South Africa’s judicial capital, the city of Bloemfontein in the heart of the Free State has many claims to fame. From the deep war history in and around the surrounding areas to it being the birthplace of, Lord of the Rings, Author J. R. R. Tolkien. The African National Congress (ANC) political party was also formed here. The town whose name, Bloemfontein is directly translated to the fountain of flowers, is a pleasant town to visit, with plenty of fun activities, that are just waiting for you to discover.  

Our list of things to do in Bloemfontein

Naval Hill Planetarium

Naval Hill Planetarium

Ever since we humans launched artificial satellites into space, the fascination of observing and studying the vastness of space, with the progress we’ve made in the digital age, the more we get to uncover about space the more fascinated we become.

Join many fellow space explorers, every Saturday night at the Naval Hill Planetarium and spend an hour gazing up at the mysteries of the universe. Through guided tours, you’ll get to learn about the ins and outs of space. The planetarium is not merely a tool for the acquisition of astronomical knowledge, it is also a valuable medium for raising our awareness and love of the earth by deepening our understanding of the planet.

The National Museum

The National Museum of Bloemfontein dates to 1877 when its collections and displays comprised mainly of rarities from around the world. Since then, the Museum has developed into an institution of international stature, focusing on natural history, cultural history, and art.

Intensive research is carried out in these varied disciplines, and valuable and important collections have been established. Through its displays and education programs, the Museum renders a public service to its diverse audiences, engaging them in enjoyable and enlightening experiences and enriching the learning opportunities of all individuals.

Free State National Botanical Garden

The Free State National Botanical Garden, on the outskirts of Bloemfontein, sits perfectly between a valley and the dolerite hills. Enjoy the tall grassland or the woodlands that are dominated by the wild olive and karee trees.

The botanical gardens are home to about 400 species of plants, mostly from the Free State, Northern Cape, and Lesotho areas. The natural areas of the Garden are a haven for wildlife, including 144 bird species, 54 reptile species, and about 32 mammal species. Some of which can be observed on a regular basis. Spend time hiking, or relaxing on the manicured lawns, and fall asleep in the warmth of the sun.

The National Botanical Gardens are a great place to bring along a picnic basket and some friends or family or simply take a book and read in peace under the shade and protection of a mighty tree.

Naval Hill Nature Reserve

Naval Hill Nature Reserve

Naval Hill got its name from the two Naval Guns that were (planted) on the hill by the British during the Anglo-Boer war.

Enjoy a lovely game drive or walk in the Franklin Game Reserve and enjoy observing Giraffes, buck, ostrich, and many more animals in their natural habitat. There are no large predators, and no hunting is allowed. The perfect time to see the animals are in the early morning light, so get there at sunrise to see the most wildlife.

You can also go and check out the Nelson Mandela Statue and lookout point. The giant statue stands proud and watches over Bloemfontein the birthplace of the ANC.  This statue is the largest bronze statue of a South African hero in the world. The area surrounding the statue is a lookout point where a person can take in the beauty of the city.

Elude Escape Rooms

If you’re looking for a fun activity, to do with friends or colleagues, then head over to the Elude Escape Rooms, where they offer the best escape room experience. Spend an hour solving puzzles using perception, and creativity, while immersed in a themed room, and scenarios and have to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and riddles to escape.

31 Kellner Street, Westdene

31 Kellner Street, Westdene

Take a walk through Edwardian periodic history and architecture design at the Freshford House Museum. Designed and built by the architect John Edwin Harrison for himself and his wife. The Freshford House was completed in 1897.  

One of the last remaining houses of its kind in Bloemfontein, it was acquired and restored in 1982. Get a peek into design history as you wander through the house or have an amazing photo-op in the late Victorian Period Garden was laid out on the site to complement the house.

Boyden Observatory

Boyden Observatory

Did you know that stable atmospheric environments and perfect weather conditions resulted in the relocation of this lookout laboratory to South Africa from Peru in 1927. The Friends of Boyden Society makes magnified star gazing a high-tech experience for both the public and professionals. Impressive telescopic lenses pierce the atmosphere of the day and night skies.

Where we now get to take in the magnificence of the stars and the surrounding areas. Watch the beautiful Bloemfontein sunset or rise, while you stand on the observation platform, or join one of the daily tour groups as you learn more about South Africa’s history with space and space agencies.  You can also enjoy the use of the original equipment used by famous astronomers. Channel your inner space ranger at the Boyden Observation.

