Visiting Qatar and searching for things to do in Doha? If you have a layover in Qatar and want to spend one day in Doha, then read our recommendations on what to do in Doha for a day including the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural center, and more. Also read Qatar Itinerary for first-time visitors.
Doha, Qatar is fast becoming a holiday hotspot in the Middle East.
With its glamor and opulence, Doha is soon rivaling the Middle Eastern cities of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, and Beirut as a vacation destination.
Located in the Middle East, Qatar has a rich Bedouin culture and tradition that goes back a long way. In Qatar, you will come face to face with the ancient practice of falconry and see a sprawling collection of Islamic arts.
Doha also has many cultural highlights and interesting traditions. Take a stroll around Souq Waqif or the Katara Cultural Village to discover this side of Doha Qatar.
However, Qatar is not all about history: Doha’s skyline rivals that of New York and Shanghai. The city’s modern buildings feature a stunning blend of traditional and futuristic architecture.
Doha’s culinary scene is inspiring and delicious; it’s also a world-class spa destination with luxurious resorts offering a range of luxury massages.
The best part is that you can easily visit Doha on a layover. In fact, the Doha airport layover is one of the best ways to see this vibrant city of high-rise buildings and shopping malls.
Best Things to do in Doha, Qatar
The history of Qatar is rich and varied. While most Qataris have nomadic Bedouin origins, the towns and villages they established became flourishing pearling centers in the early 18th century and pearl diving was extremely profitable for Qatar.
Later the discovery of oil and gas in the region changed the pace of development and has launched Qatar as the richest country in the world. It is fast becoming a popular tourist destination.
There are several amazing things to do in Doha for families and couples. Our detailed itinerary for 1 day in Doha is perfect for those who want to see the highlights in a short time.
You will also find several options to customize your itinerary as per your interests and Enjoy the most popular Doha attractions.
Explore the sights of Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif is one of the best places to visit in Doha. Steeped in tradition, it is an excellent place to explore on foot, shop for handmade gifts, eat delicious meals, and people watch. Visitors fall in love with the beautiful vibe and atmosphere of this traditional market.
The market has an interesting history. This traditional Qatari standing market is at least 250 years old. However, it was crumbling with age and neglect towards the end of the 20th century.
The Qatari government restored the market to its former magnificence in 2001, making it the city’s most visited and beloved place.
Souq Waqif has everything from traditional stores, restaurants, hotels, pets, and exotic animals like falcons. It is the perfect place to drink some Qatari tea or thick Turkish coffee, smoke a hookah, and see the world pass by.
Have a fancy dinner with your loved one while listening to Arabian music. The best time to visit Souq Waqif is after sunset; it really comes alive at night.
While the main alley has restaurants and souvenir shops, the real Souq Waqif lies hidden inside the side alleys where locals shop for necessities.
You will have a blast exploring these narrow streets full of specialty shops. Purchase spices, porcelain dinnerware, and fine china tea sets, traditional woven rugs, apparel, jewelry, and more.
Souq Waqif also has other interesting souqs linked to it by narrow alleys including the Falcon Souq, where falcons are sold, the pet souq, and the gold souq. You can easily spend two to three hours exploring the market.
See falcons for sale in the Falcon Souq
Falcon Souq is a must-visit while in Doha. Here you can understand the Qatari/Middle Eastern tradition of falconry and even hold a falcon on your arm.
The tradition of falconry has its origins in Qatar’s Bedouin heritage. In ancient times, falcons caught food for the nomadic tribes and were a means of feeding the family. In the modern age, falconry is practiced as a sport and only the richest of Qataris can afford the expensive falcons and their upkeep.
The best place to experience and understand falconry is the Falcon Souq in Doha, located off Souq Waqif. In the souq, you will find falcons and falconry accessories for sale and even a falcon hospital that takes care of the expensive birds.
See the exhibits at the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the best things to do in Doha. It is one of the premier art institutions in the Middle East. The best part is that it is free to visit.
This qatar museum has a stunning collection of Islamic art, architecture specimens, wood carvings, sculptures, calligraphy, jewelry, utensils, astronomical instruments, and more artifacts.
The collection originates from Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is spread over five floors and takes a minimum of 2 hours to view at a leisurely pace.
The Museum of Islamic Art building, built in 2008, has stunning architecture. The building was designed by the famous American Chinese architect, I. M. Pei.
