus services offer connections to major South African cities.

  • Greyhound, ☎ +27 (0)83 915-9000.
  • Intercape Mainliner, ☎ +27 (0)21 380-4400.
  • Translux.
  • SA Roadlink, ☎ +27 (0)11 333-2223.
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GET AROUND

By Car

As with most of South Africa, it is best to hire a car.

  • Avis, Bloemfontein Airport, ☎ +27 (0)51 433-2331. Open 6AM to 8PM weekdays, 8AM to 4PM on Saturdays.
  • Tempest Car Hire, Bloemfontein Airport, ☎ +27 (0)51 433-2146. Open 6:30AM to 6:30PM weekdays, 8AM to 2PM on Saturdays.
  • Hertz, Bloemfontein Airport, ☎ +27 (0)51 400-2100. Open 6:30AM to 7:30PM weekdays, 7:30AM to 5PM on Saturdays.
  • First Car Rental, Bloemfontein Airport, ☎ +27 (0)51 430-0390. Open 7:00AM to 8:00PM weekdays, 8:00AM to 4PM on Saturdays.

SEE

  • Anglo Boer War Museum, Monument Road, ☎ +27 (0)51 447-3447. For a history on the war 1899 to 1902.
  • Boyden Observatory, ☎ +27 (0)84 429-9080 ([email protected]). Explore the southern skies under dark and clear Free State conditions.
  • Choet Visser Rugby Museum, ☎ +27 (0)51 436-4124. By appointment only.
  • Fire Station Museum, Erlich Park Fire Station, Church Street, ☎ +27 (0)51 405-8730 ([email protected]). By appointment. 17 vintage fire engines as well as a number of cars, bikes steam engines and even ox wagons.
  • National Botanical Garden, Rayton Road,off Dan Pienaar Drive, ☎ +27 (0)51 436 361 ([email protected]). 8AM to 6PM daily. R10 entrance fee.
  • National Museum, 36 Aliwal Street, ☎ +27 (0)51 447-9609 ([email protected]). Open 8AM to 5PM Monday to Friday, 10AM to 5PM on Saturday and 12PM to 5:30PM on Sundays.. Home to the Florisbad skull. R5 entrance fee.
  • Naval Hill and Franklin Game Reserve. 8am – 5pm. The reserve has various wild animals (nothing dangerous) and is located on top of a hill overlooking the centre of the city. There is a driving circuit weaving around the edge of the hill. You can also park the car near the observatory and go for a walk / have a picnic. free.
  • Oliewenhuis Art Museum, 16 Harry Smith Street, ☎ +27 (0)51 447-9609 ([email protected]). Open 8AM to 5PM Monday to Friday and 10AM to 5PM on Saturday. Outstanding art museum in a beautifully restored Cape-Dutch style house and gardens. Oliewenhuis hosts ever changing temporary displays of contemporary art and photography, whilst upstairs is a more traditional permanent exhibition. There is a very nice cafe in the sculpture garden at the back and is the ideal retreat from the city’s sterile shopping malls. Free entrance.
  • Women’s Memorial.
  • Presidency Museum, Pres. Brand Street, ☎ +27 (0)51 448-0949. Open 10AM to 12:15PM and 1PM to 4PM Tuesday to Friday. This former residence of presidents of the Orange Free Stare Republic has been restored to what it would have been at the turn of the century.
  • Queens Fort Military Museum, 116 Church Street, ☎ +27 (0)51 447-5478 ([email protected]). Open 10AM to 12:15PM and 1PM to 4PM Monday to Friday. Exhibitions on the two Boer wars and the apartheid struggle.
  • SA Armour Museum, (West of town, follow Nelson Mandela (R64) west towards the N1, you’ll see a sign). The SA Armour Museum, on the grounds of Tempe Military Base, exhibits various items dealing specifically with military armour. The SA Armour Museum consists of an indoor-, outdoor-, and reference library area. Some of the more interesting exhibits include South African built apartheid era riot control vehicles, and some old Soviet tanks the South African’s captured in Angola.
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DO

