Bloemfontein tourist destinations are becoming more popular along with the city, which was recently voted among South Africa's best cities to live. It has some excellent museums, a fine zoo and a nature reserve within the city limits. Most of Bloemfontein's tourism destinations have a low profile. This city, in the middle of South Africa, isn't generally regarded as a prime tourist destination despite its claim to fame as the birthplace of 'The Lord of the Rings' scribe J.R.R. Tolkien.
In recent years, however, it has been voted as one of South Africa's best places to live, because although it has the size and heft of a large African city, it still feels like you're in a small country town. The literal translation of Bloemfontein into English is "flower fountain", and thereby hangs a tale: Rudolph Britz was the first white person to settle here, back in 1840. His nephew, Johan, set up home near a good water source so he could establish an orchard and a rose garden for his wife. It was named Bloemfontein, presumably after Mrs Britz's top-class rose garden.
The first thing you realise as you follow the Bloemfontein tourist routes is that they're a mix of indigenous, British and Boer memories. The settlement swapped back and forth between Boer and British hands several times. Arguably the most moving monument in the Bloemfontein region is the National Women's Monument, dedicated to the 23 000 women and children who died in British concentration camps in the South African War.
The city also has an excellent national botanical garden, home to dozens of reptiles. There's also a nature reserve within the city limits. Called the Franklin Nature Reserve, it is a sanctuary for various antelope species, including eland, blesbok and zebra.
How to get here
Bloemfontein has an airport, and is located roughly in the centre of the country.
Best time to visit
Bloemfontein can have extreme temperatures in mid-summer and mid-winter, spring and autumn are the most pleasant.
Where to stay
Bloemfontein has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets.
Around the area
Bloemfontein is conveniently situated near Lesotho, the Horizon Route which starts at Philippolis in the south, and the scenic uplands of the eastern Free State.
Did You Know
At the national botanical garden you can see more than 100 species of birdlife.