Kroonstad is the third largest town in the Free State and an important railway junction on the main line from Cape Town to Johannesburg. According to local folklore the town, established in 1855, was named after “Kroon”, the horse of Voortrekker leader Sarel Cilliers. The horse apparently drowned in a pothole in a nearby stream, henceforth called Kroonspruit (Kroon’s Stream). The Vals River runs through the town and draws angling and water sport enthusiasts to the town where an annual Kroon River Carnival offers all and sundry the opportunity to design and hopefully keep their own rafts afloat, for the duration of several fun races.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: Bring your rod and tackle and enjoy the abundance of the Vals River.
Golf: Kroonstad has two lovely 18-hole golf courses.
Hiking: The Theronsdrift and Renosterkop Wildlife Hiking Trails will take you through a terrain dotted with indigenous trees, at least 150 different species of birds, and some fine San rock art sites.
Hunting: Hunting is allowed in the Boskoppie Game Reserve.
Jukskei: The indigenous South African sport, “jukskei”, has its headquarters in Kroonstad.
Road running: The town annually hosts the Kroon Marathon and half-marathon races. The marathon race is accepted as qualifier for the Comrades and Two Oceans races, held later in the year in KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape respectively.
Water sport: The Vals River and the neighbouring Serfontein and Bloemhoek Dams offer opportunities for nearly every form of water sport imaginable.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
San Rock Art: San rock art can be viewed on Boschpoort, a farm in the vicinity of the town.
Art And Crafts
Antiques, arts and crafts: Spend an interesting hour or two at the Snuffelgat Antique Shop or browse through the handmade needlework items and other gifts at the Kroonstad Tuis Co-op. There is also a curio shop at the Kroonpark Complex, pottery and art for sale at 12 Barnard Street, works of art produced on leather by Mr Chris Gerber and woodcarvings that can be viewed by appointment only on the farm Steildrif. Kosike Staal produces beautiful wrought iron steel furniture and other items. At Klee die Nasie some local women are generating an income for themselves with their needlework.
Modern art: St Patrick’s Cathedral is a renowned repository of South African modern art.
Performing arts: Renowned performing artists often take to the stage of the Civic Theatre.
Cultural Historical Route: The Cultural Historical Route, designed by pupils of the local De Wet Nel High School, won an award from the Simon van der Stel Foundation and will take you to 20 cultural/historical places of interest in and around Kroonstad.
Entertainment And Shopping
Festival of Lights: The town is renowned for its Festival of Lights, held in the last three weeks of December, during which every building, tree and lamppost in the town is transformed into a wonderland of lights.
Flea Markets and Festivals: The monthly Kroon Flea Market is conducted on premises next to the Pick and Pay Shopping Complex. A street festival is held in Cross Street in mid-September of each year.
Kroonpark Recreational Complex: The modern Kroonpark Complex has an indoor, heated swimming pool as well as an outdoor pool, water slides and other water-related activities. Fully furnished chalets and a caravan park offer accommodation surrounded by green lawns and shady trees. The complex also has an 18-hole Putt-Putt (mini-golf) course and an 18-hole golf course.
Tourism Routes: Contact the Municipality for more information about its specially designed Cultural Historical and Mieliekontrei (Maize Region) Tourism Routes.
Fauna And Flora
Nature and Game Reserves: There are two private game reserves, Nooitgedacht and Boskoppie, in the vicinity. The Boskoppie Reserve has a pride of lions that are kept in captivity for a scientific lion-breeding programme as well as cheetah, leopard and 13 other species of game. Horse riding, hiking and 4×4 routes can be followed throughout the reserve. Nooitgedacht Reserve is home to several different species of game and has fully equipped chalets with magnificent views and braai (barbecue) facilities.
History And Architecture
Alexandra Bridge: This bridge, built in 1905 and named after the British royal, Princess Alexandra, was the only crossing over the Vals River before the Sarel Cilliers Bridge was built.
Historic Cemeteries: Some of the over 2 000 Boer women and children who died in the nearby Concentration Camp during the Anglo-Boer War are buried in the town cemetery. Their names are recorded for posterity on a marble slab in the cemetery. The town also has a British and a Scottish Cemetery where the remains of the British and Commonwealth soldiers and soldiers of the First Scottish Brigade who lost their lives during the Anglo-Boer war, lie buried. An obelisk guards the entrance to the British cemetery and the Bloemspruit Monument mark the Concentration Camp cemetery.
Historic buildings: A number of stately and historical old buildings adorn the streets of Kroonstad. These include the two Dutch Reformed Churches, the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches (1897), the City Hall (1903), the old Market Square Post Office (1883) and the old prison cells behind the Post Office building, which were built before 1861 and housed in what is believed to be the oldest building in town.
Other fine old buildings that can be seen are the Standard Bank Building, designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1906, the Old Magistrate’s Building (1905) on the corner of Mark and Murray Streets and the old Market Building where one of the most important councils of war was conducted on 17 April 1900 by President Paul Kruger, President MT Steyn and Boer Generals Louis Botha, Christiaan de Wet and Koos de la Rey.
“Jukskei” Museum: This museum is dedicated to the game of “jukskei” a historic Afrikaans game played in earlier times with the yoke pins used to harness oxen in front of an ox wagon.
Monuments: The town has several other monuments such as the Burger Monument dedicated to local men who died during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the Afrikaans Language Monument and the Bloemspruit Monument that commemorates the Great Trek of 1838.
Sarel Cilliers Museum: The museum depicts the colourful history of Kroonstad and its inhabitants. It is a fully-fledged theme exhibition and one of only five of its kind in the Free State.
Sarel Cilliers Statue: The solemn statue of Voortrekker and religious leader, Sarel Cilliers, stands in front of the Dutch Reformed Church. Arrangements can be made to visit the farm Doornkloof, where Sarel Cilliers lived, to see his homestead and grave.
Steam Train Cemetery: Steam train enthusiasts often make the trip to this, the last resting place of many worthy old steam locomotives.
War Memorial and Gun Carriage: The memorial is situated in front of the Municipal Offices and commemorates the men of Kroonstad who died during the First and Second World Wars and during active service since then.