Looking for the best things to do in Doha, Qatar? You’ve come to the right place! I’ve visited Doha twice and spent three weeks traveling there and I’m excited to share my favorite things to do in Qatar.
Before I jump right in and start rambling about what to do in Qatar, I thought I’d offer a little introduction to the country. While soccer fans know it as the host for the 2022 World Cup and frequent travelers are familiar with its impressive airport, 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.
While its small size means you have zoom in on Google Maps to see it, it also signifies that you can see a fair amount of the country in a short period of time. I’ve written an extensive guide to the best things to do in Qatar to help you make the best of your time there: whether it’s for a long layover, a few days, or two weeks.
Pssst: Don’t forget to check out my 3 day Qatar itinerary to help you plan a trip!
Table of Contents
The Best Things to do in Doha, Qatar
Doha Souqs and Cultural Centers
One of the best ways to get a pulse on Qatari culture is by visiting the local markets and cultural centers. I’ve included all of these places in the below section – they’re easily some of the top places to see in Doha!
If you ask anyone what to do in Doha, Souq Waqif is likely to the first suggestion. 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 and definitely one of the top Qatar attractions!
- 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. 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.
Al Wakrah Souq
Al Wakrah is a small but charming souq located on the Arabian Gulf about half an hour south of West Bay. There aren’t many places in Doha where you can walk around and enjoy the breeze, but at Al Wakrah you can. It also has some restaurants, shops, and cafes. Admittedly, the souq is not a top Qatar tourist attraction since it’s on the emptier side in terms of shop occupants and customers but it is a nice place for a meal and a stroll.
The Pearl is a man-made island off the coast of the West Bay. It’s what I would call a “residential destination,” complete with great restaurants, luxury shops, a couple of hotels, and even canals where you can take boat rides and stand up paddle board. One of the reasons it was built was to fuel foreign real estate investment in Qatar; it’s the only place non-Qataris are allowed to purchase land. It’s essentially an Arabian Rivera – not totally my style but should still be on your list of places to visit in Doha.
Katara Village is Doha’s culture and recreation center, home to art galleries, theaters, performance venues, and more. A lot of creative workshops and events take place here but it’s also an attractive tourist spot as well. Here you’ll find a beautiful promenade, plenty of good restaurants, well-designed buildings and a public beach. I’m personally a fan of the galleries and architecture here and consider it one of the things to see in Doha. Be sure to check to see if there are any cultural shows going on while you’re in town.
Doha’s Top Museums and Galleries
There are plenty of amazing museums to visit in Doha, each more amazing than the last. These are a few of the best ones I visited, but there are always more to be seen. Also, note that there’s actually a free shuttle bus (called “Mathaf Bus”) that runs between the following museums: Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the Qatar National Library, Fire Station, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Qatar National Museum.
National Museum of Qatar
Opened in 2019, the National Museum of Qatar is an immersive audio-visual experience showcasing the history of Qatar in a unique way. The architecture is beautiful, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel to mimic a desert rose. Inside, you’ll find everything from ancient artifacts to documentary materials to interactive displays. It’s quite the unique experience and well-worth the visit. Admission fee is QR 50.
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 one of the best things to do in Qatar. Admission is free.
Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
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.
Doha Fire Station Art Gallery
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. Be sure to check online to see if you’d be interested in the current exhibition. However, if you’re wondering what to see in Doha from a contemporary art perspective, be sure to check out Fire Station.
Qatar National Library
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. Note: Although I wouldn’t classify this library as a museum per say, it’s in this section because it’s part of the free museum shuttle route and it does have a few artifact displays.
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Musuem (FBQ Musuem)
This impressive museum is actually a somewhat eclectic personal collection of items belonging to Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, an influential Qatari businessman. The museum is separated into four sections: Qatar heritage, Islamic art, coins and currency, and vehicles. The items are all impressive and fascinating, but the true highlight here is the Sheikh’s vintage car collection with over 600 working vintage vehicles. It’s a car lover’s dream! This museum has a collection for anyone and everyone so come and see it for yourself. Entrance fee is QR 30.
Unique Outdoor Activities in Doha
After a bustling day exploring the city, one of the best things to do in Doha is to 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.
