Qatar is known for having the best of everything and its capital Doha is at the centre of it all. This middle eastern metropolis has been exploding in popularity as a tourist destination in recent years and it's not surprising. The city is a mix of old and new with huge skyscrapers and historical sites dating back centuries. There's a wide range of activities for everyone and Doha and we've compiled a list of the 30 best things to do when visiting.
Experience the Qatari Culture at Souq Waqif
One thing that Doha is famous for since centuries is it’s shopping centres or rather its markets spread all around the city. So if your next destination is this city then you cannot miss it’s authentic and oldest market place, Souq Waqif. Translated to the 'Standing Market', the Souq is one of the most popular destinations in the city for shopping or just a place to hang out with your family and friends. The market places have everything from a variety of traditional Qatari clothes to spices, from high-end Gold shops to local art galleries as well as the gourmet restaurants to give you the best and authentic experience of Qatari food and culture.
The National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar is the brand new national museum which opened in Doha not less than a year ago. The museum was declared one of the world’s greatest places to visit in 2019 by Time Magazine and was inspired by the desert rose crystal found in Qatar itself. Opened on 28th March 2019, the museum has already received more than 450,000 visitors marking one of the most visited museums in the world. The museum spans over a distance of 1.5 kms telling the story of the country in three major parts or themes. It starts with the 'Beginnings', continues to 'Life in Qatar' and finishes with the 'Modern History of Qatar' retelling the development of the country from the desert the modern times and is the perfect place to know about the rich history of Qatar.
Visit the Pearl Qatar
Situated 350 meters off the shore of Doha’s West Bay Lagoon’s coast, the Pearl-Qatar is an artificial island spreading over an area of four sq. kilometres. Yet to be completed, the island is a haven for people whose priority is world-class comfort. The Pearl-Qatar showcases extravagance through its luxurious townhouses, award-winning beaches, entertaining facilities as well as a wide range of high-end restaurants and public spaces. The Marsa Malaz Kempinski is a European based resort blended with Arabian touches which is one of the most popular attractions of the island. So, the ones who want to experience grandeur at its best should not miss the opportunity to visit the island when in the capital.
Browse Art Through Ages at the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art or more commonly known MIA proudly presents the Islamic art of three continents spanning over 14,000 years and holds the title of a flagship museum of all the museums in Qatar. Dating back to the 7th Century, the museum has a wholesome collection of textiles, manuscripts, jewellery, glass ornaments as well as artefacts from countries such as India, Egypt, Central Asia, Turkey, Iraq, Spain and Iran. Along with being one of the most completed museums of Islamic art in the world, MIA also accommodates to other facilities of a well-stocked library with books both in English and Arabic and a park. You can also take your chance at knowing more about the rich Islamic culture through its regularly held workshops.
Learn About Falconry at Falcon Souq
Adjacent to Souq Waqif in downtown Doha, the Falcon Souq is the most sought out place for falcon lovers in the entire city. The market is immensely famous for its airy shops filled with hundreds of falcons and other birds attracting the adventurous lot. During the season of falconry (October to March), the arcade has numerous specialised shops where these birds are put on display for onlookers and buyers alike. During this time, they are sold anywhere starting from $2,600 to more than $260,000. Turned into more of an obsession, the activity is one of the most favourites of the locals and is worth a shot if you aren't scared of a little thrill.
Take a Walk at the Corniche
The Doha Corniche is a seven-kilometre long pedestrian public arena covering the Doha Bay starting from the Sheraton Hotel and ending with the National Museum of Islamic Art. The public is both a local favourite as it attracts people from all walks of life and has something to do for everyone no matter your social status. From taking a stroll during dawn to flying a kite or having an elaborate lunch at one of Doha’s best restaurants, Al Mourjan, the promenade serves to everyone’s need of entertainment. One of the most sought activities at the Corniche is taking a ride in the Dhow boats which give you a mesmerising view of Doha Bay and shouldn’t be missed if you’re in town for a tour.
