10 Things To Do In Doha, Qatar

I was invited to Doha as part of a press trip hosted by Qatar Airways to promote the airline's new route from Cardiff to Doha. This post contains affiliate links and if you place a booking through one of these links, I'll be paid a modest commission fee.

Conveniently located at the crossroads between East and West, Qatar has long been a popular destination for business professionals transiting through Hamad International Airport, but tourists are increasingly being encouraged to visit the country for leisure stayovers and vacations. Furthermore, with the capital city, Doha set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the whole world will soon have its eyes on Qatar – the first Muslim country to host the World Cup. So, what are the top things to do in Doha and is it really holiday material?

The Qatar skyline along the Corniche and West Bay business district

Credit: Visit Qatar

A Middle Eastern peninsula perched on the salty, tepid waters of the Persian Gulf, Qatar is the richest country in the world based on GDP per capita (valued at over US$128,000), due largely to its natural supply of oil and gas. I visited the country for the first time recently while experiencing Business Class with Qatar Airways on a press trip to promote the new flight route from Cardiff to Doha.

In recent years, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani – who also governs the country – has sought to transform the economy into one that runs on knowledge, as opposed to oil or gas. As a result, Doha is now home to a 20 sq km ‘Education City’ comprising of schools, colleges, universities and research centres, funded by the Qatar Foundation. This organisation is headed up by the Emir’s wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who is widely respected for her efforts to represent Qatari women and improve gender equality in the country.

Education City in Doha, Qatar; an initiative of the Qatar Foundation

This shift towards becoming a knowledge economy, combined with the fast-approaching arrival of the FIFA World Cup 2022, is driving the country to make changes to improve its infrastructure and attractions in order to make Qatar more attractive to tourists as a potential destination for leisure stayovers and holidays, and – in the words of the official slogan for Doha’s impending World Cup – Deliver Amazing.

So, what are the top things to do in Doha?

10 unmissable things to do in Doha

1) Discover the Qatari desert

Although not actually located within Doha itself, no trip to the Qatari capital would be complete without seeing the desert.

Indulge your inner adrenalin junkie as you ride over the golden sand dunes in a quad bike, dune buggy or 4×4. Alternatively, explore your surroundings at a slower pace on camelback.

Discover Qatar – the destination management division of Qatar Airways – offers a desert tour in a 4 x 4 ‘Monster Bus’, priced from just QAR 325 (£70). Pick-up can be arranged from any location within Doha, and you’ll be dropped off at your desired location after the tour.

Riding camels through the desert is one of the top things to do in Doha

2) Meet the Arabian horses at Al Shaqab

Founded in 1992 by Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, Al Shaqab is the epicentre of Qatar’s flourishing equestrian sports scene.

A prized Arabian horse at Al Shaqab; one of the best thing to do in Doha.

The 980,000 square-metre site includes stables that house up to 400 prized Arabian horses – including the oldest stable in Qatar since the time of the Ottoman Empire – in addition to specialist training and breeding centres.

Home to one of the biggest equestrian arenas in the world, Al Shaqab also hosts live horse shows – perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the horses in action during your visit!

Tours of Al Shaqab can be arranged via Discover Qatar from just QAR 275 (£59) per person.

The equestrian arena at Al Shaqab - Doha, Qatar

3) Explore the Museum of Islamic Art

Opened in 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art is to the Muslim world, what the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are to Christians. The building houses collections of Islamic art originating from three different continents over the space of 1,400 years.

Made entirely from limestone, this magnificent cultural monument sits on Doha’s Corniche waterfront promenade, a seven-kilometre long palm-fringed boulevard and carriageway stretched along the length of Doha Bay.

The museum is open seven days a week and entrance is completely free of charge. Complimentary guided tours take place at 2pm on Thursdays and Saturdays, available in both Arabic and English.

Visitng the Museum of Islamic Art is one of the best things to do in Doha

Credit: Visit Qatar

4) Wander around Katara Cultural Village

With an emphasis on culture and diversity in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030, Katara Cultural Village seeks to safeguard the heritage and traditions of Qatar.

