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Planning a visit to Qatar and looking for the best Qatar itinerary? You’ve come to the right place! This 3 days in Qatar itinerary is the perfect introduction to the country that will be hosting the World Cup in 2022. There’s so much more to Qatar than meets the eye.
Despite its small size (4,486 mi²), it’s actually the richest country in the world. And with 2.5 million people (but only half a million Qataris), it’s a multicultural destination that exceeds expectations at every turn. I’ve written an extensive 3 days in Doha itinerary to help you make the best of a short period of time here – and encourage you to visit again and and again.
Table of Contents
Arrival in Qatar: How to Get to Doha
In an ideal world, you’ll arrive the evening before your first full day in Qatar and get a good night’s sleep. Although you can arrive to Doha on a cruise ship, the more popular mode of transportation is to fly into Hamad International Airport. Qatar Airways usually offers the best deals (and the most comfortable planes) for flights to Doha but be sure to check out Skyscanner for the best flight deals!
3 Day Qatar Itinerary: Day One in Doha
The majority of the things do in Qatar are in Doha so this post could interchangeably be called a Doha itinerary or a Qatar itinerary. The first day of this Doha itinerary is a bit action-packed, but it’s designed to help you make the most of your time while in Doha. I personally found that I was happy spending around 2 hours in each of the two museums but you can always adjust this itinerary according to your level of interest in Islamic art and / or Qatari history.
The Imam Abdul Wahaab Shaikh Mosque
Start your day with a visit to the impressive Imam Abdul Wahaab Shaikh Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Qatar. The architecture and design here is truly a work of art – understated with spectacular attention to detail. It is open to non-Muslims as long as it isn’t prayer time. Women are helped into abayas at the women’s entrance and men are expected to show up dressing appropriately (covering knees and shoulders). It has over 90 domes and can accommodate 30,000 people, so prepare to be impressed.
Next, take a bus or Uber to your next stop, the Msheireb Musuems.
Although you would never guess by the way the country looks now, Qatar was once a desolate desert with an economy fueled by pearl fishing. I learned this and much more at the Msheireb Museums, located in Doha’s old cultural capital. This collection of museums, comprising of four different buildings, showcase not just the history of Qatar and Doha, but also family and cultural life and architectural innovation and development. However, my favorite building is Bin Jelmood House, focused entirely on the historical and modern day slave trade. The museum doesn’t shy away from addressing the role various countries (including Qatar) have played and continue to play in both historical and modern slavery. This topic is so easily glossed over in the United States and I really appreciate how Qatar addresses it directly. This is by far one of the best history and cultural museums I’ve been to worldwide and is truly not to be missed during a visit to Doha. Admission is free.
Lunch at Souq Waqif or IDAM
At this point, you’ll have two options: either you can stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants at the Souq Waqif, (20 minute walk from the Msheireb Musuems) or you can continue to the Museum of Islamic Art and eat lunch at the cafe there. The choice is yours.
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
Walk 20 minutes (take a shortcut through the Souq) to arrive at the Museum of Islamic Art. Located on the Doha Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art is home to the largest collection of Islamic art in the world. Designed by IM Pei (the architect behind The Louvre), the museum has seriously impressive and beautiful art pieces from three continents: everything from pottery to jewelry to weapons. Even the building itself is a postmodern work of art, with the top curved windows shaped like a pair of eyes, fondly known as “the eyes of Doha.” Gorgeous plazas flank either side of the museum, boasting some spectacular views of the Doha skyline. And of course, just outside, the MIA Park has plenty of green space for relaxing and people watching, plus a café to boot. If you’re hungry, grab lunch inside at IDAM, Alain Ducasse’s first restaurant in the Middle East. Have I sold you on this place yet? Oh yeah – admission is free here too.
After a bustling day exploring the city, relax with a sunset cruise around the waterfront in a dhow, a traditional wooden boat. You’ll get spectacular views of the Doha skyline, the Museum of Islamic Arts, The Pearl, and more. You’ll have the option of doing a one-hour cruise or a three-one, which includes dinner. Book it ahead of time here.
Explore and eat dinner at Souq Waqif
End your day by exploring, shopping and eating at the Souq Waqif. Easily my favorite spot in Doha, the Souq Waqif pays homage to the traditional marketplaces of the country from the pearl-diving days. Despite being renovated in 2006 after a fire, it still retains authentic Qatari architecture and is the best place to shop for souvenirs. You could easily spend hours and hours exploring the Souq – luckily, it doesn’t close until 10 pm. While I recommend wandering around and taking in all the sights and smells, be sure not to miss any of the main attractions listed below. Grab a map from the Souq Waqif Information & Tourism Center and go!