 Gwen Bali Water World

Gwen Bali Water World

Grab the family and your cooler box and spend the day just relaxing at the Gwen Bali Water World. Let the kids splash around in the paddling pool, head down the waterway on a tube, challenge a buddy to the two-lane racers or take on the Kamikaze Slide, if you’re not looking for a water adventure then just hand out in the pool, or lay on the grass getting gorgeously tanned. Swimming and having some summer fun with your family and friends will always be a good time with great memories.

The Famous Brew & Still

The Famous Brew & Still

Lovers of craft beer and other drinks will love this unique craft and distilling experience at the Famous Brew and Still. Meet with the proud owners of the independent brewery and distillery. Who have chosen to craft their delicious drinks the old-fashioned way, owner brewed and distilled by hand in small volumes using traditional techniques.

A brewery and distillery who have already established itself as unique and different, offer so much more than craft beers, whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka. You will also enjoy a delicious meal and live entertainment. This is the perfect place to hang out, with friends.  When all is said and done, buy a gift set for a friend, and let them enjoy the magnificently crafted drinks in the comfort of their own home.

Queen’s Fort Military Museum

Queen's Fort Military Museum

The Queens Fort Museum fort was built in 1848, to store the Artillery Unit of the Free State. It is now one of the many historical buildings/museums in Bloemfontein that depicts all major military conflicts from the Anglo war to the injustices of the apartheid struggle.

Unlock some of the most divided and devastating times in South African history, as you walk through the hauntingly silent fort, observing the wars and battles that took place in the Free State over the years. This Museum is known to have been used as a Military Hospital, Military Headquarters, and a Jail, during battles and wars, and showcases exhibits from the Anglo-Boer War, World War I, World War II, and the struggle against Apartheid.

Even though as a country we’ve been through so many wars and battles you can visit the Queen’s Fort Military Museum and look out over Free State knowing that all those battles and struggles, lead us to unity and freedom.

The Kotzé Art Gallery

The Kotzé Art Gallery

Art is objectively not everyone’s forte and going to art galleries can be either an exciting experience or a boring one. However, as humanity, we cannot deny that there are just some images that we cannot help but be drawn to.

Visiting an Art Museum can be both a surreal experience of art appreciation and learning. The Kotze Art Gallery, not only marries the surreal experience well with the prospect of learning more about the artistic processes it also has a wide range of carefully chosen artwork paintings by finely selected South African Artists, including some South African Old Masters for you to enjoy, or even take home, if you’re willing to pay!

Soetdoring Dam Nature Reserve

Soetdoring Nature Reserve is a bbirdwatcher’s paradise! With over two hundred and fifty species of birds having been spotted in the Soetdoring Dam Nature Reserve, it provides endless hours of outdoor serenity. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells when you drive or walk through the Soetdoring Dam Nature Reserve.

Bring your camera along to get great pictures of Gemsbok, eland, springbok, blesbok, black wildebeest, zebra, and red hartebeest that roam the open plains of the Soetdoring nature reserve, while impala and kudu may be encountered in the riverine bush. A walk along the dam will bring some Otters, water mongoose, and small spotted genet across your path. The African wild cat can be spotted inhabiting the hills.

To get the best out of your trip to the nature reserve, take the 4km Phala hiking trail starting just before picnic spot number 1 through the riparian vegetation, out to the plains, then back into the riparian area through back to the picnic area.

Manguang Rose Festival

Manguang Rose Festival

Visiting a town whose name literally translates to fountain of flowers, there is no way you can leave Bloemfontein in the summer without attending the Manguang Rose Festival.

Taking place at the Urth Garden Centre, you will be privy not only to the biggest selection of Roses in the Free State, you’ll get to enjoy activities like the Rose High Tea, walking through an expo of Green Businesses, and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere that comes with the vibrant colors and wonderful smells of the roses all around you. 

For all avid gardeners and rose enthusiasts, try your hand at the cut-rose competition, or if you fancy yourself a beauty queen take part in Miss Rose, Miss RoseBud, Grandmother, and Grandfather Rose Pageants, the rose classic bike race, and organic market. With so much to do and enjoy at the rose festival, you won’t even notice time running away from you.

Anglo Boer War Museum

Anglo Boer War Museum

South Africa is a country that is no stranger to wars, having experienced many years of war during the Anglo-Boer War, of 1899-1902. The outcome thereof played a vital hand in shaping the social, political, economic, and historical landscape of South Africa.