Relax at the Aspire Park
A part of the Aspire Zone located in the district of Baaya, Aspire Park is the biggest park in the city. It is the perfect place to relax with its recreational facilities after a daylong of shopping at Hyatt Plaza and Villagio Mall which are in front of the park. The 88-hectare space is full of amenities such as playgrounds for children, a café, a 1.6 km jogging track, the only lake in Qatar and the Torch Tower. The park is an ideal location for family and friends to spend time together, especially at night time. The Torch Tower is another attraction of the park with a whopping height of 300 metres. The former giant torch is now turned into an ultra-modern hotel and can be seen from anywhere in Doha. So, don't forget to drop in and visit the magnificent work of art.
Experience the Thrills of Camel Racing at the Al Shahaniya Camel Race Track
An hour away from the city of Doha in the small town of Al Shahaniya, the most exciting event for Qataris takes place. Camel racing has been one of the oldest and most traditional sports of the sheikhs of the country. Now turned into an obsession and one of the most expensive sporting events in Qatar, the tracks hold tournaments on every Friday from November to February. The tracks attract both the local fanatics as well as tourists from all around the world and shouldn't be missed if you're visiting the city during the racing period.
Go Up the Barzan Towers
The former watchtowers now turned into a museum opened for the public in 2013. 20 kms away from Doha, the towers are in the shape of the letter ‘T’ was renovated in 1910 by Umm Salal Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani. The towers represent the old history of the nation and how significant such monuments were to the state. It is open at all times and a popular attraction for the people in and around the city.
Get Wet at the Aqua Park
15 kms away from the main city, Aqua Park is a water-themed park which offers numerous rides and activities to people of all ages and groups. Of a total area of 50,000 square meters and with an accommodation capacity of over 3000 visitors, the park had started as a small one initially but eventually grew into quite a spectacular one. The park has several features which attract the crowd namely the 'lazy river', 'wave pool', an 'activity pool', an exotic village, a family pool, multiple slides complex, a bar and a restaurant. To add to this, there is an island in the park surrounded by the lazy river and holds regular performances as well. The park is open on all days and is a must if you're visiting during the hot summer season.
Soak in the Qatari Culture at the Katara Cultural Village
Famously known as the ‘Valley of Cultures’, the Katara Cultural Village is the go-to place if you're enthusiastic about art, culture and architecture. It was opened in October 2010 as a part of Doha Tribeca Film Festival and since hosts it every year. The village has an abundance to see and you just can't get enough of it. Catch a show at the opera house or the amphitheatre, soak in the cultural heritage through its rich art galleries and heritage centres and know more about the enriching past of Qatar in its well-equipped libraries.
Experience Luxury at the Banana Island
Off the coast of Doha, Banana Island is an artificial island which was completed in 2015. The 800 sq meter luxury resort island is operated by Thailand based Anantara and is one of the most visited places for luxurious vacations. The resort has a total of 141 rooms ranging from 55 sq meter rooms to 360 sq meters overwater bungalows. The island is also equipped with kids playing area, a mini theatre for film screenings as well as water sports for the enthusiasts. Banana Island is the perfect destination for those who want luxury as their priority and are willing to spend for the same.
Pray at the State Grand Mosque
Located in the Jubailat district of Doha, the State Grand Mosque is the national mosque of Qatar. With a total area of 175,164 sq km, the mosque is the largest in the country which opened in 2011. The State Grand Mosque has a total of 93 domes and 20 entrances to it and can hold up to 30,000 people at once. Although inaccessible to non-Muslims, the mosque is a great sight to be visited from the outside as well and take a bunch of pictures.
Shop at the City Centre Doha Shopping Mall
Living up to its name, the City Centre Doha Shopping Mall is situated in the heart of the capital in West Bay. While being one of the biggest shopping malls in the city, it is also one of the largest in the whole of Qatar. The shopping centre is spread over five storeys and has every known facility to be inside one of its kind. Such amenities include local to international brands, an ice skating rink, a bowling alley, a total of 38 different kinds of restaurants and a wholesome 14 screen movie theatre. Regular events, functions and shows are also held from time to time witnessing more than 70,000 people during seasonal and peak times.