- The Falcon Souq: Falconry is a traditional Qatari sport still practiced today, and these majestic birds retail for thousands of dollars. In the falcon area of the market, be sure to visit the shop dedicated to selling all things related to the birds (including falcons themselves). You can even get a photo of yourself holding one. If you’re even more curious, stop by the nearby Falcon Hospital and check out the falcon waiting room and pharmacy. It’s fascinating!
- The Gold Souq: Ornate jewelry, anyone? The section of the souq dedicated to gold is almost as beautiful as the gold itself. Here you’ll find a wide variety of stunning pieces, although you’ll likely be more tempted to just window shop in this area.
- The Bird Souq: Falcons aren’t the only bird species that Qataris purchase. You’ll hear the bird souq before you see it, thanks to the incredible and slightly overwhelming number of species available for sale.
- The Horse Stables: For a bit of calm away from the chaos of the central souq, head over to The Horse Stables and bid your salams to the horses used by the souq’s heritage police (aka security). Don’t worry though, visitors are encouraged.
- The Camel Pen: If you haven’t quite gotten your fill of animals, scope out the camel pen to watch the camels enjoy their evening meal.
- Local Art: The Souq Waqif Art Center showcases works by both local and international artists. You’ll find everything from Islamic Calligraphy to photography to paintings.
- The Shops: If you’re looking to purchase souvenirs from Qatar, Souq Waqif is the place to do it! You’ll find a large collection of your typical souvenirs like magnets and trinkets, but you can also purchase traditional Qatari goods. Qatar is known for Oud, a strong incense sold in both perfume and wood form that is a favorite amongst locals. Spices are also a popular gift, along with clothing, dates, and more.
- The Food: Souq Waqif is home to an impressively large collection of restaurants, both Qatari and otherwise. Whether you’re here for a snack, a meal, or a coffee stop, there are plenty of drinks and bites to satisfy your craving.
Eat dinner at The Souq Waqif. Qatari traditional food is surprisingly hard to come by, especially due to the large influence of international flavors in the country. However, if you’re looking to try some local dishes, stop by either Al Jasra Traditional Food or Shay al Shomoos for a taste of balaleet (sweetened noodles topped with egg) or makboos (spiced rice topped with protein). If international cuisine is what you’re after, don’t miss the heavenly Iranian eats found at Parisa, the Persian restaurant that is as sparkly as it is delicious.
Qatar Itinerary: Day Two in Qatar
While there are plenty of things to do and see in Doha, on your second day, you’ll experience what to do in Qatar outside of the city center. Be prepared to spend at least a few hours in the car today. The earlier you start, the better.
Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea), Dune Bashing and Camel Rides
After an hour or so drive, you’ll arrive at the entrance to the desert, where you can do an optional camel ride while your driver removes air from the car tires in preparation for dune bashing. Dune bashing is exactly the exhilarating adventure it sounds like – sliding down desert dunes sideways in a car. It takes anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes to arrive at Khor Al Adaid, the sea where Qatar meets Saudi Arabia (you can actually see Saudi from the shoreline). It’s also a beautiful place to dip your toes in or swim, if you so choose. Depending on your choice of tour, you will either return to Doha after a stop for some refreshments or continue on to lunch.
Note: If you choose the half-day tour, you’ll likely arrive back to your hotel around 2pm. If so, you can easily choose to do any of the other activities I recommend in my things to do in Doha post.
Regency Sealine Camp (Overnight)
Spending the night in the desert is easily one of the highlights of this Qatar itinerary and what better way to camp than in style at the Regency Sealine Camp? While the above-mentioned overnight tour takes place at a typical Bedouin camp, Regency Sealine is for those who want both the beach resort and camping experience rolled into one. You get nice beds, bathrooms, and AC, and the private beach is right outside your door. Treat yourself!
Note: If you decide you don’t want to camp, I still recommend the full-day safari, which ends with a visit to Souq al Wakra. If you choose the half-day tour, add other activities to your Qatar itinerary from this post.
