Bloemfontein, City of Roses and hidden gems.
|16 April 2010
I remember once saying to a friend that anyone who thinks there is “nothing to do” in my hometown of Bloemfontein, just hasn’t made an effort. Story by Miquette Caalsen
A good start is the Oliewenhuis Art Gallery, which contains a splendid collection of local and international art works. The gorgeous gardens are expansive and offer many wonderful little nooks for the perfect pictic. There are also two hiking trails around the perimeter of the gardens, for those who need to stretch their legs. Don’t miss out on the mouth-watering treats offered by the little coffee shop behind the main house. My personal favourite is the carrot-cake.
To get to this city, search cheap flights and book instantly. Bloemfontein’s very own Loch Logan Waterfront, is currently being enlarged, but don’t write it off because of that. There are many shops to browse in, and it boasts some of the city’s best restaurants. Across the dividing water is what is known to locals as the Loch Island, our favourite picnic spot, with braai facilities.
Taking the crown as the hot-spot in town, the Pretty Garden Family & Lifestyle Center was actually conceived as a nursery. Today, an electric array of shops can be found here, with wares from plants and artwork to jewelry and confectionary – even hardware and a pet shop! The main attraction for he locals, however, is the variety of coffee shops offering the perfect “kuier”.
You may be forgiven for thinking the favourite local pastime is outdoor shopping, as Bloemfontein has quite a number of street markets taking place on a regular basis. The renowned Lions’ Kunsmark arts & crafts market can be found in King’s Park on the first Saturday of every month. What sets it apart from other flea markets is that all products on sale must be hand-made – hence the name. It is also a unique experience to browse through the stalls while being closely observed by various other members of the primate family in the zoo next-door. Sometimes, I really wonder is getting the better now.
Naval Hill offers not only panoramic views of the surrounding city, but also houses the world’s only nature preserve within a centre of a city in the world. The Franklin Game Reserve accommodates various animals such as giraffe and wildebeest. Inside the game reserve, you can also find the Lamont Hussey Observatory, which has been converted into an intimate theatre.
Half an hour’s drive from Bloemfontein is the Soetdoring Nature Reserve. Though perhaps not the most scenic of reserves in South Africa, Soetdoring may rightfully boast that you are far more likely to see lions here than any other nature reserve in the country. In an area of 7 500 hectares, you will also spy Cape wild dog, white rhino, eland, springbok, waterbuck, reedbuck, impala, and a variety of reptiles and smaller mammals.
Remember that, no matter where you are in the country, “not much” should never be your final answer to the questions of what to do. Contact your local tourist office, even if you are convinced you know a city inside and out. You will be surprised at all the choices you never knew existed. The perfect break from the routine may just be a small step away.
Bloemfontein Tourism, tel: 051 405 8490
Bloemfontein is a great place to explore nature and culture in equal measure, Happy exploring!