The design has a striking blend of traditional Islamic architecture and modern elements. This visually stunning building enjoys a prominent location on Doha Bay.
We recommend spending a couple of hours here to see the impressive collection and the building from the inside. The Museum Cafe has breathtaking views and is Doha’s top Instagram spot!
We also suggest taking a stroll outside the museum. The museum grounds and Aspire Park have superb views of the Doha skyline.
Enjoy a variety of multicultural cuisines
As Doha has grown into a great expat town, the fine dining opportunities in the city have vastly multiplied. The city has become home to a host of multicultural dining establishments.
Many of the popular restaurants are located in Souq Waqif, along with the Corniche or in Katara Cultural Village. The Friday buffet meals, in particular, are especially popular as they offer an array of items at a fixed price.
If you want to venture beyond the Qatari cuisine, you can try Indian, Iraqi, Lebanese, and even Moroccan dishes in Doha, Qatar. We have tried several exotic meats including a grilled pigeon and camel kebab while in the city.
Cruise the Doha Bay in a traditional boat
Adjacent to the museum of Isalamic Arts, you will find Doha Harbor. It is full of wooden dhow boats that can be hired for a cruise around Doha Bay.
These boats are traditional Qatari fishing boats and cruising in one takes you back in time to when Qatar was a fishing port. The dhow boats are often lit up by string lights at night and look beautiful.
Seeing the Doha Bay on a cruise is one of the most romantic things to do in Doha, Qatar. From the dhow ride, you get to enjoy the views of the Corniche aka the Seafront Promenade and Doha West Bay skyline from up close.
Take a stroll on the Corniche
There are many other attractions located along the Corniche apart from the Doha harbor. If you have time after the dhow ride, then take a stroll on the Corniche.
The walk is long but beautiful. The Corniche is beautifully landscaped and blooming with flowers. Many famous sculptures and public artworks are lined up along the Corniche – the most famous of them being the Pearl Monument.
Other artwork includes the Oryx sculpture, murals depicting the history of Qatar, and monuments. There are also many places where you can sit, relax, and people watch.
This walk is best taken early in the morning or late evening when the sun is low. If you follow the curve of the Corniche, you will reach the West Bay skyline or the new town. This area is full of skyscrapers, luxury resorts and hotels, shopping malls, and eateries.
This area makes you forget that you are in the Middle East. You can spot luxury brands in shopping mall, premium cars on the road, and expat families going about their day.
Tour the National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar, located on the Corniche, is the newest attraction in the city. Opened in 2019, the building attracts many visitors.
The national museum building is a masterpiece. It was constructed by the famous French architect, Jean Nouvel, and resembles the mineral desert rose crystal that is found in Qatar.
The museum is dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of Qatar. You can see various exhibits related to the natural history of the country, Bedouin arts and crafts, tribal wars, the discovery of oil, textiles, books, and more.
See the Msheireb Museums
If you love culture and history, then Doha has another attraction for you, the Msheireb Museum!
The museum complex consists of four historic houses in Msheireb Downtown Doha. The houses are Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed Bin Jassim House, and Radwani House.
Inside each of them you will find history of the nation including pearl diving history of Qatar, the petroleum industry workers and techniques, global slave trade, and more. It is fun to explore the fascinating memorabilia and artifacts.
The houses themselves are majestic and very beautiful to see.
Find the teapot sculpture
One of the best things to do in Doha West Bay is seeing the beautiful Teapot sculpture.
There are teapot and tea motifs all over Qatar and drinking the hot, spicy Karak tea is an indispensable part of Qatari culture. The teapot sculpture is a tribute to that tradition.
The view of the Skyline with the teapot sculpture in the foreground is very beautiful and worth experiencing when in Doha. This is definitely one of the best photo ops in Doha, Qatar.
See Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village located on the eastern part of the coast of Doha between West Bay skyline and the Pearl is a relatively newer attraction in the city.
Katara or Catara was the former Arabic name of Qatar, hence the village’s name. The village of Katara is planned to highlight Qatar’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.
The village has stunning Islamic architecture with beautiful design motifs, intricate lattices, and windows. There are many attractions located in Katara including the Katara mosque, an amphitheater, small boutique shops, fine dining restaurants, and a beach.
The village looks really beautiful at night and the views of the Doha Bay from the katara beach are awesome. You can easily spend an hour to half a day exploring the attractions of Katara.
