Qatar offers thousands of years of culture and tradition blended together with modern-day marvels. From the futuristic skyline of Doha to the enchanting Souq Waqif, this Middle Eastern gem offers a unique mix of old and new.
If you are looking for places to visit and things to do in Qatar you won’t have to look far. With a wide range of activities and sights, from free art galleries to luxurious fine-dining, you never have to worry you will get bored.
Qatar caters to all types of travellers. In the article below, you will find the top things to do and places to visit in Qatar.
Maybe you just want to see the highlights of the country’s capital, Doha, during a 24-hour layover. Maybe you and your family are planning a week-long trip through the entire country. Whatever your plans, you won’t be short of sights to see and things to experience.
Be prepared to be captivated by the State of Qatar; Marhaban bikum fi Qatar!
Table of contents
- 1 – A taste of tradition in Souq Waqif
- 2 – Explore the country’s rich history in the National Museum of Qatar
- 3 – Marvel at masterpieces in the Museum of Islamic Art
- 4 – Take a ride through desert dunes
- 5 – Get envious at The Pearl
- 6 – Explore Al-Zubarah Fortress
- 7 – An afternoon stroll along the Corniche
- 8 – Take a culture trip to Katara Cultural Village
- 9 – Learn more about falconry at the Falcon Souq
- 10 – Wind down in Aspire Park
- Are you ready to explore Qatar?
1 – A taste of tradition in Souq Waqif
This old market place is steeped in tradition. Souq Waqif translates to ‘the standing market’, in reference to the sellers standing while trying to sell their merchandise.
The exact age of the market is unknown, but locals and Bedouins have gathered at the site for hundreds of years trading everything from clothing to livestock.
Before the land was reclaimed in the 1970s, along with many other parts of present-day Doha, the souq was directly connected to a river bed called Wadi Musheireb. Traders from near and far would gather at the souq arriving by camel, boat, or on foot.
Souq Waqif saw a decline in popularity during the 1990s and was partly ravaged by a fire in 2003. However, after a push from local Qataris and the government, a restoration program started in 2006 to return the souq to its old glory.
Today, Souq Waqif is a vibrant bazaar filled with small craft shops and Middle Eastern eateries. If you want a taste of Qatari tradition, you have to pay a visit to Souq Waqif.
Expert tip: At night is when the market comes to life. Stick around till the sun sets and the souq is lit by thousands of lights for a truly magical experience.
2 – Explore the country’s rich history in the National Museum of Qatar
As stunning on the outside as it is on the inside, this brand new museum opened to the public in March 2019. Time Magazine straight away hailed it as one of the best places in the world to visit in 2019, and for good reason!
The futuristic architectural design was inspired by the desert rose type of crystal found in the desert of Qatar. The museum is built around the palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani.
Inside the museum, you will find the story of Qatar, told in three separate themes.
The first theme, which is titled the ‘Beginnings’, walks you through the early history of the territory that is now Qatar. After this, you will enter the theme ‘Life in Qatar’.
The third and final theme is called ‘Modern history of Qatar’ and focuses on the most recent history of the country, including the major land reclaim projects in Doha (such as The Pearl Qatar, see tip 5 in this list).
You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate the fascinating stories told in this museum. It is an absolute must during any visit to Qatar.
3 – Marvel at masterpieces in the Museum of Islamic Art
Third on our list of places to visit and things to do in Qatar is the brilliant Museum of Islamic Art. It is another world-renowned museum that will surely leave you speechless.
The building itself is built on its own island off one of the main promenades in Doha, the Corniche (see tip number 7). It rises from the sea as a modern-day fortress and houses some of the finest Islamic art in the world.
From ceramics to enamel to beautifully adorned carpets, the vast collection found in this museum is sure to impress.
4 – Take a ride through desert dunes
If you have a bit more time to venture outside of Doha you cannot miss out on a desert adventure.
One of the most popular – and exciting – ways to explore the desert is in a dune buggy. The thrill of dashing through steep hills of sand in an open buggy is an experience you will never forget.
Once in the desert, you can spend the night in a luxurious Arabian tent where you can try local food and admire the night sky painted with stars for some true Middle Eastern magic.
Expert tip: Be sure to book your trip with a reputable company that gets good reviews from previous customers. Companies can offer very different experiences based on their expertise.
5 – Get envious at The Pearl
The Pearl Qatar is arguably the most extravagant – and iconic – development in all of Qatar. It was also the first area in Doha where foreigners were allowed to own property.
