Bloemfontein, situated in the middle of the country on the major N 1 route is 400 kilometres from Johannesburg, 630 kilometres from Durban, 680 kilometres from Port Elizabeth and 1000 kilometres from Cape Town.
Bloemfontein known as the `City of Roses` due to over 4,000 rose bushes growing in the centrally situated Kings Park and the annual rose festival held in town. Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa being home to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
The city grew in the mid 1800s as the capital of the Orange Free State by the Boers who trekked from British dominance in the Cape.
A compact city with under half a million inhabitants, it is recognised locally for its love of sport - mainly rugby. Well known local schools, colleges and the university have produced many international players.
The 2010 World Cup matches will be played in the modern Free State Stadium which is presently used for international (and local) rugby matches and seats 48,000.
Places of interest
The major sports facilities including the Free State Stadium are situated close to the centre of the city in a park-like environment. The area includes the international cricket ground, Olympic size swimming pool, Kings Park with the expansive Bloemfontein Zoo - known for its collection of primates, President Swart Park and the Loch Logan Waterfront.
Loch Logan Waterfront is an entertainment complex situated around a large lake and offers water sports, restaurants, bistros, theatres, cinemas, shops and a craft market. The area is relaxing place to spend time in the city.
All the Loch Logan Waterfront facilities are within two kilometres of the Free State stadium to the west while the city centre to the east is about the same distance away. En route to the CBD.
One can find the National Museum, First Raadsaal (Parliament), the Wagon Museum, the Agricultural Museum, the General Hertzog House, City Hall and the area around historical President Brand Street which is now a national conservation area.
Bloemfontein`s most famous museum is the Oliewenhuis Art Museum (Tel: 051 447 9609) at 16 Harry Smith Street is a 1930s mansion for the Governor General of South Africa and holds a collection of South African art.
Naval Hill just to the north of the city centre is a 200 hundred hectare park with tremendous views of the city and surrounding plains. Within the park there is a small game park with giraffes, zebras and many species of buck. The old observatory in the park is now a small theatre. The modern tropical Orchid House is situated just to the west of Naval Hill and the Botanical Gardens are in the same area.
Within a day`s return drive of the city you can consider visiting Kimberley, 180 kilometres to the west, the diamond centre of the world, where you can visit the "Big Hole" scene of the diamond digging frenzy of the mid 1800s, and the reconstructed diamond mining village close by.
One hundred and fifty kilometres to the east of Bloemfontein lies Maseru the capital of the dramatic mountain country of Lesotho. En route you pass the casino resort of Thabu Nchu.
The countryside in the eastern part of the eastern Free State is a maze of mountain passes, rolling pasturelands, rivers and the occasional site of ancient cave rock paintings.
More than most cities, accommodation in Bloemfontein could be a problem - it certainly was during the Confederations Cup when there was not a bed to be had.
While the situation is improving all the time, it is best to book early.
There are three and four star modern `corporate` hotels and some very good guest houses and plenty of standard hotels and self catering establishments exist close to the stadium.
Some guest houses can be out of the way but can provide great breakfasts and excellent football conversation with fans from the four corners of the earth.
On the edge of the city there are good value lodges and resorts.
The aforementioned Loch Logan Waterfront is full of restaurants that serve alcohol.
Most of these places are chain restaurants and the more adventurous among you may want to try some of the local shebeens that can be found in front of the tourist office immediately to the south of the stadium - these are great places to watch Bafana Bafana in action.
Goal.com was beseiged on the street around here by hundreds of fans who emerged from the bars to dance on the street following South Africa`s Confederations Cup win against New Zealand.
There are a number of popular pubs on and around Second Avenue located to the north of the stadium, past Loch Logan. These include Mystic Boer on Kellner St, Workshop Roadside Cafe on the corner of 2nd Avenue and President Reitz St.
The Information Center (Tel: 051 405 8489; 8am-4.15pm Mon-Fri; 8am-noon Sat) is at 60 Park Road.
There is also a tourist centre on Park Road near the bus station.
Getting There and Getting Around
Bloemfontein is in the centre of the country surrounded by vast agricultural lands ideal for cattle farming and growing maize.
It is on the major route between Cape Town and Johannesburg (and other northern cities), between Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, and between the inland route Cape Town to Durban.
Air - 10 kilometres to the east of the city Bloemfontein Airport (Tel: 051-433 2001) handles regular passenger aircraft from Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Private taxi is the best option at present to the city centre.
Rail - The railway station is in the centre of the city to the east of King`s Park. The Shosholoza Meyl overnight train runs between Jo`burg and Durban via Bloemfontein. The Algoa travels between Johannesburg (7 hours) and Port Elizabeth. The Amatola also goes via Bloemfontein between Johannesburg and East London. The Diamond Express is another train service to Johannesburg.
Bus - The main luxury coach companies have a bus station in the city near the tourist center and connect those cities and areas to the west. There are daily buses to Durban (9 hours), Johannesburg and Pretoria (5 hours), Port Elizabeth (9 hours), East London (7 hours), Cape Town (10 hours) and Knysa (12 hours). There are other bus services to Thabu Nchu casino (1 hour) and Maseru in Lesotho (3 hours).
Taxi - T&M Taxis based in the centre of the city are a good and reliable bet. The taxi office is based in the city`s tourist office which is conveniently located right next to the stadium.
Local team Bloemfontein Celtic presently play in the South African Premier Soccer League. The teams shirts are the green and white hoops of Scotland Glasgow Celtic. Celtic play at Free State Stadium, aka Vodacom Park Stadium, which will have a capacity of 48,000 by 2010. The South African professional soccer season runs from September to May.
The team is not the best supported in the league but the fans are famed throughout the nation for their passion and their ability to create an atmosphere. This was confirmed during the Confederations Cup - this is a great place to watch football and dance with the local fans.
With the influence of the Lesotho mountains, the Free State area has crisp winter nights with the temperature sometimes falling to freezing point. During the Confederations Cup, some mornings were accompanied by frost. The daytime temperatures can vary between 12 and 22 degrees Centigrade. There is minimal rainfall in winter.