Get The Riviera Experience At The Pearl
The Pearl Qatar is an artificial island created on the Doha Bay.
The Pearl offers an essentially French Riviera-esque experience and has private yachts rental cruises and grand marinas, luxury homes, and resorts, boutique stores for luxury brands, and a bevy of fine restaurants.
On the Pearl, you can have multicultural cuisines, shop for international branded goods, and indulge in a lot of sightseeing. There are beautiful homes on the beach and the roads are wide and perfectly landscaped.
The Pearl is the best place to spot celebrities in Doha.
Spend time in the Aspire Zone
Aspire Zone in Doha has many attractions including the Aspire Tower, Aspire Park, and Villagio Mall.
Aspire Zone is also home to the Doha Sports City, which is a collection of several sports venues.
Aspire Park is Doha’s biggest park and has fountains, picnic tables, play areas, etc. The views of the Aspire Tower from the park are amazing.
Villagio Mall is the city’s most popular mall and designed to look like Venice with an indoor canal and gondolas. The mall has stores of all international brands and is a paradise for shoppers. The theme park Gondolania is also located inside the mall.
See the Aspire Tower at night
Aspire Tower, also known as The Torch, Doha, is the highlight of a visit to the Aspire Zone. It is the tallest skyscraper in Doha and looks spectacular when lit at night. It is one of the most photographed buildings in the country.
Famous for its intriguing shape, the tower is currently the tallest skyscraper in Doha. Aspire Tower contains a hotel and 360-degree revolving restaurant, only one of its kind in Qatar.
Indulge In World-class Shopping
Akin to Dubai, Doha has an unparalleled shopping experience for shopaholics. If you cannot imagine a vacation without shopping, then Doha is the place for you.
From luxury boutiques to swanky outlets and from ancient souks to modern malls, Doha is full of every kind of shopping experience.
Some of the best places to shop include the traditional Souq Waqif, the Venice-styled Villagio Mall, the glamorous Pearl-Doha, and the bargain hub of Doha Festival City – home to Qatar’s first Ikea.
Enjoy a relaxing spa massage
As Doha has evolved into a modern 21st-century city with rising skyscrapers and majestic shopping malls, a host of luxurious spa resorts have come up to provide a variety of massage and relaxation services for expats and rich clientele.
Most international luxury spa resorts have a presence in Doha and tourists and honeymooning couples can get a range of services including diamond and gold facials and massages. You can also visit the luxury private Banana Island and get a massage.
Things to do near Doha, Qatar
If you have more time in Doha and have seen everything within the city, then check out these amazing experiences and things to do near Doha.
Most of these are located just a few hours away from the city and can be easily seen on a a day trip.
Take a camel ride in the desert
Dune bashing in Khor Al Udeid or Qatar’s inland sea is a memorable experience. Many variations of the Desert Safari are available but to make the best of your time, indulge in a full day or overnight one.
The safari begins with dune bashing over the sand dunes at Khor Al Udeid in a 4 by 4 vehicle. After the safari visitors can enjoy desert rides, swim in the inland sea at Sealine Beach, see falcons and hold them, and camp in a luxury Bedouin tent.
Visit the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
This private museum in Qatar is one of a kind. It showcases the personal collection of Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani, a wealthy sheik of Qatar.
This unique museum is not dedicated to any single type of objects but has a little bit of everything that the Sheikh found worthy of collecting.
Consequently, the museum has religious books, textiles, vintage American cars, motorbikes, boats, musical instruments, fossils, carpets, etc.
Explore The Barzan Towers
Completed in 1916, the sand-colored Barzan Towers served as fortified lookout watchtowers and an observatory in ancient times.
Barzan Towers underwent thorough restoration in 2003 and are magnificent structures in the remote desert. The towers are built in traditional Qatari architecture style and are great to explore on your own.
Bird Watch At The Al Thakira Mangroves
Located near Al Khor, the Al Thakira mangroves are great for outdoor enthusiasts and ecotourism visitors to Qatar.
This large patch of vegetation in the desert environment draws many birds including flamingos and herons due to its unique ecosystem.
The mangroves are best explored by kayaking through the trees and specialized eco operators offer a range of tours.
Attend A Camel Race In Doha’s Al-shahaniya Racetrack
To enjoy the thoroughly Middle-Eastern experience of camel racing, you should visit the Al-Shahaniya racetrack, an hour away from Doha.