  • Go to the Waterfront.
  • Play a round of golf.
  • Visit one of the numerous game reserves in the area and go sightseeing / hunting.
  • Take a walk through the tree-lined President Brand Street and visit the various museums.
  • Take a drive through the northern suburbs and see the lush gardens.
  • Visit the City Zoo just behind the Waterfront shopping mall. This zoo is home to a stuffed Liger a cross between a lion and a tiger, that was bred at the zoo in the 1930s. This specimen holds the world record for being the largest ever living cat. And at 798kgs you can see why!
  • Soetdoring Nature Reserve, (about 40 km from Bloemfontein on the main Bultfontein road). closes at 18.00. A pleasant Free State nature reserve close to Bloemfontein. What sets it apart are the lions in the small enclosure in the middle of the park – although the enclosure is big enough to mean that you are not guaranteed to see the cats. The rest of the reserve is pleasant with open plains, wooded areas and a dam – there are no dangerous animals in the main park so walking is allowed. There is a one-day hiking trail which follow the Modder River, easy enough for families with young children. R20 per car.
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  • University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, ☎ +27 (0)51 401-3219 ([email protected], fax: +27 (0)51 401-9185).
  • Central University of Technology (CUT), Bloemfontein, ☎ +27 (0)51 507-3911 ([email protected], fax: +27 (0)51 507-3199).
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Buy

The ongoing expansion of the Waterfront mall means that Bloemfontein now has two branches of each of the standard South African chain stores (the other branches being in the Mimosa Mall 2 km up the road). There is a craft market near the Waterfront mall on the first Saturday of the month. Many shops close Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday.

There is a craft market in Post Street Mall in central Windhoek, though prices are quite high. For cheaper prices, go to the craft market in Okahanja, which is about an hour north of Windhoek. You can hitchhike to Okahanja or catch a combie.

There are a number of arcades and small shopping centres in the centre of Windhoek. Between them you can find pretty much anything you need. There is also a larger mall called Maerua Mall in the south end of the city (Jan Jonker Road), easily accessible by taxi.

For arts and crafts you can visit Jennys Place located at Bougain Villa 78 Sam Nujoma Drive, Klein Windhoek. Telephone +264 61 269152. It is the largest arts and crafts shop in Namibia. They sell everything from paints, face paints, canvases, beads, ribbons, costumes, scrapbooking supplies, brushes, spraypaint, decoupage, wooden blanks, pewter and the occasional oddity such as glow in the dark spraypaint, gifts and decorations. They also provide a variety of art classes such as painting, card making and scrap booking. It has a calm and tranquil atmosphere and a great place to meet other crafters.

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EAT

People eat early in Bloemfontein – even by South African standards, if you arrive at a restaurant after 7.30pm, especially on a weeknight, you may get some funny looks from the staff, and rushed service as they try to get you out the door so they can lock up and go home.

  • Fishpaste restaurant and bar, 31 President Steyn ave, Westdene, ☎ +27 (0)51 430-2662. The place to go. Excellent food in an interesting atmosphere.
  • Mexican Restaurant, 19A Second Avenue Westdene, ☎ 051 4304526. There isn’t much that is Mexican about this place, except for the big Aztec statue that overlooks the dining area. Seafood and Steakhouse. One of the city’s more upmarket steakhouses. Fantastic food and service in a beautiful restaurant with a selective bar .Winner of numerous awards for food and service.Come and enjoy!
  • Cape Town Fish Market, Eeufees Road (Northridge mall), ☎ 051 436 6148. Branch of the popular CTFM chain. Worth the trip into the northern suburbs.
  • Beethoven’s Cafe Restaurant, Victorian Square, Second Avenue, ☎ 051 448 7223. A good choice for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner, and a tad more sophisticated (by Bloemfontein standards) than the chain restaurants in the shopping malls. The only downside is that the terrace overlooks the car park.
  • New York’s, 60 Medene Centre, Second Ave, ☎ 051 447-7279. One of the better steakhouses in town, although not the best. Not a bad choice for families.
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Budget

  • Bains Caravan Park, 31 Kimberley Rd, ☎ +27 (0)51 451-1115. R190.
  • Tuscany Lodge, 3rd Avenue (Opposite the Medic Clinic), ☎ 051-4473399. Spotlessly clean and functional hotel in a good location equidistant between 2nd Streets restaurants and the Waterfront mall – and Mimosa mall is a 10 minute walk. Secure parking, full English breakfast, en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning and DSTV. A good alternative to the considerably more expensive City Lodge up the road. under R350 a room.