Masjid of Katara at Katara Cultural Village, Doha
The aim is to position the country as a cultural beacon for theatre, literature, music, visual art, conventions and exhibitions in the Middle East.

The Golden Masjid, Katara Cultural Village, Doha

Named after Qatar’s original title, Catara (used up until 1738AD) the site on Doha’s West Bay Lagoon area brings together mosques – including the glorious Golden Masjid and the Masjid of Katara – an amphitheater, a museum & convention centre, an opera house, drama theatre, shops, restaurants, cafes, landscaped gardens, pigeon towers (originally designed to collect pigeon droppings, pictured below) & even a beach.

Pigeon towers at Katara Cultural Village
Fountains at Katara Cultural Village

Katara is also home to the Al Jazeera Media Cafe (the most important broadcaster in the Arab world).

Al Jazeera media cafe at Katara Cultural Village

Admission to Katara is completely free of charge and the venue offers flexible opening hours to encourage visitors to feel welcome to attend whenever they wish. 

5) Marvel at The Pearl Qatara

A luxury district home to slick shopping malls, super-car showrooms and swanky restaurants, The Pearl Qatara was once the hub of Qatar’s pearl diving industry – the main driver for the country’s economy until the discovery of oil in the 1940s.

The Pearl Qatar, Doha

Today, The Pearl is the only area of Qatar where expats (who account for around 88% of the population and represent 180 different nationalities) are entitled to own property. This man-made island features a string of high-rise apartments built in two semi-circles to resemble a pearl necklace.

Inside a shopping mall at The Pearl, Doha in Qatar

Little Venice

Take a break from the Arabian glamour of The Pearl’s towering residential blocks and escape to Little Venice, formerly known as the Qanat Quartier. The pastel-coloured apartments and the replica Rialto Bridge overlooking the sparkling blue canals bring a touch of old Venetian charm to this futuristic district.

Visit The Pearl and Little Venice as part of Discover Qatar’s Doha city sight-seeing tour – prices start from QAR 80 (£17). If you prefer, you can explore Doha City by boat on a traditional Arabian dhow, priced from QAR 260 (£56). 

Admiring Little Venice at The Pearl Katara is one of the top things to do in Doha

6) Shop and unwind at Souq Waqif

Built hundreds of years ago, Souq Waqif (meaning “standing market”) is the oldest market in Qatar. It was pulled down and rebuilt in 2006 for safety reasons, but every effort was made to preserve the building’s original architecture.

Exploring and shopping at Souq Waqif is one of the best things to do in Doha

By day, weave your way in between the shopkeepers manning their stalls, Arabian men peddling their wares around on hand carts and locals shopping for essentials as you navigate through the labyrinth of winding alleyways and cobbled streets.

A traditional spice shop at Souq Waqif, Doha
Spices for sale at Souq Waqif

Besides spices and herbs, Souq Waqif sells everything from fragrance, clothing and jewellery, to handicrafts,  and souvenirs. The market also features a string of art galleries, as well as its very own falconry market.

A restaurant at Souq Waqif, Doha

At night, Souq Waqif transforms into a popular spot for dining out and socialising among locals. Besides the bustling bazaar, the area is also home to a string of restaurants and cafes. One of the highlights is the Instagrammable Iranian and Persian restaurant, Parisa. This is based just off from Souq Waqif in the aptly-named Gold Souq, featuring over 40 high-end jewellery shops.

Iranian and Persian restaurant, Parisa in Doha, Qatar

You can enjoy a brief tour of Souq Waqif as part of the Doha City Tour hosted by Discover Qatar. However, you really need to spend a few hours exploring the souq in order to fully experience all that it has to offer. With this in mind, consider booking yourself onto Get Your Guide’s four-hour guided tour of Souq Waqif for just 155 QAR (£33).

I often turn to GetYourGuide when I want to uncover new things to do in my favourite destinations. It’s so quick and easy to book via their website, and I always have a great experience.