Doha Itinerary: Day Three in Doha
With the exception of the Fire Station and Racing Club, the majority of suggestions on day 3 are in Education City. Although it’s not really a “tourist attraction,” I think it’s one of the coolest parts of Doha. Education City is basically utopia for students: a collection of top universities and schools in one area with impressive services to match. While this may seem like a strange addition to the Doha itinerary, it’s home to some unique cultural icons of Doha. If these spots don’t appeal to you, you can always check out my guide to the best things to do in Doha for additional suggestions.
Doha Fire Station
Start off your day with a visit to Doha’s coolest art gallery, Fire Station (Be sure to check online to see if you’d be interested in the current exhibition). Not only are the contents of this contemporary art gallery fascinating, so is the building itself. Operating as a fire station until 2012 (hence, the name), it was then gifted to the father Emir, who wanted a space for cultural expression. Thus, Fire Station was born, starting as a standalone gallery and later expanding to include an artist-in-residence program. While I was there, they were hosting an amazing exhibit about the plight of refugees (“Laundromat” by Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei). Attached to the Fire Station is Café 999, a peaceful place to work, grab a drink or some food, or people watch.
Qatar National Library
For your next stop, you can take the free shuttle bus (called the “Mathaf” bus) that will take you from Fire Station to the Qatar National Library in Education City.
I have this thing with libraries and bookstores. When I was little, I used to always tell people I would buy a bookstore if I were a millionaire. So when I found out that Doha has a beautiful library, I knew I had to visit. If you’re anything like me, this library will feel like a playground. Not only is it absolutely stunning, but it also has a plethora of amazing resources: a heritage library with historical written collections, a 3D printer, a quiet study corner, a café, and more. It has everything you would ever need in a work / study space and is easily one of my favorite spots in the city.
Mosque at Education City
Just a ten-minute walk from QNL is by far the most unique mosque I’ve ever set eyes on (and as a Muslim, I’ve been to a lot of mosques). The design is ultra-modern, set on five pillars to represent the five pillars of Islam, because symbolism. Inside, the white and pristine staircase leads up to the women’s section overlooking the men’s prayer area. There are also little skylights and windows to let natural light in. Every piece of this mosque’s design is exquisite. Definitely make a point to stop in, even it’s just for a quick peek.
Lunch at Chef’s Garden
At this point, you’re probably eager for lunch. Although there are lots of food spots in the student recreation center in Education City, Chef’s Garden is an ideal choice for those who don’t want to relive their college days. Located inside Marwan’s Club in Al Shaqab, this café offers a selection of lunchtime bites. If the weather cooperates, I highly recommend the outdoor terrace overlooking a garden. You can get here either by walking for 30 minutes or by taking a quick Uber, depending on how hot it is.
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Just a 15-minute walk from Chef’s Garden lies Oxygen Park. I was honestly surprised to find so many green spaces in Doha, especially considering that it’s a large city in the middle of the desert. Oxygen Park is one such space, designed to encourage people to get out and play, so to speak. One of the coolest parts is the design, with cooling tunnel segments for those running in the desert heat, recreation areas for rest and observation, and a small hill with views of Education City. It’s a fifteen-minute walk from Chef’s Garden and a design-lover’s dream – just another aspect that makes this area of Doha a must-visit.
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club
Now that you’ve had your fill of Education City, it’s time for some evening excitement. If you’re in Doha on a Wednesday or Thursday between November and April, don’t miss attending a race at the Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club. It’s one of the best horse training centers in the world, and admission to the races is free. I’d never been to a horse race prior to this and was fortunate to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility. Not only is the venue gorgeous, but the horses are incredibly well taken care of as well. Plus, the racing atmosphere is thrilling, even if you’re a dummy like me and don’t actually understand how to read the program.
Dinner in Doha
You have a few different options for where to go to dinner on day 3 in Doha. It depends entirely on how you’re feeling. Note that all of these options will take some time with public transportation, so I recommend taking an Uber instead.
If you’re hungry after the horse races and are looking for somewhere nearby for dinner, you can eat at one of the many restaurants at the nearby Villaggio Mall (which is worth adding to your Qatar itinerary). Alternatively, you can head to The Torch in Aspire Park – Qatar’s tallest building with plenty of dining options.
Otherwise, you can make your way back to West Bay (where the majority of hotels are located) and eat there. I strongly recommend a meal at Al Mourjan. Located directly on The Corniche, the views of Doha’s skyline can’t be beat – plus it’s a nice chance to enjoy the evening breeze outside. The Mediterranean food menu is pretty spectacular as well.