Midrange

  • Bains Game Lodge, (Follow Nelson Mandela Drive for 2km outside the city, entrance gates on the right), ☎ +27 (0)51 451-1928 ([email protected]). Serviced Chalets.
  • Hobbit House, (Just of 2nd Avenue on President Steyn Avenue), ☎ +27 (0)51 447 0663 ([email protected]). A opulent boutique hotel, a good choice if you are with your intended. From R500 per room inc. breakfast.
  • Bloemfontein Spa, Raytonweg, Lilyvale, ☎ +27(51)4361567. From R410.
  • City Lodge, Cnr Nelson Mandela Drive & Parfitt Avenue, ☎ +27 (0)51 444-2974 ([email protected]). From 410.
  • Florentia Guest House, 2c Louis Botha St, Waverley, ☎ +27 (0)828537472 ([email protected]). Florentia Guest House offers 4star accommodation central to Bloemfontein South Africa. Safe parking. Owner run since 1998. From R265pps.
  • Like A Rock, 6 Blink-Vosperdstr. Pellissier (N1 Jagersfontein offrit into Pellissier drive), ☎ 0514210559. checkin: 14.00; checkout: 10.00. German Speaking Management, http://www.safarinow.com/go/LikeaRock, 550 up.
  • President Hotel, 1 Union Avenue, ☎ +27 (0)51 430-1111 ([email protected]). From R515.

Splurge

  • Halevy Heritage Hotel, ☎ +27 (0)51 403-0600 ([email protected]). From R700.
  • Southern Sun, Cnr. Nelson Mandela and Melville Drive, Brandwag, ☎ +27 (0)51 444-1253 ([email protected]). From R700.
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Bloemfontein is much safer than most other cities. You can walk around downtown during the day time (although it will be eerily quiet after the shops close). The Waterfront and other shopping malls are safe and patrolled with 24 hour security, and 2nd Street (the main restaurant strip) is fine day and night. The dodgy areas to avoid if possible are near the train station and anywhere east of the railway lines (where the traditional townships are located).

If you find yourself arriving at the train station early in the morning, a meter taxi can take you to either the KFC or the McDonald’s on Nelson Mandela Ave for R50. They are in a safe area, have free wifi, are open 24-hours, and don’t have a problem with travelers “camping out” until sunrise.

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  • Visit the beautiful Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet and the Mountain Zebra National Park in the south.
  • Heading east you will reach Thaba ‘Nchu, 60 km outside Bloemfontein, which has a luxury hotel and casino complex as well as Maria Moroka Nature Reserve. 130km from Bloemfontein is the pleasant town of Ladybrand close to Lesotho and its capital city of Maseru.
  • The N6 will take you to East London and the N1 will take you to Gauteng (which is a toll road) or Cape Town.
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Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa. It is also the capital of the Free State Province. Bloemfontein was founded in 1846 and now has a population of around half a million people. J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings was born in Bloemfontein in 1892. In 1923, the African National Congress (ANC) political party was founded in Bloemfontein.Today, Bloemfontein is a compact city surrounded by sprawling suburbs.

Travel and tourism in Bloemfontein. How to get in, maps, activities & where to eat and sleep. Download the Free Bloemfontein Travel Guide.


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Michel Piccaya

About

As a freelance travel photographer, Michel Piccaya has been on the road worldwide for more than 20 years, exploring the most incredible itineraries. He’s currently based in Brussels however never stays at home for a long time !

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