Camel Races at Al Shahaniya
Every Friday from November to February, you can watch camel races at the Al-Shahaniya Race Track, located an hour north of Doha. Even if there are no races, visitors can view practice sessions at 9:30 am or 5:30 pm. And because this is The Middle East, this is where you can find the most expensive camels in the world. Definitely an activity that’s unique to Qatar! Note: Qatar now uses remote-controlled robots to ride camels during races rather than human jockeys because of safety. I have not found any research indicating that camel racing is cruel. However, if you are reading this and are knowledgeable about the ethics of camel racing, please share your insights.
Qatar Racing and Equestrian Club
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.
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Aspire Park is Doha’s largest park and located 20-30 minutes outside of West Bay. It’s a beautiful green area with a lake, animals, running paths, cafes and more. They also have a ton of amazing street art and these cool trees that look like they’re pregnant. While Aspire Park isn’t one of the top ten things to do in Doha or anything, it’s definitely the best green area to spend the day outside if you have time to spare.
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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. P.S. If you’re looking for some of the best parks of Doha, check out this post.
Walk along the Corniche
Doha has an iconic skyline and what better way to see it than by walking along the Corniche in West Bay? Unless you’re visiting during the winter months, this is an activity best saved for the evening or early morning. I recommend coming at sunset for amazing lighting. Be sure not to miss the West-Mound Skyline Viewpoint for excellent views as well.
Beautiful Doha Mosques Well-Worth the Visit
The Imam Abdul Wahaab Shaikh Mosque
Don’t miss a visit to the impressive Imam Abdul Wahaab Shaikh Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the country and one of the must see places 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 dressed appropriately (covering knees and shoulders). It has over 90 domes and can accommodate 30,000 people, so prepare to be impressed.
Mosque at Education City
This 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 #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.
Other Cool Things to Do in Doha
Run by the Qatar Foundation, Al Shaqab is a state-of-the-art horse facility where Arabian show horses are trained and bred. Visitors can go behind the scenes for a tour of the facility to gain an understanding of the history and horses. As someone who knows nothing about this world, it was really interesting to see how much care and effort goes into raising horses – they even have their own spa and treadmill! Note: If you’re interested in doing a tour at Al Shaqab, you have to book it ahead of time by filling out the form on their website.
Although I’m not a huge mall person, even I’ll admit that it’s worth adding the Villaggio to your “places to visit in Qatar” list. The mall is, in a word, epic, with pretty much any and every international store you can imagine. That’s not all, though. The inside architectures and decor is inspired by Venice, complete with rideable gondolas, colorful storefront facades, and painted ceilings. The attention to detail is truly spectacular. I know it’s strange that a mall is a Qatar attraction but this one is pretty cool.
Dine at “The Torch” in Aspire Park
The Aspire Tower, fondly known as “The Torch” is the tallest building in Qatar that doubles as a hotel. I wouldn’t recommend staying here as it’s a bit far from Central Doha but you should definitely visit for some epic panoramic views of the city. Here you’ll find Three Sixty, the only revolving restaurant in Doha but there are quite a few dining options depending on your mood and budget. I had lunch at Flying Carpet and found the food to be a bit underwhelming but overall enjoyed the visit and the incredible views. Bonus – it’s connected to the above-mentioned Villaggio Mall, so it’s easy to visit both in one go.
Go on a food tour at Souq Waqif
If you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Qatar for foodies, this is it! Sample a mix of Qatari and international cuisine at the Souq Waqif on this three-hour food and cultural tour! Not only will you get a chance to thoroughly explore the Souq through a foodie lens but you’ll also be treated to a visit to the Msheireb Museums, which are low-key some of my favorite museums in Doha. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes-look of the Falcon Souq, which is a highlight of the Souq Waqif. You’re guaranteed to leave this tour full of both food and cultural knowledge! Book it here.
If you happen to have free time and a car handy, check out the Barzan Tower in the suburbs of Doha. The towers served as a lookout point for ships and local pearl divers back in the early 1900s. Since restoration in 2003, they’re now equipped with air conditioning – fancy! Nowadays, it serves as a cool viewpoint as well as the lunar observation spot to determine the start of Ramadan. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the top things to do in Doha or anything but it’s worth a visit if you have the time.
