Free State

Interesting Free State Facts

The province was originally known as the Orange Free State and was an independent republic up until 1910, after the Union of South Africa. 

Welkom is one of only a handful of cities in the world that was planned to completion before being constructed.

American gangster Al Capone allegedly used to favour wearing blue-white diamonds from the diamond mining town of Jagersfontein.

In Brandfort, you can visit the home of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, who was banished there during apartheid.

The Free State is South Africa’s breadbasket. It boasts astounding scenic beauty: wide open plains and majestic mountains characterise this province. Cosmos season (cosmos is a pretty pink flower) in the Free State is one of the country’s landmarks, while the area’s natural beauty is a drawcard for outdoor enthusiasts. The spectacular Drakensberg and Maluti mountain ranges are popular for adventure tourists. The province boasts some of the best rock features in the world, including ancient hills, caves and spectacular sandstone cliffs, and is rich in San rock art.

Where to go in Free State


The name means ‘fountain of flowers ’, and it is popularly known as the City of Roses because of the abundance of these flowers. Bloemfontein, the capital of Free State province, was officially founded as a fort in 1846 by the British army. It is the birthplace of Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien.


Clarens is known as the jewel of the Eastern Free State. The picturesque little town is an artists’ haven and its spectacular scenery is a drawcard for visitors. It is surrounded by mountains and is situated only a few kilometres from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. It offers something for everyone.


This picturesque little town is about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Parys is the Afrikaans word for Paris – the town got its name from a German surveyor who said the area reminded him of Paris on the River Seine. There is plenty to do here, including river rafting, waterskiing and angling.



Founded in 1849, Harrismith is well known as a convenient refuelling stop between Johannesburg and Durban. Nearby there’s wildlife, birding, windsurfing, fly-fishing and views of the Drakensberg.


The land around the town, which was founded in the mid-1800s, proved ideal for growing wheat. Hence it was named Bethlehem, meaning ‘house of bread’ in Hebrew. Today the town is the largest commercial centre in the eastern Free State.


On 16 April 1946, a rich gold find was made on the farm Welkom. The town officially came into being on 15 April 1947 and received city status in 1955. It is one of very few cities in the world that has been wholly pre-planned. Its economy centres on mining. Welkom is a Dutch and Afrikaans word for ‘Welcome’.

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