Heading to Doha for the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Looking to explore the city in between football games? Discover the best things to do in Doha, from desert adventures to fascinating cultural experiences.
Doha is one of the most fascinating cities in the world.
Thirty years ago, there was next to nothing there.
Post oil-boom, there now stands a city with thriving food scene, plenty of history to uncover and one of the grandest skylines you’ll ever see.
And then there’s the desert, with all its wonders, just waiting to be explored.
I lived in Doha as an expat for a few months and it was one of the most memorable and exciting times of my life so far.
So if you’re planning a stopover in Doha, make sure you get out and explore everything this city has to offer.
Read on to discover the best things to do in Doha and make the most of your trip.
This guide to Doha’s attractions will cover:
Where to stay in Doha
I lived in two hotels while I was in Doha (I know, of all the luck, right?) so both of these come highly recommended.
↠ Mövenpick Hotel West Bay is great if you’re staying for a few days and would like to have access to some amenities, as some rooms are have a kitchenette. There’s a lovely indoor pool and gym area, which you can use to balance out Mövenpick’s trademark chocolate hour.
↠ Marriott Marquis City Center is centrally located and conveniently attached to one of Doha’s largest shopping centres. Plus, it has an excellent outdoor pool.
What to wear in Doha
It can be tricky to know what to wear in Doha. You want to dress for the weather, but as it’s an Islamic country, local Sharia Law should be observed to some degree.
The basic rules for women:
- cover your knees and shoulders
- don’t show cleavage
- avoid tight/form-fitting clothing if possible.
The basic rules for men:
- cover your knees and shoulders.
I have a comprehensive article on Doha’s dress code, with plenty of suggestions to suit the weather and cover cultural laws.
When is the best time to visit Doha?
Definitely in the cooler months, if possible! The upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup is perfectly timed.
Between October and late April, Doha is really nice. It’s sunny but the temperatures aren’t mad. It may also rain, which is a bit of an event in this kind of climate.
Mind you, I’ve lived in Doha during summer and it’s not that terrible. Sure, temperatures can be as high as 46°C (115°F).
However, everywhere tends to be air conditioned, so you only notice it if you’re walking outside. And the nights can be quite balmy and nice, around 27°C (80°F).
If you’re not Muslim, it may be best to avoid Doha during Ramadan. As the Islamic community begins their month of fasting, prayer and reflection, the city tends to go quiet. It can however, be very fun to visit during Eid and wonderful to experience as a non-Muslim.
Find out more about travelling to Doha during Ramadan.
Fascinating & fun things to do in Doha
With that out of the way, let’s explore top Doha attractions.
1. Camp in the desert overnight
This is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Doha. Hands down.
I recommend doing this as part of an organised tour. This is because you have to travel through sand dunes to get to some of Qatar’s top camping spots. It’s very easy to get bogged in the sand if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you’re sand surfing with a professional, it can be a lot of fun. More on that soon.
When I did it, I camped in a tent by the Inland Sea. Meals were provided. It was quiet and away from the city, you could see a sky full of stars.
A truly unforgettable experience.
Read more about camping in the Qatari desert as part of a tour.
2. Go dune bashing & sand boarding
Okay, back to that dune bashing.
Riding those sweet desert dunes either by car or board is so much fun.
I honestly found this experience to be as wild, if not wilder than any rollercoaster I’ve ever been on.
As mentioned above, it’s best to book onto this with a serious guide. Don’t rent a car and head out of the city to try it for yourself, if you’re not used to driving on sand.
3. Wander through the Souq Waqif
Doha’s Souq Waqif feels very much like the cultural hub of the city. It’s definitely one of the top places to visit in Doha.
You can buy just about anything here. Art, jewellery, food, weird taxidermy.
There’s some wonderful restaurants to pop into and shisha bars. These are fairly commonplace in Doha.
You will be expected to haggle in the souq, less you want to pay out your nose for items.
If you’re keen to get your bearings in the souq or you’re short on time, consider jumping on a tour.
4. Tour the city
Doha is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
It’s also home to some truly interesting buildings, some of which are amazing feats of architectural wonder.
Get your bearings with a half day tour through the city, to take in some of the key sights and cultural activities.
5. Jump onboard a dhow cruise
It’s my firm opinion that a city is best viewed from the water, if such a view is available.
Luckily, it is in Doha. You can take to the water on a traditional wooden dhow, from Dhow Harbour to the artificial Al Safliya Island.
You’ll hear all about Doha’s pearling history (a major industry for Qatar before oil was struck) and enjoy a BBQ meal.
6. Walk the Corniche
Haven’t quite got your sea legs? Keep two feet on ground and walk the Doha Corniche instead.
This waterfront promenade extends for seven kilometers and circles Doha Bay.
You’ll find many of Doha’s top attractions and landmarks along the Corniche, such the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) and the distinctive Sheraton Hotel.