If you want to understand the history of South Africa from the first recordings of occupation, then visit the War Museum. A place that guides the visitor with an insight into the course and development of the Anglo-Boer War through its unique collection and exhibitions, but it also brings the visitor closer to understanding the background against which the war took place and the universal suffering it caused, and how it shaped the events that subsequently followed.

The Museum is known to have launched various initiatives in SA, and abroad to collect rare and interesting objects, books, documents, and photographs that pertained to the Anglo-Boer War, many of which you can see on display today.

Bagamoya Wildlife Estate

Bagamoya Wildlife Estate and lion sanctuary farm, you’ll find yourself with the chance to move around in the African bush and see the African wildlife in their natural habitats. With over 27 lions at Bagamoya, you will have the opportunity to get up close to some of the big cats housed at Bagamoya.

Bagamoya offers all the necessary facilities to give you a relaxed and comfortable stay: the Lioness Restaurant with a children’s play area and swimming pool, a Mini-Zoo with animals from all over the world, self-catering Chalets, and outdoor activities. The Estate is also the perfect venue for functions of any kind. Day visitors and guests can enjoy game drives or relax at the chalets, and pool or grab a bite to eat at the restaurant.

Langenhoven Park Farmers Market

Langenhoven Park Farmers Market in Bloemfontein takes place every Saturday, for your convenience. It is a place where you’ll find anything and everything from the local farmers selling their wares to arts and crafts, jewellery, clothing, and books.

Between browsing the various booths, head over to the food stalls where you can find the meal that will hit the right spot before you carry on enjoying activities such as pony rides and jumping castles for the kids and coffee tents for the adults. It’s a great way to kick off a lazy Saturday in Bloemfontein.

Oliewenhuis Art Museum

Oliewenhuis Art Museum

Oliewenhuis Art Museum, although only thirteen years old, is known to feature some of the best and most intriguing art collections. Boasting the magnificent contemporary artworks of early South African artists, like Thomas Baines, Jan Ernst Volschenk, Pieter Wenning, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, and Willem Coetzer. Enjoy reading about and looking at the collection of works from the City Council of Bloemfontein.

Set in the Neo-Dutch style mansion designed by William Mollison, and his assistant, John Stockwing Cleland in 1935. The Museum is situated in one of the most magnificent gardens in the city, and a large section of the property comprises natural vegetation bordering the Museum grounds. It is the only museum of its kind in the Free State and one of the youngest art museums in the country.

The Old Presidency Museum

The Old Presidency Museum

Enjoy a night or day out at the theatre, when you visit the Home of past Presidents, (The old Presidency Museum) featuring exhibits on their lives.

Known for being the former residence of the President of the Republic of the Orange Free State from 1886 until 1899 before the city fell to the British Empire during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

It now features fascinating paintings, furniture, and ornaments from that era and is used for exhibiting art, hosting concerts, and theatrical performances.  

Bloemfontein Heliport

Discover Bloemfontein while you zoom through the big blue in a private helicopter tour. Admire the landscape of the town that is known for its roses and breathtaking landscapes. 

This once-in-a-lifetime experience will send your heart soaring with emotions, as you look over some of the largely untouched wildlife areas of Bloemfontein and get to take in the town in a matter of a few minutes. As Bloemfontein is soaked in South African history, admire the place that changed a large portion of the way South Africa is today.

Toyota Stadium

For all the sports fans out there, you cannot under any circumstances miss the opportunity to visit the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, for a chance to cheer on your favourite team. Home to both the Bluebells and the Sundowns football club, there are very few weekends when you can’t catch a game or two. On the off chance that you visit when there is no big game on, you can take a tour of the stadium and hear about the history of the sporting clubs that now occupy the space.

Loch Logan Waterfront

Loch Logan Waterfront

A holiday or business trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the local mall. Loch Logan Waterfront is a shoppers’ paradise. It is one of the biggest Central South African malls. A great place to shop up a delight or take a cooling stroll on the promenade overlooking the vast expanse of water, that pushes right up against the mall itself.

The fountains and fun displays make for a great photo-op with friends, and a relaxing place to just overlook the calm waters and breathe in the crisp clean air.

The City of Roses blends a variety of African and European cultures, set in a beautiful and picturesque natural environment. A place that is both business and leisure travel ready. Bloemfontein is a place that is ripe with much of South Africa’s history, and it shows. But be it from a sleepy town, there are many things to do in Bloemfontein and is well worth the trip.