BLOEMFONTEIN

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OVERVIEW

Bloemfontein’s Sesotho name is Mangaung, meaning “Place of Cheetahs” and since 2011 the city has formed part of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, having previously been part of the Mangaung Local Municipality. Bloemfontein is also known as the “City of Roses”, due to the abundance of these flowers and the annual rose festival (see sidebar) held here. The city’s economy is driven by the government sector and some of South Africa’s largest retail companies are headquartered in Bloemfontein. The consumer market of this city is extensive – given Bloemfontein’s location so close to the Lesotho border, it attracts thousands of neighbouring citizens. These numbers are bolstered by farmers in the surrounding rural areas, all of whom help to regularly boost the retail market. A large portion of Bloemfontein’s economy relies on contributions from community services, however there are other significant industry sectors including retail and trade, finance, manufacturing and transport. Agriculture and mining also contribute to the local economy, although it’s a relatively small contribution.

AIRPORT/GETTING THERE

Bram Fischer International Airport is a small but functional airport with scheduled flights to all of South Africa’s major cities. It currently operates domestic routes only and its passenger terminal is equipped to handle over 400,000 passengers annually. All the big players, including SAA and Airlink fly into Bloemfontein, with CemAir joining the party just a couple of years ago, with a new route linking Johannesburg with the city. But SA Express is the big player on the Johannesburg Bloemfontein route, offering a host of daily flights. In the low-cost space, Mango and Kulula are the service providers, as the alternative to the full-service operators already mentioned. The only lounge offering at the airport is provided by Bidvest with one of their Premier lounges. This is located in the departures terminal. Otherwise, there’s a Mugg & Bean with a view of the tarmac and good coffee. In terms of car rental, all the major players, including the likes of Avis, Europcar and Hertz are represented. If you don’t want to fly, driving is available option, depending on where you’re travelling from. It will take you about four hours to drive from Johannesburg and six hours from Durban. Cape Town is a bit of a stretch at 10 hours without stops, but it’s not impossible. Bloemfontein is well connected by rail. It is located on the most important rail junction between Johannesburg and Cape Town, with daily trains to Port Elizabeth, East London and Johannesburg.

HOTELS

Many of the local hotel groups are represented in Bloemfontein, including City Lodge, aha Hotels & Lodges, BON Hotels, Tsogo Sun, and Sun International, whilst the international presence is in the form of Marriott with its Protea Hotel by Marriott brand. In the centre of the CBD is the BON Hotel Bloemfontein Central. Previously a Protea property, the hotel was rebranded and opened under its current name in July 2016. On a busy street in the centre of the city, the hotel forms part of the Bloem Plaza shopping centre and offers 115 three-starrooms. The hotel has a fairly extensive conference offering, with capacity for 420 people in six rooms on the second floor. The space can be configured for small or large groups, as the six rooms can all open into a single venue. If you’re looking for a bit of ‘action’, give Sun International’s Windmill Lodge on the N1 a try. It has comfortable rooms, a host of restaurant options, a casino and versatile conference options. Aha Hotels & Lodges manages the Bloemfontein Hotel, which was previously known as the Urban Hotel. It’s a 60-room three-star hotel located on Donald Murray Avenue, in close proximity to the business hub and main shopping destinations. The hotel’s stylish bar area is the ideal spot for impromptu business meetings and the property is fully air-conditioned, offers complimentary wi-f i, secure parking, en-suite bathrooms, DStv channels and laundry and dry cleaning services. Tsogo Sun has two properties in town, aSouthern Sun and a SUN1, catering to the four-star and budget markets respectively, whilst City Lodge has a similar approach, with a three-star City Lodge and a one-star Road Lodge, which is located at the airport. Protea’s offering is in the form of two properties – the Protea Hotel Bloemfontein and the Protea Hotel Bloemfontein Willow Lake. The latter has 94 rooms, an executive boardroom, a conference facility that can accommodate up to 100 delegates, and is apparently the only hotel in South Africa that is situated in a zoo!

RESTAURANTS

Bloemfontein might not be the foodie paradise of Cape Town, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to settle for bland, unimaginative meals. There are a number of restaurants dotted around the city offering cuisine for various tastes. Set in an old house, Seven on Kellner offers an informal but intimate atmosphere. The menu includes poultry, meat and seafood dishes alongside a Middle Eastern and Indian-inspired theme. If you’re in the mood for Italian, you’ll find pizza, pasta and more at the stylish Avanti. For a more family-friendly vibe, try Bella Casa Trattoria. Braza offers Portuguese-inspired cuisine and serves up dishes that will appeal to both meat lovers and seafood aficionados. New York is a local-favourite steakhouse, with its decor invoking 1920s New York. The menu features seafood, chicken and burgers, but it’s the saucy steaks that are the real crowd pleasers. Cubana is a self-described ‘Latino social cafe’. The menu offers lots of chicken and beef dishes with Cuban sauces.

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