Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of the country of South Africa. The name Bloemfontein literally means “fountain of flowers”. The city is also called the city of roses because of its abundance. The Sesotho (language spoken in South Africa) name of the city is Mangaung meaning the place where cheetahs dwell.
The city was founded in 1846 as a fort which formed a British military outpost by the army major Henry Douglas Warden. In 1848, it became Orange River Sovereignty and in 1854 it became the Orange Free State Republic. In 1902, Bloemfontein became the capital of Orange River colony. Finally, in 1910, it became the judicial capital of South Africa and the provincial capital of Free State. Today, it covers an area of 236.17 sq km and has an approximate population of 350,000.
Bloemfontein is located on a high plateau, the actual location is on the southern edge of the High Veldt. The elevation of the city is 1,392 meters. It is located in the central part of South Africa. The flat land interrupted by occasional hills is covered by grassland. The city is known for the greenery that surrounds it. In addition to the sprawling man made parks, the Franklin Game Reserve is located on the Naval hill that overlooks the city center.
The city experiences semiarid climate. The summer season from November to March is hot and humid while the winters from June to August are quite cold. Frequent afternoon thundershowers occur in summer while it snow occasionally in winter.
How to reach (transport)
You can travel to Bloemfontein in following ways:
- Bloemfontein domestic airport is located amidst the main city hub. Regular flights connect the city with Cape Town, Johannesburg and other destinations in the country.
- The city is a major rail junction and the railway station is located in the heart of the city. Regular connections exist with Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London on the south, Kimberley in the west, Johannesburg in the north and Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the east.
- A number of major highways pass through the city. There are excellent bus services which you can use or hire a car.
When to visit
The best time to visit Bloemfontein is during spring and autumn, months of September and October and April and May. The weather is sunny and pleasant and is also the time for a major cultural event – the Mangaung African Cultural Festival that is celebrated in September or October.
Culture (fairs and festivals) and traditions
Several festivals are celebrated in the vibrant city of Bloemfontein. They are as follows:
- The most notable festival is the MACUFE (Mangaung African Cultural Festival). This event is celebrated for 10 days in September or October. New artists are given the chance to demonstrate their talent in music, theater, craft and recreation. People come from all over the world to participate in this event.
- The annual festival of roses is held in October which celebrates the garden heritage of the city. A number of events are take place – exhibition of different varieties of roses, Champion rose competition and a Miss Rosebud competition. A tour of the best rose gardens completes the festival.
- The Bridal Expo is held in summer where designers, caterers, florists and photographers showcase their talent and beauty and organization tips are given.
Points of interest (places to visit)
There are a number of things to see in the city of Bloemfontein. These are:
- The National Museum was founded in 1877 and has rare collections from all over the world. These include the only complete skeleton of the Euskelosauras – one of the earliest known dinosaurs, live snakes, working beehives and an extensive history of the city. There is also a great recreation of the 19th century with sound effects.
- The Bloemfontein zoo was founded in 1920. It has an impressive collection of primates in their natural habitat. The zoo is located within the King’s Park which is a beautiful open garden with more than 4,000 rose bushes.
- The Oliewenhuis Art Museum has a great collection of contemporary African art which provides an insight into modern South Africa.
- The Franklin Game Reserve located on the Naval hill overlooking the city center covers 250 hectares. It offers a panoramic view of the city as well as glimpses of African wildlife like eland, impala, ostrich, giraffe, springbok etc.
- The Free State Botanical Gardens occupy 70 hectares on the northwest corner of the city. It contains 400 species of plants, 124 species of birds and 54 species of reptiles. Its winding paths are a beautiful place to explore.
- The Anglo Boer War Museum contains interesting displays from that era.
- The Mangaung Township is a historic landmark where the African National Congress party was born. A guided tour provides interesting glimpses of history.
People of every budget can plan their stay here as Bloemfontein houses hotels of all categories. The five star hotels include Dersley Manor and Anta Boga. There are a number of four star hotels like Protea, Altissimo, Hobbit Boutique etc. Three star hotels include Stanville, Brebner House, The Urban etc. Apart from these, a few two star hotels are also available in the city.