Take a Dip at Katara Beach
A part of the Katara Cultural Village, the Katara Beach is an ideal place for a dip in the sea if you wish to enjoy the quaintness of a sandy beach while still being within the city. The beach stretches to almost 1.5 kms in length and offers both a peaceful visit and thrilling water sports for the adventurous ones. Highly popular sports include parasailing, kneeboarding, banana rides, water skiing and windsurfing. There's a separate play area for children with many kid-friendly sports and games and can be exciting for the younglings when they get into it.
Visit Al Koot Fort
Situated in the centre of Doha in Souq Waqif, the Al Koot Fort was built in 1927 and later turned into a museum. Originally built to serve as a police station and later to be used as a jail, the fort is also rumoured to be built to protect the Souq Waqif from looters. An exemplary example of Qatari architecture of the 20th Century, the Fort now stands as a museum preserving the traditional woodwork, handicrafts, paintings and ornaments showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the nation.
Relive Your Childhood at Gondolania
The Gondolania Theme Park is located in the Villagio Mall in Doha, Qatar. It is the largest as well as the newest addition to theme parks in the city and offers a wide range of rides and activities for everyone visiting. Opened in April 2011, the park occupies a total area of 22,000 sq meters giving you a 360 experience of it. Some of the attractions of the park include the evergreen Ferris wheel, Roller Coasters, a 12-lane Bowling alley, the only 4-D theatre in the city along with various arcade game machines to keep you occupied for hours. The park also has amenities for when you need a break by offering some of the world-class restaurants as well as cafes and food plazas.
Visit the Church of Our Lady of the Rosemary
The Church of Our Lady of the Rosemary is the first church to be established in the country of Qatar. It is a Roman Catholic Church along with other Christian institutions situated in Abu Hamour. As the church is located in an Islamic state, due to its laws it does not display any symbols of Christianity such as crosses or bells. The Church serves around 2 million Catholics living in the country and is worth a visit if you’re in town.
Go Crazy at Angry Birds World
The world's first-ever Angry Birds themed park is now open in Doha. Inspired by the world-leading video game and movie instalment, the entertainment park offers over 20 rides and attractions which will not let you leave without trying one or two rides at least. Spread both indoors and outdoors, the park gives you a once in a lifetime experience along with shopping outlets as well as edutainment activities which welcomes people of every age to be excited about something.
Hike a Trek at the Ras Abrouq Rock Formations
If you like to take trekking trips, then the Ras Abrouq Rock Formations has you covered. 70 kms west off Doha, this sight is famous for its unspoiled sandy beaches, preservation of wild deers and the landscape of the limestone rock formations shaped like mushrooms. Ras Abrouq is a cape and a trek to the top would give you a better view of the Qatari peninsula. Most of the place is protected by the government but it is still a very popular place or family picnics or overnight camping to capture the magnificent sunrise and sunsets from over the cliff.
Explore the Dahl Al Mifir Cave
An hour drive from the main city of the Doha, the Dahl Al Mifir Cave is one of the most popular and exciting destinations in the country. The caves are approximately 40 meters deep and are the result of Gypsum deposits over time. Due to the deposits, the cave gives off a phosphorescent glow making it look ethereal and has thus been arrived the name 'desert roses' implying the rose-shaped gypsum crystals of the cave.
Take a Day Trip to the Al Zubarah Fort
A trip to the Al Zubarah Fort might become a day trip for you but the UNESCO World Heritage Site is worth the visit. The 60-hectare establishment has preserved almost 200 years of cultural grandeur and aims to educate every visitor about its rich past. Now, what remains the ruins of the Al Zubarah Town, the fort covers and remembers one of the most important towns in the pearl diving and trading business in the whole of Qatar. The archaeological site thus celebrates its beautiful past by making available to both the locals and foreign tourists.
Be Amazed by the Wonders of Khor Al Adaid
Khor Al Adaid or the Inland Sea is one of Qatar’s most precious natural wonders. Some 60 kms from the capital city, the UNESCO recognized nature reserve is Qatar's largest natural reserve and occupies a total area of 1,833 sq kms. The unmarked popularity of this reserve is because its sea runs deep through the desert and has its ecosystem. Thanks to it, the area has some of the rarest species flora and fauna found both domestically and internationally. Turtles, Arabian Gazelles and ospreys are a few examples of its unique diversity and the place can’t be struck off your list of wonders.