7) Admire Doha by night

When darkness falls, the Doha skyline is illuminated by the bright lights of the fancy five-star hotels and sleek skyscrapers that line the Corniche and West Bay business district.

Admiring the Doha skyline by night is one of the best things to do in Doha

For a spectacular view, head to Nobu Doha at Four Seasons Hotel or the Strata Lounge on the 56th floor of the InterContinental Hotel.

To make sure you see the best spots in Doha at night-time, I recommend booking a guided tour. Get Your Guide offers a great Doha By Night Tour and Dhow Cruise for around QAR 350 (£75). For a cheaper option, try this tour for just QAR 145 (£31)

Doha by night, photographed from the Four Seasons Hotel Doha

8) Dine out in Doha

You might associate the Arabian diet with kebabs, mezzes and dates, but traditional Middle Eastern food isn’t the only kind of cuisine that champions in Doha. The enormous expat population has brought a myriad of international cuisines to the Qatari capital, with elaborate restaurants serving dishes from all corners of the globe.

Mixed Arabian mezze

If it’s traditional Qatari food you’re after, head to the aforementioned Souq Waqif. You can either choose to dine in a traditional restaurant like Parisa, or pop to one of the thriving boutique hotels. Our traditional set meal at Al Mirqab (owned by Tivoli Hotels) was absolutely flawless, with highlights including hot falafels, hummus, muhammarah, labneh keshkeh and mashawi mishikal (assorted mixed grill).

Meal at Al Mirqab in Souq Waqif, Doha

Meanwhile, Doha’s top international restaurants include Nobu Doha, the world’s largest Nobu restaurant. Perched on its own man-made island connected to the Four Seasons Hotel, Nobu Doha serves fine Japanese food, with dishes like baby spinach, lobster and truffle oil salad; yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno; miso-marinated black cod and rock shrimp tempura.

A collage of meals served as part of a set menu at Nobu Doha restaurant.

Other popular high-end restaurants in the Qatari capital include L’Wzaar Seafood Market on West Bay, an interactive dining experience enabling you to choose your own fish,  and authentic south-east Asian street food restaurant, Spice Market at W Doha Hotel.

Discover Qatar will happily direct you to some of the best places to eat out in Doha as during their City Tour, but nothing beats exploring the city’s food and drink scene for yourself. Do your research before you go, and don’t be afraid to ask locals where they like to eat out. However, if you are male, refrain from approaching Arabian women to ask for recommendations.

9) Drink Arabian tea or coffee

Although nothing like coffee as we know it in Western culture – and what some may describe as an acquired taste – you can’t visit Doha without trying a cup of Arabian coffee.

Arabian coffee, gahwa or qahwa, being poured into a finjaan

Known as ‘gahwa’ or ‘qahwa’, Arabian coffee is served in a small cup known as a ‘finjaan’ and consists of a mixture of coffee beans, saffron, cardamom and cloves, served with dates instead of sugar for sweetness. It’s customary to drink at least one finjaan, although three is often seen as the ideal. You should hold the finjaan in your right hand and if you’d like another one once you’ve finished, return the cup to your host. If you don’t want another cup, just jiggle the finjaan from side-to-side.

Cardamom seeds, coffee beans and cloves used to make Arabian coffee, served with dates in place of sugar for added sweetness.

If you’re more of a tea drinker, try karak chai, meaning ‘strong tea’ – a national obsession in Qatar. Karak chai is made by adding loose tea to a pan of boiling water, followed by evaporated milk and sugar, allowing the water to reach boiling point once more before serving.]

Arabian tea and coffee is served in most cafes, restaurants and hotels in Doha.  

10) Stay in a luxury hotel

Doha is home to some of the best hotels and resorts in the world, so make the most of your time in the city by treating yourself to a luxury stay.

During our time in Doha, we stayed at Four Seasons Doha, an elegant five-star hotel complete with nine restaurants, cafes and bars, including Nobu Doha and south-east Asian restaurant, Elements, besides five outdoor swimming pools and a spa.

