4 Hours in… Bloemfontein

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Free State Botanical Gardens Situated in the north of Bloemfontein, the Free State Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1969, displays specimens of not only the abundant indigenous flora found in the Free State, but also flora from the neighbouring Northern Cape province as well as Lesotho. There are six distinctive gardens with over 400 plant species. Look out for the red-hot pokers and wild dagga plants and enjoy the hiking trails within the site. Look out for the over-50 species of reptiles and mammals on your walk. Specialised gardens include the water-wise garden, the medicinal garden, the succulent garden and the bird garden, which attracts over 140 bird species. The Free State Botanical Gardens is open from 08h00 to 16h30 during the week and 08h00 to 16h30 on the weekends. Entry costs R16. Anglo-Boer War Museum If you’d like to learn more about South Africa’s history, a visit to Bloemfontein’s Anglo-Boer War Museum is a must. The museum chronicles the war between the Boers, who had established two independent republics, and the British who were in charge of the Cape. The story is told through dioramas, collections of art and exhibitions, to give a holistic overview of the war that lasted three years and took heavy tolls on both sides. The museum is open from 08h30 to 16h30 during the week, 10h00 to 17h00 on Saturdays and 10h00 to 14h00 on Sundays. Entry costs R5. Franklin Game Reserve In the heart of Bloemfontein you’ll find the Franklin Game Reserve named after Sir John Stuart Franklin, the city’s mayor in the 1920s. The reserve covers 250 hectares and includes the popular attraction Navel Hill. From this elevated location, you can see the city of Bloemfontein sprawled below. It is recommended that you hire a guide if you wish to walk within the park and experience the wildlife, including giraffe, blue wildebeest, Karoo scrub robin, the fairy flycatcher and violet-eared waxbill, at your leisure. The reserve is open seven days a week from 08h00 to 17h00 and entry is free of charge. Oliewenhuis Art Museum In 1941, a neo-Dutch building intended as the residence for the governor general of the Union of South Africa was completed. Thirty-one years later, the home was the named The Oliewenhuis due to the copiousness of wild olive trees growing on the surrounding hills. This building eventually became Bloemfontein’s Oliewenhuis Art Museum. Described by some as more of an extravagant art gallery with longstanding exhibitions, the museum makes for an interesting visit. Among the exhibitions are works by top South African artists, from Pierneef to Kentridge, are displayed on the ground floor, and there is an additional gallery in the basement, known as The Reservoir. After a stroll through the museum and its surrounding gardens, enjoy refreshments at The Terrace, the onsite restaurant. The museum is open from seven days a week from 08h00 to 17h00 and entry is free of charge. Cheetah Experience Get up close to Africa’s big cats at this non-profit organisation with a tour of the centre. The centre, situated in the north-west of Bloemfontien, was opened in 2006 with the aim of breeding cheetahs that will ultimately be released into a protected wild environment. It provides education to the public through presentations and guided tours. As well as cheetahs, you can see serval, caracal, leopards, lions, tigers, wolves and a small family of meekats. There is a possibility of personal interaction with some of the feline residents during a tour, although this is never guaranteed with a booking. Tours take place every day at 11h00, 12h00, 14h00 and 15h00 at a cost of R120 per person. An exclusive two-hour photography tour can be booked for R400 for anyone who wishes to take pictures of the cats. cheetahexperience.com Die Mystic Boer When hunger strikes, head to Die Mystic Boer on Kellner Street for some great pub grub. Depending on the time day and time of your visit, you might be entertained by live music that can last until the early hours. The restaurant was opened in 1997, by brothers Johann and Willem Coertzen as a place to hang out with friends, but the pub took off in a big way and is now a very popular eatery with locals and visitors alike. Open from Monday to Saturday from 14h00 to 04h00 and from 18h00 to 04h00 on Sundays.