If you still have energy and want to explore / hang out a bit after dinner, head to either The Pearl or Katara Village. Both have plenty of restaurant options and are great places to walk around or have a late(r) night out. You can also dine at either of these places if you prefer – just use Zomato as a resource to find good eats.
Since most people only spend a few days in Doha, this Qatar itinerary provides the highlights of what to see with 3 days in Doha (and beyond). Don’t worry if you have more than 3 days Qatar – there’s no shortage of things to do.
Extending your trip: what else to add to your Qatar itinerary
If you have more than 3 days in Qatar and are looking for an even more comprehensive guide to the best things to do, be sure to check out my ultimate Qatar guide here.
Where to Eat in Doha
I really wanted to eat at enough restaurants that weren’t chains or hotel restaurants to write a solid list here, but I ultimately failed. With the exception of balaleet, makboos, and Om Ali, Qatari cuisine is basically international fusion. Balaleet and makboos can be eaten at either Al Jasra Traditional Food or Shay al Shomoos and the best Om Ali (think Arab bread pudding) can be found at Al Hubara at The Sheraton Grand.
In Qatar you can easily find a large variety of international food and chains. Some of my favorite places to eat were Parisa (Souq Waqif), Nobu (The Four Seasons), Al Mourjan (West Bay), and Sridan (The Shangri-La). Zomato is a great local resource for finding good eats.
Where to Stay in Doha
Many well-known hotel chains have properties along West Bay, the heart of Doha. Due to its central location, it’s my pick for the best neighborhood to stay in Doha. I stayed at the Sheraton Grand Doha, which was actually the first five star hotel in the country. The views and rooms were amazing, the service and amenities were exquisite and the food was delicious. Plus, it has its own beach and several pool. I highly recommend it.
If big chains aren’t your style, then it doesn’t get more boutique than the collection of boutique hotels at Souq Waqif. I toured a bunch of them and each is more beautiful than the last. What’s more, you can use the amenities from the different hotels (spa, pool, etc) so you can get the full luxury experience.
Alternatively, check out my other recommendations below.
Musherib Hotel (Budget-Friendly)
This charming budget-friendly hotel is located just a 5-minute walk from Souq Waqif and offers an impressive array of amenities for its price point. Rooms are clean, comfortable, and spacious, equipped with kettles, coffee makers, safes. The hotel also includes a gym, spa, and restaurant on-site. Overall, this hotel is the whole package and an excellent accommodation choice in Doha.
Ezdan Hotel Doha (Mid-Range)
Located in the West Bay, this 4-star hotel is for those that are looking for an upgrade from “standard” accommodation that won’t break your bank. Rooms are modern, bright, and spacious, with spectacular views of the city. The staff is incredibly helpful and accommodating, the location is perfect, and there are plenty of awesome amenities including two swimming pools, a fitness center, two restaurants, and a supermarket. If a mid-range boutique-style hotel is what you’re after, this is where you should stay!
Sheraton Grand Doha (Splurge)
If you want to treat yourself, what better place to do so than in Qatar’s original 5-star hotel? This is where I stayed the first time I visited Doha, and it was truly spectacular. This luxury hotel boasts large and comfortable rooms with gorgeous decor, balconies, bathtubs, and a small seating area (yes, even in the standard room). What’s more, you’ll have access to a private beach (for hotel guests only), three swimming pools, a state-of-the-art gym, and 7 restaurants on-site. What more could you need?
Qatar Packing List and What to Wear in Qatar
Qatar, although home to lots of expats, is still a pretty conservative country. While you don’t have to wear a headscarf or abaya, visitors and residents alike dress nicely and conservatively. For both men and women, that means covering up until your shoulders and knees at least. T-shirts and pants and/or long skirts are preferred. Below are some items that I recommend.
- Blouses / Shirts: For when you’re out and about, you’ll want to bring along some cute tops (short or long-sleeved depending on your sensitivity to the sun). People generally don’t dress sloppily so keep that in mind when choosing clothes. Just make sure whatever you pack is lightweight!
- Lightweight, loose pants: Qatar is on the warmer side all-year round so you’ll want loose and lightweight everything, including pants. I’m a fan of this particular style but anything lightweight, but not sloppy, will do. Mix and match according to the season and your personal style.