9. Check out the art at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
MIA is home to a massive collection of Islamic art. Its pieces have been sourced from three continents, spanning a period of 1400 years.
Keep an eye on the museum’s events page to see what exhibitions are showing, or tour the permanent collection.
7. Visit the National Museum of Qatar
Continue your tour of Doha’s cultural attractions with a visit to the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ).
Here you can learn about Qatari history and culture.
If anything, go just to take in the astonishingly dynamic architecture of the space. French architect Jean Nouvel’s inspiration for the design came from the intricate desert rose and the buildings is one of Doha’s finest (in my opinion).
8. Explore the Pearl Qatar
Qatar is a rich country and if luxury is what you seek, it’s abundant throughout the city.
However, the Pearl neighbourhood is probably the place you want to be.
This artificial island is home to both accommodation and a range of activities.
Shop and fine dine.
Snap a picture in front of the ‘Love Qatar’ sign.
Take a water taxi around the island for kicks.
And if you need to cool off from the desert heat, head to Subzero Ice Lounge to sit on an ice sculpture, while enjoying a hot chocolate!
Having lived in Doha in the summer months, I highly recommend doing this, if you have the chance.
9. See Richard Serra’s amazing East-West/West-East sculpture
I reckon this is another one of the best things to do in Doha.
This immense sculpture spans over a kilometre. It consists of four steel plates, over fourteen metres in height, immerse into the desert.
I’ve never quite seen anything like it. It takes your breath away.
The eeriest thing out there in the desert, is the silence. After the buzz of a vibrant city like Doha, it’s a bit discombobulating.
As with most desert adventures, unless you are used to driving in such conditions, it’s best to book on with an experienced guide.
As Qatar is really quite a tiny country, most tours offer multiple experiences. In this case, you can see the nearby ruins of Zekreet Fort, which is thought to have been constructed in the 18th century.
10. Go scuba diving in Qatar
Have you considered heading to Qatar for some diving in Doha? Whether you’re an experienced diver or taking to water for the first time, this could be a fantastic part of your Doha adventure.
There’s some lovely reefs, interesting wrecks and a diverse range of marine life to be seen under Qatar’s waters, depending on the time of year.
Many of the sites for diving involve dune-bashing along the way, so you tick off two of the best things to do in Doha, in one day or afternoon.
Read more about diving in Doha.
11. Check out the Barzan Towers
These watchtowers are located about 15 kilometres from the city and hail from the late 1800s.
Water flows at this site, so the towers were originally built to protect this precious resource.
If you’ve rented a car, you can access this site without a guide, as it’s a quick drive up the Shamal Highway.
12. Visit Katara Cultural Village
One of the best things to do in Doha, is explore Katara Cultural Village.
There’s museums, galleries, art, a public beach and plenty of places to eat.
Top attractions here are the Katara Mosque, which is covered in tiles in shades of blue and gold, reminiscent of Persian and Turkish style.
Or visit the Gold Mosque, which as the name suggests, is coloured… gold.
Doha is a melting pot of cultures and this is particularly evident in its food scene.
If exploring Katara on your own seems somewhat overwhelming, jump on a tour with an expert guide to get your bearings.
13. Cool off or engage in watery adventures at Katara Beach
As a peninsula, there’s plenty of places in Qatar for ocean swimming.
However, many of the beaches in Doha are private, so accessing them can be a bit tricky.
Katara has a public beach where you can take a dip in the water or relax in the sand.
You can rent beach equipment, or enjoy other activities such as water skiing and parasailing, or taking a joy ride in a speed boat.
One thing to be mindful of – as it is a public beach, there is a dress code.
Rules are a bit more relaxed at private hotel beaches.
If you’re keen to stay somewhere with beach access, consider the Hilton Doha, located in centrally in West Bay.
14. Get henna’d
This is one of my favourite things to do in Doha. A nice little souvenir I can take on with me, to my next destination!
Standard tattooing is not allowed under Islamic Law, but henna gets a pass – as it’s temporary and does not permanently alter the body.
Most salons offer henna designs, although some of the best artists will come to you.
15. Shop up a storm at the City Center Doha shopping mall
One of the busiest places in West Bay, you can get just about anything you need from this sprawling shopping centre.
There’s a bunch of places to eat, a giant ice-skating ring (another way to cool off in the desert!) and a cinema.
As mentioned earlier in this post, the Marriot Marquis is attached to City Center and is a very convenient place to stay as a consequence.
16. Gain a new perspective with a hot air balloon ride
We’ve covered quite a few of Doha’s top attractions so far in this post. Perhaps it’s time to consider seeing them from a new perspective?
You’ll head up early morning, to catch the sunrise as light breaks over the cityscape.
It makes for some astonishing photo opportunities!
17. Paint the town red at local bars & clubs
Doha may be an Islamic country, but much of the population is made up of expats.
