Popularly known as the "City of Roses" because of the sheer number of blooms that grace its gardens (not to mention its annual rose festival), Bloemfontein is a destination as charming as any flower. As the judicial capital of South Africa and the capital of the Free State, the city is an important centre for business and government, with a suitably cosmopolitan edge; yet there's still something of the small town in its character, with a relaxed, friendly vibe that make it an exceptionally pleasant location to explore.
As its nickname suggests, Bloemfontein is an ideal destination for nature lovers, with a wealth of parks and gardens providing a welcome escape from the city. Wherever you decide to stay in Bloemfontein, your hotel is sure to be close to a picturesque bit of green space.
Start your visit with a trip to the Franklin Game Reserve, one of only two game reserves in the world situated in the middle of a city. Centred on historic Naval Hill, which was the site of gun emplacements during the Anglo-Boer war, the reserve offers fantastic views of the city, as well as the chance to spot zebras, giraffes, ostriches and a host of other birds and wildlife.
Next up is the Free State National Botanical Garden, set in 70 hectares of landscaped woodland and home to over 400 species of plants – the perfect place for a quiet stroll. Alternately, head to the centrally located Kings Park, the city's largest green space, where you'll find over 4,000 rose bushes, as well as the Bloemfontein Zoo – a haunt of the famous Big Five, and a huge collection of primates.
For those interested in the area's history and culture, the National Museum offers an intriguing blend of art and artefacts in engaging exhibitions. Military history buffs, meanwhile, are spoilt for choice, as the Anglo-Boer War Museum, Queen's Fort Military Museum and SA Armour Museum can all be found in Bloemfontein.
Art lovers should check out the Oliewenhuis Art Museum, a striking contemporary collection set in a 1930s mansion surrounded by elegant gardens, while sports lovers can head to the State President Swart Park, which is the city's central sporting hub. Here you'll find the Free State Stadium, which hosts major rugby and football matches.
When you've had your fill of sightseeing, head to the Loch Logan Waterfront area for a range of excellent shops, restaurants and bars catering to every taste. The area is also the focal point for the annual Mangaung Rose Festival events, so if you're visiting in October, when the festival takes place, you'll be treated to dazzling exhibits of blooms.
Ready to discover the City of Roses for yourself? Choose from a selection of Bloemfontein hotels by Marriott and start planning your adventure.