Don’t Forget the Desert Adventure
When it comes to the desert nation, one just cannot ignore the extreme sports which are famous in these lands. Qatar has gone to tedious lengths to make the desert a rather exciting term when spoken of. There are several sports which can be tried if you're all about the thrill such as taking an SUV ride on the dunes, paragliding over the sea of sand, sandboarding, camel riding, driving a dune buggy and numerous other options to choose from. Camping is another activity which quite popular amongst the tourists along and can be arranged by agencies like the Desert Sports or the Qatar International Adventures.
Kayak at Al Thakira Mangrove
Another day trip can be made to the Al Thakira Mangroves which is around 2 hours away from Doha. A contrast to the desert landscape, the mangroves is a popular destination as it displays natural greenery and attracts some notable bird lives due to its ecosystem. Flamingos and Herons are commonly spotted in this area and are worth the visit. The forest can be visited by Kayaks and fishing can be done for which reservations are made from before by travelling companies and operators.
Catch a Movie at the Oxygen Park
Situated in Education City, Doha, the Oxygen Park is a green landscaped park which aims to introduce green lung in the city. The park is open to both students of the Education city as well as visitors to come and refresh their minds and bodies through various activities like sports and biking. The park just doesn’t adhere to monotonous student life but also holds film screenings from time to time which is quite famous amongst the locals of the city.
Plan a Picnic at Al Wakrah Beach
25 kms off the main city of Doha, the Al Wakrah Beach is a flat sandy beach quite popular amongst the locals of Al Wakrah and can get pretty crowded on weekend afternoons. The beach is not famous for swimming as it’s shallow waters making impossible to swim but the beautiful views that are given off by it. It has three additional playgrounds for children, a volleyball pitch, a soccer pitch and BBQ facilities which make up for a great day at the beach with family and friends and a perfect destination for a picnic.
Go on a Shopping Spree at the Doha Festival City
If you want the world's best fashion, entertainment and dining to exist under one roof then the Doha Festival City is your place to be. It is the largest of its kind in the whole of Qatar. With over 400 international and local brands, it's the paradise of every fashion lover on the planet. The establishment also has over 100 dining destinations such as The Cheesecake Factory, Texas Roadhouse and a wide range of fast-food joints. Thus, a trip to the Festival City won't leave you disappointed in any way and is a must-visit when in town.
Visit the Al Safliya Island
Located off the coast of Doha, the Al Safliya Island can be reached by boat in 40 minutes. The majorly sand populated island is rather a small one but is quite popular amongst the locals with clusters of grass here and there. The beach has somewhat moderate arrangements of shade and umbrellas but it is advised to take personal resources. The island is also quite famous for swimming and offers clear water for the same.
Learn About Orientalism at the Oriental Museum
The Oriental Museum is the first and only museum of it’s kind and specializes in the field of the ‘oriental’ east as perceived by the West. With the help of a wide collection of art and objects, it aims to document how diverse cultures meet and get influenced by each other. This is very relatable to the nation of Qatar which houses people from all around the world and ethnicities. The museum is a celebration of different cultures coming together resulting in a more diverse and modern outcome.
Relax at the Palm Tree Island
A short boat ride from the main city of Doha, the Palm Tree Island is a sandbar located in the centre of Doha Bay and gives an uninterrupted view of the Corniche. There is nothing on the island except a single palm tree and thus, it is exclusively famous for a quick getaway from the bustle of the city and soak in some silence while watching the beautiful sunrise or sunsets.
Watch a Match at the Khalifa International Stadium
Also known as the National Stadium, the Khalifa International Stadium is used as a multi-purpose stadium for various sports. The stadium has a capacity of around 40,000 people and has already hosted the Finals of 2011 AFC Asian Cup. It is also ready to host a part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and is the first stadium in the world to receive a 4 point ration from GSAS.