Camel racing originated as the sport of the sheiks around the 8th-9th century and today has evolved into a fiercely competitive and expensive sport. The racetrack in Qatar holds events during fall and winter (October to April) on Fridays.
Watching the camels race each other with robot jockeys controlling them is a unique experience.
Spend a day at Aqua Park
Aqua Park Qatar is a water park located near the city. It is a perfect way to beat the summer heat in Doha, Qatar.
The water park has everything from slides, a lazy river, wave pool, jacuzzi, and more. It is a hit with families and even has an onsite restaurant where you can enjoy meals.
Visit The Unesco World Heritage Site Of Al-zubarah Fort
Al-Zubarah Fort, located in the ancient town of Zubarah, has the distinction of being Qatar’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built in 1938, this historic military fort initially served as the Coast Guard station. Later it was converted into a museum and holds important archeological findings.
The entire town of Zubarah is an archeological site that preserves the remains of a flourishing pearling village and an important trading post. The fort is designated as a UNESCO site because it is the best-preserved example of a large merchant town on the Persian Gulf.
To visit the Al-Zubarah Fort, you need to venture outside of Qatar and travel for about 100 km to the northwest coast.
Be Awed By The East-west / West-east Sculpture In The Middle Of The Desert
In the middle of the Qatari desert is a surreal art experience in the form of American artist and sculptor Richard Serra’s East-West / West-East sculpture.
This set of 4 impossibly grand and tall steel plates is installed in the midst of the desert and awes visitors from their first sight.
Located in the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet, the sculpture is 60 kms away from Doha and visitors need to hire a car or take a tour to see the desert sculpture.
See the Ras Abrouq rock formation
This surreal rock formation on the West Coast near Zekreet resembles a lunar landscape. Water and wind have eroded and sculpted the natural limestone rock in spectacular shapes. It is located just an hour away from Doha and can be seen together with the East West sculpture.
Where To Stay In Doha
We recommend staying near the central attraction of Doha’s Souq Waqif as you will be close to all attractions. We stayed in Kingsgate Hotel Doha and recommended it for the low price and great facilities. The rooms were spacious and clean.
Suggested Doha Itineraries
One Day in Doha Itinerary
Use this itinerary for Things to do in Doha for a day if you have a layover ranging anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Our detailed itinerary for spending a day in Doha ensures you get to see the city’s most prominent attractions located in Downtown Doha.
Museum Of Islamic Art, Doha
The #1 stop on your Doha itinerary should be the Museum of Islamic Art. Here you can admire treasures of the past.
Qatar’s premier museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying Islamic Arts through the centuries. The art gallery collection consists of artifacts from Asia, Europe, and Africa; entire rooms are devoted to patterns in architecture, apparel, calligraphy, scientific instruments, and more.
This is a great place to learn about the visual arts produced under the patronage of Islamic rulers in varied parts of the world. Of equal interest is the architecturally stunning building of the Museum.
The Corniche And Dhow Ride
After seeing the Museum of Islamic Arts, take a cruise along the Doha Bay and walk along the Corniche. If your Doha layover starts in the evening, then we suggest beginning your sightseeing by taking a stroll along Doha’s famous Corniche.
Doha’s skyline is one of the most promising ones in the Middle East and its Corniche or the waterfront promenade with palm-lined sidewalks, open streets, and beautifully landscaped green spaces is a delight.
The Corniche and city skyline both line the turquoise waters of the Doha Bay and the best way to enjoy the views are by a cruise in the traditional Qatari fishing boat called the dhow. The sunset dhow rides are especially popular as they have a spectacular view of the glowing skyline.
To end your day, visit Souk Waqif. If you are visiting Doha for a day, Souq Waqif has to be definitely on your to-do list.
Souq Waqif is Doha’s best place to shop, understand the local culture, dine, and people watch. The Souq is a reconstructed old market and very charming.
The Souq has everything from souvenirs and restaurants for tourists to groceries, apparel, and household goods for the locals. The Souq is a good place to settle with a shisha or steaming hot cup of tea or coffee and relax.
The sights, sounds, smells, and activity inside the market are one of Doha’s greatest tourist attractions.
Souq Waqif is a wonderfully restored standing market.
2 Days In Doha
If you have 2 days in Doha, you can venture a bit off the tourist track and explore Doha’s secret attractions away from the city center, using our Doha 2 day itinerary. We recommend spending the first day exactly as we suggested before in Doha one day itinerary.