And these people like to party.
So don your best clothes, put on some shiny shoes and prepare to hit the town.
18. Experience Qatar pre-oil boom
Let’s get out of the city and back into the desert.
As stated previously in this article, Qatar’s big industry used to be pearl diving and fishing.
While oil has made the Doha opulent, there’s still opportunities to see what Qatar was like, before its oil boom.
Tour to Al Khor harbour, to see an old ship repairing and renovating yard. Then go on to view the Al-Thakira mangrove forest.
This is one of the best things to do in Doha, if you’re a nature lover. Due to Qatar’s dry environment, not many plants are endemic to the region. These native mangroves are one of the few that can stand the harsh conditions.
While there, keep an eye out for migratory birds such as herons and flamingos(!).
End your day trip out of Qatar with a visit to Al Zubara Fort. Situated on a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was initially a Coast Guard station, now turned museum.
19. Visit Venice in Villaggio Mall
A shopping centre in Doha can’t ever just be simple. So, the Villaggio Mall contains a 150 metre long indoor canal… with gondolas.
A little piece of Venice in Villaggio.
While you’re there, check out the Gondolania Theme Park. There’s an indoor Ferris wheel, roller coasters, arcade game machines, a 4D theatre and more.
Leave the kids there while you flick through designer threads at Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Valentino, Christian Dior and more.
20. Pray in or take photographs of the State Grand Mosque
This is one of the largest mosques in Qatar.
Non-Muslims can’t enter, but they can take photographs of the building.
Doha has no shortage of gorgeous buildings, but be sure to add this one to your list.
21. Peel back layers of history at Msheireb Museums
This experience consists of four historic houses (Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed Bin Jassim House and Radwani House), which can be found in Msheireb in downtown Doha.
These have been turned into museums, inviting visitors to learn about Qatar’s history.
If this is something that interests you, then this is a must-see Doha attraction.
22. Experience one of the top hotels in Doha
Doha Torch, or Aspire Tower is a 300 metre skyscraper hotel and one of the tallest in the city.
It’s the place to go to if you’re after views of the cityscape, with a side of food, tea or a tipple.
Try the Sky Lounge, with views over the city at 250 metres, enjoy panoramic views at Panorama or make an event of it at Three Sixty, the only revolving restaurant in Doha.
And of course, you can complete the experience by staying in the hotel itself.
23. Check out the Qatar National Library
I know I’ve said this over and over again throughout this post, but Doha has some truly amazing architecture and the Qatar National Library is no exception.
If you’re visiting Doha, go to check out the exterior.
Top places to visit in Doha
Short on time? After living in the city for a few months, here’s what I reckon are the top things to do in Doha:
- check out the Souq Waqif and eat at a restaurant there
- ride some sand dunes in the desert and see a sight or two
- Take a tour of the city
- … or walk the corniche
- visit a museum or gallery.
And if you have the time, I encourage you to spend a night in the Qatari desert. It’s a truly magical experience.
How many days are enough for Doha?
Qatar is a small country.
You can experience the best things to do in Doha in a handful of days.
I’d recommend four days to really immerse yourself in the vibe and culture.
However, Doha is often a layover for people travelling further afield. If you only have a couple of days or a few hours, you can still see quite a few Doha attractions – or you can just relax and lap up the luxury that this opulent city offers.
What to do during a layover in Doha
Only in the city for a handful of hours? Get out and explore!
I recommend walking the Corniche to get your bearings and visiting the Souq Waqif.
If you have time, go see Richard Serras’ East-West/West-East sculpture. I reckon its a top Doha attraction. You can organise a private tour in advance.
As Qatar is small, you end up getting a few experiences out of a half-day tour out of the city, such as sand surfing, a swim in the ocean or Inland Sea and a visit to other points of interests, such as heritage-listed forts.
How to get around Doha
There are three ways of getting around Doha.
Take a taxi. These are reasonably priced and the city is packed full of them. I took taxis all the time when I lived in Doha.
Just make sure you ask the driver to turn on the meter when you get in the vehicle. If they refuse, let them drive on and wait for another taxi.
Use a private driver. This is another population option for getting around. You can look up private car options online. If you’re moving to Doha, chat with other expats, as someone will no doubt have the number of a driver to give you.
The third option is to hire your own car. I knew a lot of expats who did this. If you’re visiting, you can check prices in advance on Rentalcars.com.
It’s a good idea to have an International licence when travelling, if you’re planning on driving. Qatar, like many other countries around the world, has a list of approved licences for some visitors.
Find out more about driving in Doha.
And remember – people drive on the right in Qatar!
In all honesty, Qatar’s roads seem a bit chaotic. So unless you’re used to that sort of driving, I’d stick to taxis or private drivers.
So there you have it – a guide to the best things to do in Doha, Qatar and a few tips for making the most of your time in this city.