Four Seasons Doha

My Ambassador Suite was fit for royalty…

Bedroom suite at Four Seasons Doha in Qatar
…boasting panoramic views over the Arabian Gulf.

View from my room at Four Seasons Doha, overlooking the Persian Gulf

I loved having my own beach on my doorstep. Stepping into the Arabian Gulf is just like getting into the bath; the water is fairly warm and as it’s so salty, it’s pretty easy to float – before long, you’ll feel your worries floating away too!  Many hotels also allow you to rent water sports equipment including jet skis, snorkels and scuba diving kits.

Relaxing in the swimming pool was equally enjoyable.

Swimming pool at Four Seasons Doha

Click here to book a room at Four Seasons Doha

Besides Four Seasons Doha, other unmissable hotels in Doha include the Instagrammable Mondrian Hotel, the glamorous Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Grand Hyatt Doha Hotel and Villas.

Discover Qatar and the Qatar Tourism Authority’s +Qatar scheme is offering Qatar Airways transit passengers the chance to turn a layover into a stayover. The programme offers a free transit visa if required (although nationals from 80 different countries are now entitled to visa-free entry into Qatar) in addition to free overnight hotel stays and discounted two-night stays at top hotels on both onward and return journeys. You can also opt to include city tours, a desert safari adventure or museum visits. This offer is available on bookings made up until 28th December, and travel up until 31st December 2018.

Doha: Delivering Amazing?

With a range of exciting attractions and activities to entertain tourists, Doha is well worth turning a leisure layover into a stayover for. To discover the best hotels to stay at during your visit, take a look at this guide to where to stay in Doha.

While this post has only touched on a few of the top things to do in Doha, some may question whether Qatar is really holiday material just yet. However, with the FIFA World Cup arriving in Doha in just four years’ time, preparations are well underway to transform the city in order to accommodate the 1.5 million fans who are expected to descend upon the capital.

With plans for 12 state-of-the-art stadiums, the capital’s first ever metro system, giant cruise shops transformed into five-star floating hotels and glamorous ‘glamping-style’ tent cities, who knows what else you’ll be able to see and do in Qatar by the time of your visit?

Want to discover more about Doha? Check out my post on flying Business Class with Qatar Airways from Cardiff to Doha and my post on what to wear in Qatar.

The top 10 things to do when you travel to Doha, Qatar in the Middle East - from exploring the Museum of Islamic art, to sipping on Arabian tea and coffee. #qatar #doha #middleeast The top 10 things to do when you travel to Doha, Qatar in the Middle East - from exploring the Museum of Islamic art, to sipping on Arabian tea and coffee. #qatar #doha #middleeast

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I was invited to Doha as part of a press trip hosted by Qatar Airways to promote the airline's new route from Cardiff to Doha. This post contains affiliate links and if you place a booking through one of these links, I'll be paid a modest commission fee.

34 Comments

  1. November 22, 2018 / 7:11 pm

    Wow what some absolutely amazing sounding things to do. I would love to try some of that food and that pool look amazing for a dip in!

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:44 pm

      The food was the best bit for me, but that pool was lovely too!

  2. November 22, 2018 / 7:18 pm

    What a beautiful place, I’ve not thought to visit before. I really should!

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:43 pm

      I highly recommend it! It’s such a safe, welcoming city.

  3. Rachel
    November 22, 2018 / 10:21 pm

    This trip sounds amazing, it’s so amazing that you got to fly business class too! Thats on my bucket list. I’ve never really given much thought to visiting Qatar, although my other half would love to go for the next world cup. It sounds like such an amazing place with so much to see and be discovered! xo

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:43 pm

      I hadn’t considered the Middle East previously, but I had such a good time, I’m already planning my next trip.

  4. rhianwestbury
    November 22, 2018 / 10:42 pm

    Wow this looks like such a stunning area and not somewhere I’d usually have thought about visiting x

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:42 pm

      Me neither, but I was really surprised at how much fun I had in Doha and how safe it is there.