West Bay Skyline And The Teapot Sculpture
On your second day in Doha, you can walk all the way along the Corniche to West Bay if the weather is good. Then search for the beautiful teapot sculpture in the West Bay area.
The West Bay area is also home to Doha’s beautiful skyline. The city skyline looks brilliant from the teapot sculpture and surrounding garden.
Lunch with a view at the Museum of Islamic Arts cafe
Katara Cultural Village
After seeing West Bay, go to Katara Cultural Village. Katara, named after the ancient name (Katara) of Qatar, is a specially planned cultural district that displays the rich Qatari style of architecture.
Katara is very beautiful and romantic with flickering soft, mellow lights lighting up the sandstone architecture and music drifting down art galleries and restaurants. Katara also has a well-designed mosque, multi-cultural restaurants, and a beach.
Next head out to the Pearl. As we mentioned before, the Pearl is the ultra-luxury artificial island built on the Doha Bay. Here you can go dining or rent a yacht. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can just drive through the area admiring the views and magnificent villas.
For the final stop of the day, visit the Aspire Zone. Here you will find lots of attractions including Aspire Tower, Villagio Mall, and Aspire Park.
The Aspire Tower looks very beautiful at night when it is lit up and we recommend taking a stroll through the adjacent Aspire Park to photograph The Torch in its full glory.
Things to know before you visit Doha
Qatar, like all Middle Eastern countries, is full of exotic and memorable experiences. While it is a small country and visitors mostly concentrate their holidays in and around Doha, Qatar promises a range of experiential travel opportunities throughout its borders.
Here is some important tourist information about Doha, Qatar that you should know before planning a visit.
Where Is Doha City? Is it a country?
Here are some important facts about Doha.
Doha, popularly known as Doha City, is the capital of Qatar. Qatar is a country located in the Middle East next to the Persian Arabian Gulf. It shares land borders with Saudi Arabia and marine borders with Bahrain, Iran, and UAE.
Qatar is an Islamic monarchy and ruled by the Arab Al Thani family. Qatar makes significant revenue from its oil and natural gas reserves and based on per capita income, is the richest country in the world.
That’s right – Qatar is the Luxembourg of the Middle East!
Are Qatar And Doha Safe To Visit?
When it comes to the Middle East, most visitors are naturally concerned about safety.
Qatar is very safe to visit. In fact, it is one of the safest countries in the world and has a low rate of crime. It is safe to visit and travel for most tourists, including solo women and families with kids.
You do need to exercise usual caution like not traveling alone in deserted areas and keeping valuables safe.
Also, tourists should remember that Qatar is an Islamic country so alcohol, public displays of affection, and revealing clothing is frowned upon and can even get you in trouble.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Doha?
The best time to visit Doha, Qatar is from fall to spring. The temperature is most optimal from February to April or May and September to November.
June to August are peak summer months and the heat on the Arab peninsula, where Qatar is located, is too stifling.
If you are traveling during the summer months, we suggest taking it slow and being prepared for the heat by bringing along hats, glasses, and sunscreen. Also, ensure that you stay hydrated.
December and January are Qatar’s winter months and while the day is still pleasant, night temperatures drop rapidly as it is located in the desert. It can also rain during these months.
Pack warm sweaters or jackets and hats plus scarves if visiting in the winter.
Exhibits at the Museum of Islamic arts
Can you see Doha on a layover?
You can easily see the city on a Doha airport layover while visiting another destination in Asia or Oceania.
Adding a one-day to multi-day layover in Qatar or a small Doha stopover when booking your itinerary through Qatar Airways is very inexpensive. The country has an extremely visa-friendly policy and has free visa or arrival for citizens of over 80 countries.
Most of Qatar’s tourist attractions are concentrated around Doha and can be easily seen in a short time. Even if you venture further from Doha, Qatar is a small country and can be completely seen in 3 to 4 days.
For some long layovers, you might also get a free hotel and free airport guided city tour courtesy of Qatar Airway.
Is One Day In Doha Enough?
That’s a tricky question. Doha is not as sprawling as New York or London. Visitors can actually cover a lot of attractions in Doha in one day if you don’t have more time.
However, if you want to explore everything that Doha and Qatar have to offer, then we would suggest spending at least 3 to 4 days in Doha.
We hope you liked our post on Best Things to do in Doha. Did we miss any popular Doha attractions? stops? Drop us a comment and let us know!