Sign up to receive Simon Calder’s free travel email and gain access to expert advice and money-saving discounts. Doha, a city that has only been in existence since the 1820s, has experienced a remarkable rise in recent times. Since becoming the capital of Qatar in 1971, Doha has continuously developed and is now seen as a rival to Dubai. With the hosting of the 2022 World Cup, the city has undergone a rapid evolution, including the addition of new attractions like the Qatar National Museum, Museum of Islamic Art, Education City complex, and the Pearl, a man-made island reminiscent of Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. These developments have made Doha a city with a surprising wealth of things to see and do. As a popular aviation hub, Doha offers flight connections to various Middle Eastern and Chinese destinations. Whether you’re visiting Doha as a final destination or as a stopover, here are the best things to see and do.
Begin your trip by exploring the country’s long history at the Qatar National Museum. Designed by Jean Nouvel, the museum chronicles the region’s history from 6,000 BC to the present day. It showcases the cultural traditions, archaeological findings, and wildlife of the country. Additionally, the museum often hosts temporary events, including exhibitions for the upcoming Qatar Auto Museum.
Next, visit the Katara Cultural Centre to immerse yourself in Qatari culture. This large complex houses important cultural institutions and landmarks such as the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, Doha Film Institute, Katara Mosque, and Golden Mosque. It also features the Katara Amphitheatre, planetarium, and Katara Beach.
Experience the city and its man-made island, the Pearl. The Pearl offers residences, shops, and restaurants built around marina areas. Different districts on the Pearl, like Qanat Quartier and Medina Centrale, feature European-inspired architecture. Another area to explore is West Bay, which is home to the business district and West Bay Beach. For a different vibe, head to Msheireb, the downtown district that has become one of Doha’s coolest areas. Here, you’ll find Barahat Msheireb square, the M7 creative hub, and the Msheireb Museums, all showcasing Arabic architecture with a modern twist.
Don’t miss a visit to the historic Souq Waqif, a traditional marketplace that showcases Qatari architecture and local life. The bustling Souq sells spices, seasonal foods, textiles, and handicrafts. It is also a popular spot for dining and entertainment, especially in the evenings.
Take a stroll along the Corniche, a nearly five-mile promenade that stretches from the Museum of Islamic Art to the Sheraton Grand Doha. This scenic route offers excellent city views, shops, restaurants, and various activities. For a more shaded experience, visit the parks at Al Bidda or Al Dafna.
Embark on a traditional dhow boat cruise departing from the Corniche for a unique experience. These boats were once used for pearl fishing, a primary industry in Qatar before the discovery of oil and gas. Spend half a day or an evening cruising the waters, enjoying the sights of West Bay and Doha Bay. Many cruises start from the dock outside the Museum of Islamic Art.
Immerse yourself in art at the Museum of Islamic Art, which houses over 1,400 years of Islamic art and artifacts. The Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art showcases modern and contemporary Arabic art, while Doha Fire Station offers contemporary exhibitions and artist-in-residency programs. The Katara Village’s Art Center features works from up-and-coming Middle Eastern artists.
Venture into the desert, located outside of Doha, for high-octane activities. Guided tours offer safaris, dune buggy or quad bike rides, camel rides, guided walks, and camping among the dunes. Visit the Khor Al Adaid (Inland Sea), a UNESCO-designated Nature Reserve, to witness the meeting point of the Arabian Gulf and desert sands. Swim or kayak in the warm waters of the Gulf or simply enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty.
With its rapid development and wealth of attractions, Doha is a destination worth exploring. Whether it’s history, culture, architecture, or outdoor adventures, the city offers something for everyone.