Located on its own artificial island of reclaimed land, this luxurious Doha district spans nearly four square kilometres. Once completed, it is expected to house 45,000 residents. The total cost of the island is projected at a whopping $15 billion once completed.
As the hippest place in town, it is the perfect place for people-watching. Stroll along the promenade to be amazed by the largest yachts you have ever seen or go on a splurge in some of the upscale shops.
6 – Explore Al-Zubarah Fortress
If you want to get off the beaten track and escape Doha’s modernity for a day or two, Al-Zubarah Fortress is the place to go.
Number six on our list of places to visit and things to do in Qatar, this fortress can be a welcome change of scenery after spending some time in the somewhat overwhelming luxury of inner-city Doha.
The name of the fortress comes from the ancient UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site of the same name, Al Zubarah town. The fortress itself, however, is not that old as it was only completed in 1938.
The fort was built by Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani as a Coast Guard station. After it was no longer used the fortress was converted into a museum, hosting archaeological exhibits of findings from the nearby area.
The best way to visit this fortress is on camel-back. The fortress lies in the middle of nowhere, which only adds to its charm and mystery.
Just imagine after riding your camel from Al Ruwais into the vast empty desert you all of a sudden stumble upon this grande, secluded fortress. An unforgettable experience!
7 – An afternoon stroll along the Corniche
The Doha Corniche is a seven-kilometre long promenade stretching across the Persian Gulf in Qatar’s West Bay area. It is one of the most lively streets in the city and the perfect way to enjoy the stunning skyline of Doha.
To really get the best views just hop on a dhow (a traditional sailing boat) to take you out into the gulf for unprecedented shots of the skyline.
Back on the Doha Corniche, you can have a bite to eat, fly a kite on the beach, or visit Qatar’s Pearl Monument.
Expert tip: If you want to get a dhow, don’t be afraid to haggle. It is customary and not considered rude, plus it can help you save some money.
8 – Take a culture trip to Katara Cultural Village
Also known as the Valley of Cultures, a visit to Katara Cultural Village is a great way to further get to know the country’s culture.
The village is an open-air museum aimed at giving you a real-life experience of traditional Qatari culture. Katara Cultural Village includes heritage centres, an amphitheatre, an opera house, art galleries, and much more.
The village is located to the North of Doha city centre, close to the Pearl Qatar development. Combining a trip to Katara Cultural Village with The Pearl on the same day gives you a unique experience of old versus new.
9 – Learn more about falconry at the Falcon Souq
Traditionally, the Bedouins living in the deserts of Qatar would train falcons to hunt prey. Although falconry is nowadays not used for hunting prey, it is still a highly respected tradition and an integral part of Qatar’s history and culture. In fact, falconry is listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.
The Falcon Souq (falcon market) specialises in all things related to falconry. From equipment needed to practice falconry, to real-life falcons showing off their skills in the air. A trip to the Falcon Souq is one of the top things to do in Qatar.
10 – Wind down in Aspire Park
Last on our list of places to visit and things to do in Qatar is a trip to Aspire Park. After working your way through numbers one to nine on this list it is now time to relax in Qatar’s largest park.
Aspire Parks, located in the Baaya district, spans over 88 hectares of land. It is the perfect place to wind down after days of sightseeing in Doha. You can have a picnic on the grass, relax at the only lake in Doha, or climb the 300-metre high Torch Tower (if you still have some energy left).
Before you leave be sure to drop in the Hyatt Plaza and Villagio Mall, both located right next to the park, for some last-minute shopping.
Are you ready to explore Qatar?
And there you have it, the ten best places to visit and things to do in Qatar. Of course, these are just a few of the many exciting things a trip to Doha has to offer.
This Middle Eastern gem is the ultimate combination of old and new, tradition and modernity. Qatar is steeped in tradition, although you might find that hard to believe the moment you set foot on Doha airport.
The country’s capital boasts one of the most stunning skylines in the world and with developments like The Pearl Qatar, you find yourself in one of the most modern, futuristic, and luxurious places on earth.
However, you do not have to travel far from Qatar’s beating heart to find yourself in vast solemn deserts, surrounded by majestic fortresses, and a unique nation that still lives and breaths tradition.
Qatar is a fascinating place to visit for any type of traveller. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Qatar, the tourism industry is sure to see a further boom. Perhaps this makes 2021 the best time ever to visit Qatar before the rest of the world is introduced to its splendour.
But no matter when you are planning to go, just be sure to add this list of top ten places to visit and things to do in Qatar to your itinerary.
Enjoy your holiday, or as we say in Qatar: Astamtae bietlatk!