Bloemfontein was founded in 1846 and now has a population of around half a million people.
J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings was born in Bloemfontein in 1892.
In 1923, the African National Congress (ANC) political party was founded in Bloemfontein.
Today, Bloemfontein is a compact city surrounded by sprawling suburbs.
Happily, the city centre is safe to walk around during the day, but many of the city's activities are focused on the Waterfront and Mimosa malls and on the large sporting complex. Second Avenue, north of the Waterfront mall, has the majority of the city's bars and restaurants.
Bloemfontein is much safer than most other cities. You can walk around downtown during the day time (although it will be eerily quiet after the shops close). The Waterfront and other shopping malls are safe and patrolled with 24 hour security, and 2nd Street (the main restaurant strip) is fine day and night. The dodgy areas to avoid if possible are near the train station and anywhere east of the railway lines (where the traditional townships are located).