The Best Day Trips from Doha: Things to Do Outside Doha
Fun fact: some of the best things to do in Doha are actually outside Doha, but luckily the country is small enough that nothing is more than a few hours away by car. If you’re short on time and can only do one day trip, I highly recommend a desert excursion – it’s an unforgettable Qatar experience.
Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea), Dune Bashing and Camel Rides
The Inland Sea is truly one of the best places to visit in Qatar, especially if you’re looking to get out of the city for a bit. Unless you’re renting a 4×4, you actually can’t visit the desert independently. Therefore, I recommend booking a half-day, full-day, or overnight tour for a desert adventure.
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.
Regency Sealine Camp
If you’d like to get out of Doha a night for a taste of desert glamping, then Regency Sealine Camp is for you. 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. This is where you treat yourself.
Banana Island is a luxury man-made island resort run by Anantara and one of the top places to visit in Qatar (outside Doha). It’s fancy AF, has its own private beach (naturally) and can be accessed by a ferry at Souq Waqif. Think of it as a mini vacation from your vacation. While you can stay here overnight, you can also experience a day of luxury with a day pass as well. It’s actually a pretty good deal and much better than the hotel beaches within the city center.
On the West Coast of Qatar lies Film City, an entire city built as a film set for an Arabic TV show. It neighbors Mystery Village, also built for the same show, but both places are located in the real city of Zekreet. While nobody actually lives here, it depicts what a traditional village from the past may have looked like. The surrounding landscape is quite picturesque with unique rock formations shaped by the wind and if you’re lucky, you can even spot some Oryx grazing nearby. You will need a 4×4 to visit so best to either book a tour or make some local friends with cars. More information about visiting can be found here.
Ras Abrouq Rock Formations
Similar to those found in the White Desert in Egypt, the Ras Abrouq formations are limestone structures that have been sculpted by the sand and wind over thousands of years. The Zekreet Peninsula where the formations are located is a popular place to swim and can easily be combined with a visit to Film City and the East/West West/East sculpture on a day trip. If you’ve never seen limestone formations before, I highly recommend adding this to your list of things to do in Qatar; they’re truly out of this world.
East/West West/East Sculptures
Richard Serra, the minimalist sculptor and artist was commissioned to create a piece in Qatar and thus, the East/West West/East sculptures were born. Consisting of four fourteen-meter-high steel plates, it spans the greatest area of any of his pieces. This area is only accessible by a 4×4 or on this tour.
Al Thakira Mangroves
Drive an hour north of Doha and you’ll find the beautiful Al Thakira Mangroves. Mangroves are trees that thrive in hot and muddy conditions and the ones in Qatar are home to a host of vegetation and wildlife. The best way to explore this lush area is by kayak, which can be booked either independently or in combination with a visit to Al Zubarah Fort here.
Al Zubarah Fort
Once a thriving trade center and pearl fishing port, Al Zubarah is Qatar’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the best-preserved examples of an 18th-19th century merchant town in the region and showcases how towns were developed based on the interconnectivity between sand and sea. Al Zubarah is located on the Northwest coast of Qatar and you can take a bus there (Route 100 from Al Ghanim Bus Station) but I personally feel like it’s best combined with Al Thakira since both are half-day experiences.
Dahl Al Misfir Cave
Just 45 minutes west of Doha is a forty-meter-deep cave that glows (slightly) with phosphorescent gypsum crystals. You can climb down into it and maybe see owls if you’re lucky. I don’t know if it’s worth the trek *just* to see the cave but it’s there if you want to check it out.
Transport 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.
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?
I wasn’t kidding when I said in the introduction that this was the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Doha and Qatar. Although many people stop in Qatar for just a few days, there are an impressive number of things to do and see. If you’re looking to just get a taste of what Qatar has to offer, the Doha Stopover program is a good choice. However, if you’d really like to explore the country, stay for a few days or even a week; you might find that there’s more to Qatar than meets the eye.
Tell me: Would you be interested in visiting Qatar? Which activity most appeals to you?
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