Our Quick Guide To Bloemfontein's Best
From a slick barbershop to quaint cafés and boutique bars, Bloemfontein has a foodie and creative culture just waiting to be explored.
The foodie and creative cultures of Bloemfontein are just waiting to be explored – all wrapped up in some real Free State hospitality. Here is our pick of everything to experience and eat in this too-often-neglected South African city.
HL's Top 12 Bloemfontein Spots
1. Bella Casa Trattoria
Each room in the City of Roses’ favourite trattoria offers a different dining experience. Book a table next to the fireplace in winter or bask in the courtyard in summer. And whether it’s Pecan Brittle pizza or Black Beast steak, there’s a recommended wine pairing for each dish at Bella Casa. It's no surprise that this is regularly voted as one of Bloemfontein residents' favourite eateries.
2. Bloemfontein Authentic Barbers
This intimate three-seater barbershop sports replica AJ Rollert chairs on which the beaus of Bloemfontein are groomed. The organic Bad Ass Beard Oil, made by owner Annorien Geyer, is the perfect after-care for her popular DKW (dans, kerk, werk) haircut. Check in on Facebook and receive a free beer while you’re pampered.
3. Boudoir Boutique Bar
Quirky decor in the form of gilded mirrors, floral wallpaper and birdcages makes this cosy bar popular for after-work drinks. Quaff wine slushies or glühwein with light meals such as Parmesan-crumbed pork chops and the legendary jalapeño poppers with nachos and guacamole. Don’t leave Boudoir Boutique Bar without trying the Mexican hot chocolate with tequila.
4. Creative Edge
Make this contemporary furniture store your go-to for its wide selection of kitchen, dining and café chairs, sourced from abroad or designed in-house. At Creative Edge, you’ll find everything from branching globe chandeliers and custom-made Belgian linen cushions to decorative ceramics and glassware, shelving, cabinetry and bespoke coffee tables.
5. The Staffordshire
With live music from Wednesday to Saturday, The Staffy, as it is affectionately called, is Bloem’s late-night jol. The modern pub’s garden seating makes for sunny daytime catch-ups, but sit inside around the designer copper-clad bar if you want to make friends with the town’s best barpeople. Look out for the monthly quiz nights and karaoke events.
6. Gallery on Leviseur
Designed by local architect Sergio Nunes, this gallery’s structure is a major part of its allure. Floor-to-ceiling glass panes allow natural light to illuminate the works at Gallery on Leviseur, which are often selected by guest curators, with a focus on regional artists, photographers and ceramicists. Take some time for coffee at the adjoining café, 59Plenty.
7. Jack and Jill Food Co.
The place for a wholesome ‘brekfis’. Try its version of the croque-madame – The French Lady – with smoked pork neck instead of ham, or Tres Leches french toast, made with condensed milk, coconut milk and Ideal milk. The focus on fresh produce is obvious even in Jack and Jill Food Co's gin bar, with a botanical recommended for each drink.
8. Johnny's Fruit Market
For more than 20 years, this friendly family business has been supplying locals with daily seasonal fruit and veggies. The baby veg selection makes for perfect potjies, and ready-to-cook soup packs simplify shopping. Grab a R100 combo special filled with a choice crop of fresh produce to last all week.
9. Oliewenhuis Art Museum
Once the governor general’s home, this Neo Dutch-style mansion has a notable permanent collection that includes JH Pierneef’s ‘Rustenburg Kloof’, Willem Boshoff’s ‘Blind Alphabet A’ (for the visually impaired), and works by acclaimed Belgium-born Free State artist Frans Claerhout, as well as a delightful sculpture garden.
10. Stellar Brewery
Handcrafted in the city, Mangaung Gold, Noctis Stout, Free State Lager and Bloem Weiss are made by the city’s only certified beer judge, Dr Jasiu Lewtak, whose chemistry PhD gives these beers extra street cred. Look out for Stellar Brewery's recently launched Free State Lite and African Queen IPA. Better yet, book a tasting session at the brewery.
11. The Royal Fischer Hotel
Situated amid the indigenous vegetation of a wildlife estate, the five-suite, five-star boutique Royal Fischer Hotel hosts magical sundowners at its boma. Book the Abraham suite, and bask in a bubble bath on the balcony as giraffes and zebras wander by. It's open to the public for dinner and high tea by appointment.
12. The ZAR LAB
Lifestyle and concept creator extraordinaire Tony Peng launched The ZAR LAB as an experimental venue for creatives and business minds to come together and exchange ideas. Available for meetings, events and as a co-working space, its contemporary Zen aesthetic and soothing playlist lend themselves to free-flow thinking. Plus, the Wi-Fi's fast!
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