  5. November 22, 2018 / 11:34 pm

    Wow, what an amazing trip to take! I met some people who lived out there for a short while and worked. It looks and sounds amazing from your post.

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:40 pm

      I would love to work and live in Doha, especially as there is no income tax.

  6. November 23, 2018 / 7:00 am

    That looks amazing! Having been to Abu Dhabi and Dubai I guess this should be next on my list! My daughter would love to see the horses.

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:20 pm

      I’d love to go to Abu Dhabi too.

  7. November 23, 2018 / 10:22 am

    I really fancy going to doha! I worked for a company based over there and it looks a really interesting place to go. I’d have to go for the desert trip, that looks brilliant and what a bonus they now go from CArdiff!!!

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:19 pm

      We didn’t manage to fit the desert trip in but I had to mention it because it looks like so much fun! A good excuse to go back, I reckon!

  8. November 23, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    I love the look of the food – so different to what I was expecting traditional Dohar food to look like. I need a trip to that seafood market!

    • November 23, 2018 / 2:19 pm

      I was surprised at how much variety there was, although it makes sense when you consider there are 180 different nationalities living in Qatar and only around 12-13% of the population are actually Qatari.

  9. scrapbookadventures365
    November 23, 2018 / 3:32 pm

    Wow so much to do! I love the look of the desert and the markets. A different world to what I am used to at home!

    • November 25, 2018 / 5:59 pm

      It was unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been! The souq was a really fascinating place to experience.

  10. November 23, 2018 / 4:40 pm

    Wow your pictures are amazing and it all sounds wonderful. The ambassador room looks incredible. I never realised there was so much to do so thank you for shariing – now on my travel wish list! 😊

    • November 25, 2018 / 6:01 pm

      Aww thank you, I’ve been working hard to improve my photos so that’s lovely to hear. My room was fit for royalty! Qatar definitely doesn’t do things by halves.

  11. November 23, 2018 / 4:43 pm

    I was surprised how much there was to do in Doha. It’s definitely an underrated city. The Four Seasons was amazing as well and Nobu was out of this world

    • November 25, 2018 / 6:00 pm

      I thought The Four Seasons was great, too – such a lovely hotel. Nobu was probably one of the highlights of our trip for me 🙂

  12. Anne Fraser
    November 23, 2018 / 8:13 pm

    It sounds a very interesting place to visit. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

    • November 25, 2018 / 6:00 pm

      It really will. It’s a lovely city and it will be particularly interesting to see how the World Cup unfolds there.

  13. November 23, 2018 / 10:37 pm

    I would so love to experience going out into the desert. It looks incredible.

    • November 25, 2018 / 6:03 pm

      Me too! I didn’t get round to doing that as we were only there for two full days – but it’s a fantastic excuse to go back I reckon!

  14. Angela Milnes
    November 24, 2018 / 3:06 am

    I have never been out of the airport of Qatar when I am en-route to visit family. Now I have more ideas to add to my bucket list.

    Angela Xx

    • November 25, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      Oh wow, if you get time you should definitely explore more of Doha when you next get the chance to.

  15. November 24, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    Ok, I definitely shouldn’t have read this on an empty stomach – that food sounds amazing! I love a bit of souk shopping too 🙂

    Great post, and super jel that you got to fly business class – I’ve flown economy with Qatar Airways before and even that blew my mind!

    • November 25, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      I’ve heard their Economy Class offering is really good too! To be fair, if I ever go to Doha again – which I really hope I do – I would definitely be flying Economy Class!

  16. November 24, 2018 / 1:41 pm

    The Museum of is a real vision! I’ve been to the UAE but not to Qatar, need to add it to my list!

    • November 25, 2018 / 5:57 pm

      I highly recommend it. It is an interesting country. I would love to explore more of the Middle East.

  17. November 24, 2018 / 10:55 pm

    A visit to the Qatari desert would be an awesome idea. I’d love to try exploring the desert on a camel. It must be very exciting!

    • November 25, 2018 / 5:56 pm

      We didn’t get to do this during our short visit but it looks so fun, it has to be one of the best things to do in Doha!

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