- Dresses: Bring a few nicer casual dresses that you can wear both during the day and in the evening. Make sure you bring something that covers below the knee and either covers your shoulders or can be paired with a cardigan.
- Skirts: Depending on your style, having a couple of lightweight, maxi skirts is a lifesaver. Make sure they’re long and they match with your tops!
- Large scarf or shawl: Having a large scarf on hand is super helpful for impromptu mosque visits or to protect your skin when the sun is feeling just a little too strong. Plus, it’s a cute accessory for an outfit as well!
- Sun hat: Your skin will want a break from the strong Qatari sun, especially if you’re prone to burning. Check out your options here.
- Sunscreen: You’re in the desert and the sun is super strong so do not forget to back sunscreen! I’m a huge fan of this Neutrogena sunscreen because it doesn’t leave your skin feeling gross and greasy. For the rest of me, I use the solid body stick, which works well.
- Water bottle: This insulated water bottle is particularly awesome because it holds 20 oz and keeps water cold, which you’ll want in a hot country like Qatar. Also yes, you can drink tap water in Qatar.
- Sandals: I love these Keen sandals because they’re cute and super comfortable to walk in all day. I bring them with me everywhere and they haven’t failed me yet.
- All-purpose sneakers: Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to Allbirds, these awesome wool sneakers that don’t make your feet sweat (even if you wear them without socks). Then I found out they’re made of Merino Wool, which explains the magic behind them. They’re cute, they’re functional, and they’re comfy AF. You can wear them to hike up a mountain or to explore a new city. They’re my go-to travel shoes and if they get dirty, I can throw them in the wash.
And in case you’re curious, these are all my must-have travel essentials no matter where I’m going!
Other Things to Know Before Visiting Qatar
Do I need a visa to visit Qatar?
At the time of writing (February 2020), there was no visa fee for the stamp on arrival. You do have to have a departure ticket already booked. Many nationalities have the same luxury of fee-free visas, but of course, double check before buying your plane ticket.
What’s the best time to visit Qatar?
Firmly rooted in the desert, Qatar has two temperatures: warm and hot. A lot (but not all) of Qatar’s tourism involves outdoor activities like dune bashing, the beaches, the Souq and The Corniche, so it’s best visited during cooler months, when temperatures are in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit.
November – March: Tourism is relatively light in Qatar, so it’s easy to visit during peak season and still avoid tourists to some extent. October and April are still on the hotter side, reaching averages of 90 Fahrenheit. Instead, visit between November and March, when averages range between the 70s and 80s. Note that most places in Qatar are heavily air conditioned, so keep that in mind for packing.
What currency do they use in Qatar?
Qatar uses Qatari Rials, and at the time of writing this post (February 2020), the rate was about USD $1 to QR 3.64. Credit cards are widely accepted and there are plenty of ATM machines for withdrawing cash. Exchange rates are pretty consistent throughout Doha, so you can easily change money at the airport, if you’d like.
What language is spoken in Qatar?
The official language of Qatar is Arabic, but English is widely spoken, due to the high population of expats living in the country. You can easily get by speaking English, although it’s always nice to learn some Arabic phrases ahead of time, for fun.
Is Qatar Safe?
I always feel like I need to address this anytime I write about the Arab world because you know, the media sucks. The reality is that Qatar is one of the safest countries in the world. As in, many people don’t lock their front doors safe. Crime is virtually unheard of and as a woman, I would have no qualms about traveling here solo. So throw whatever stereotypes you have about The Middle East out the window and come visit for yourself.
Transportation in Doha
Doha recently opened an extensive metro and bus system with lines covering transport to most places around Doha. It’s super clean and efficient and takes you to the majority of the places on this list. If you’d like to visit some of the places outside of Doha, you have a few options: renting a car, taking Uber / cabs, or booking tours. Driving in Doha is relatively straightforward in the sense that signs are bilingual and drivers generally follow the rules of the road. However, Google Maps is hit and miss due to ever-changing construction and if you want to do any desert excursions, you’ll need a 4×4 and a local who knows the road. Depending on how long you’ll be visiting, you may not need to rent a car.
So there you have it: the best Qatar itinerary for 3 days in Qatar. Whether you choose to spend all 3 days in Doha or get out and explore the desert (as you should), there’s definitely something awesome for everyone in this small country in The Middle East.
Tell me: What do you think of this Doha itinerary? Would you spend all your time in the city or go out and explore the rest of Qatar?
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