Bloemfontein is the judicial capital of South Africa and is the sixth largest city in the country. It’s not particularly famed for its tourism but rather as one of the largest maize and wheat producing regions of the country. Bloemfontein has a deep-rooted Afrikaner history with so many interesting museums and battlefields to explore. So if you enjoy history, then Bloemfontein should be one of the cities on your South African travel itinerary.
The Anglo Boer War Museum
Bloemfontein was the site of the Bloemfontein Conference, held in 1899 to help prevent the outbreak of the second Boer War. Unfortunately the meeting was unsuccessful in negotiating a reconciliation between the Boers and the English migrant settlers. To understand more about the Anglo Boer War, a trip to the Anglo Boer War Museum on Monument Road is a good place to start.
Inside you’ll find interesting displays of Anglo Boer War memorabilia including, uniforms, rifles, paintings, sculptures, medals and coins. This is the only museum in the world dedicated to the suffering of the Boers during the war that took place from 1899 to 1902.
Contact: +27 51 447 0079
First Raadsaal Museum
The First Raadsaal Museum is the oldest building in Bloemfontein and dates back to 1849. It’s original purpose functioned as the seat of the Legislative Council of the Orange River and later became the Assembly Hall of the Republic of the Orange Free State. It’s a National Monument now and forms part of the National Museum.
One of Bloemfontein’s prettiest buildings, the Fourth Raadsaal, is found across the Court of Appeal. The Fourth Raadsaal was built in Renaissance-style and has a beautiful dome and Ionic columns. One of the last parliament sessions was held in March 1900 just before the occupation of Bloemfontein by British forces.
The Women’s Museum is dedicated to women and children held in concentration camps during the Boer War.
Contact: +27 51 447 3447
Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Oliewenhuis is a beautiful neo-Cape Dutch house surrounded by a beautiful garden with four walking trails for visitors to enjoy. Only 13 years old, Oliewenhuis Art Museum already has a steady collection of work produced by South African artists. The art of Thomas Baines, Jan Ernst Volschenk, Pieter Wenning, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef and Willem Coetzer can be found on the first floor of the museum.
Contact: +27 51 447 9609
The Wagon Museum
Located nearby the First Raadsaal, is the Wagon Museum. This museum showcases an amazing collection of the original wagons used by South Africa’s earliest settlers, the Voortrekkers. Included in the collection are ox wagons, spring wagons, mule wagons, transport wagons and a Cape cart. The museum also relates the story of the routes travelled by the Voortrekkers as they made their way from the British-occupied Cape to the Transvaal during the Great Trek.
Contact: +27 51 447 9610
National Museum of Bloemfontein
If there’s one museum that you absolutely have to visit, it’s the National Museum of Bloemfontein. Here, you’ll learn everything there is to know about South Africa – from history, culture, archeology to geology and palaeontolgoy. The most intriguing display is that of the Florisbad skull, the world’s most famous Middle Stone Age skull.
Exhibitions at the museum include:
- African cultures: learn about the Himbas, San, Pedis, Sothos, Tswanas, the Ndebele, Zulus, Vendas and Xhosas.
- Archeology: stone tools used by prehistoric humans as well as reconstruction of Iron Age settlements.
- Geology: minerals and crystals mined in South Africa.
- Palaeontology: the evolution of life on earth, starting at 4000 million years ago.
- Astronomy: learn about the solar system and meteorites that landed in South Africa.
- Live displays: the live displays aim to introduce unusual animals to the public.
Contact: +27 51 447 9609
Choet Visser Rugby Museum
If you’re a rugby fan then a visit to the Choet Visser Rugby Museum is a must-do. The museum houses one of the biggest collections of rugby memorabilia.
Contact: +27 51 405 8489
SA Armour Museum
The SA Armour Museum has an interesting display of military vehicles, weapons and artillery. There is also a military hospital on the premises, as well as a reference library for some further research if the topic interests you.
Contact: 051 402 1777/2093
Free State Agricultural Museum
The Free State Agricultural Museum depicts the daily farming life, culture and activities of the province. Here you can observe fascinating antique farming equipment and implements.
Fire Brigade Museum
The fire brigade museum is the largest in South Africa. Here 15 vintage fire engines are on display, as well as firefighting and ambulance equipment.