The long-haul weekend break is a travel industry enigma. Much written about but little experienced, it remains the preserve of a privileged few – those with the money to travel first class so they don’t get home more exhausted than they were when they left.

Cape Town is the exception to the rule. Overnight flights and no jetlag brings it well within reach of long weekenders. The city hosts around 470,000 visitors from the UK every year, drawn as much to the vibrant city life as its stunning beaches and mountains.

Thomson added Cape Town to its Tailor-Made Africa brochure this year. Head of product Lisa Fitzell said: “It’s by far our best seller for the southern hemisphere. It appeals to people of all ages and is a great short-break destination as well as a
twin-centre or safari holiday.”

The main attractions of the city, whose history is firmly rooted in Europe, include Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Cape of Good Hope. On a long weekend, you can also visit the seals on Duiker Island, the penguins on Boulders Beach or take a helicopter trip over Table Mountain.

For something more relaxing, consider a visit to the quaint Cape Dutch towns and the famous winelands, 40 minutes’ drive away, but still under that stunning mountain backdrop.

While the UK is in the grip of winter, Cape Town, now coming into its summer season, is the perfect getaway – whether for a weekend or longer stay.

Where to stay

If you’re looking for a good base from which to explore, The Table Bay is ideal. Enjoying a prime position in the fashionable waterfront area, the Victorian inspired hotel has 329 rooms and offers stunning views of the harbour, Table Mountain, Robben Island or the Atlantic Ocean. It has a swimming pool, spa, gym and two restaurants.

The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa is a perfect place for cocktails at sunset. This 70-room hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and is flanked by the Twelve Apostles mountain range and Table Mountain. Situated in Camps Bay, it’s 15 minutes from the centre of Cape Town. Facilities include two swimming pools, a spa, gym, private cinema and two restaurants.

For five-star luxury – and wine on tap – the Lanzerac Hotel and Spatakes some beating. There’s 48 exclusive suites on offer, nestled in the heart of the winelands, within close proximity to Cape Town (40 minutes) and 20 miles from the airport. Luxury and a sense of calm emanate from the grand manor and the beautiful surroundings. There is a choice of three restaurants, a spa and wellness centre, five swimming pools, nearby golf course, on-site hairdressing salon and gym.

By day

Number one on the must-do list is Table Mountain. Visitors to Table Mountain can take a rotating cable car to the top of this iconic symbol of Cape Town. The car glides up the 1,085 metrehigh mountain in under 10 minutes – and once at the top it’s simply breathtaking, offering panoramic views of Camps Bay, Robben Island, Table Bay and the Cape Peninsula. An adult return costs £21. 

For a descent with a difference, try a 112-metre abseil for the same price.

Get your wildlife fix with 3,000 jackass penguins – so-called because of the braying noise they make – on Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. The penguin colony started in 1983 when two penguins were spotted for the first time – hatchlings followed two years later. In the meantime, a boardwalk has been built to allow visitors to view the penguins from a safe distance without disturbing their environment.

The influence of Nelson Mandela looms large over modern-day South Africa, so don’t miss Robben Island, a reminder of the struggle for freedom which took place during the apartheid era. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years – alongside countless others. Ferries depart from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront every hour. Tours are led by former inmates who describe what life was like on the island. Return ferry ticket and tour costs £11.

By night

Fancy a tipple and like whisky? Then head to the Bascule Whisky Bar and Wine Cellar in Cape Grace. It overlooks the bustling yacht marina, where you’ll find 450 whiskys from around the world. Tastings can be arranged for up to 25 people.

Cool cats can chill to the sound of jazz at The Green Dolphin waterfront restaurant. The Dolphin is ‘dedicated to the preservation of jazz’ and offers a range of seafood dishes for lunches and dinner, as well as pasta and vegetarian food.

Consistently voted one of the best restaurants in South Africa, Buitenverwachting offers a fantastic vista of mountain slopes and vines. The daily-changing menu ranges from exotic cuisine to traditional South African favourites.