Looking at taking a stopover vacation in Qatar? We’ve gathered all the top highlights of things to see and do in this small but fascinating Gulf nation.
Qatar is a tiny country compared to most, the third smallest in the Middle East, but also has one of the world’s most rapidly developing cities in Doha, which will soon host the 2022 World Cup.
If you are only in Qatar for a short stopover between flights (over 5 hours but under a day), we recommend you check out our Doha Stopover guide. This will help you decide if it’s worth leaving the airport or if you should squeeze in some sightseeing during your short stay.
If you are visiting with children, we also recommend checking out our Doha with Kids guide which gets much deeper into the specifics indoors & outdoors for families. And if you are looking for a full Qatar itinerary, check out this local guide.
Now on to the fun stuff – what can you see and do in Doha & the rest of Qatar?
Doha Attractions – Places to Visit in Doha
Let’s start with the big city as this is where you will most likely be based and where most of the modern attractions of the country can be found, as well as cultural sites to bring you some insights into Qatari heritage.
Katara Cultural Village
“Valley of Cultures” is home to the cities cultural events, traditional handicrafts, restaurants and plenty of green areas to run around. You will also find an opera house, library, amphitheatre, art galleries and the beautiful Katara Mosque.
Free Entry, best to visit 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 11pm
Museum of Islamic Art
The building alone is a masterpiece. Inside you will find one of the finest collections of art from across the 7th to 19th century, beautifully displayed and explained.
Free entry Sat to Thu 9am to 7pm, Fri 1.30pm to 7pm
Beautifully restored from the original markets that stood for over a century, this is the cities hub of trade and entertainment. Get lost in the maze of stalls from spices and sweets through to tailors, jewellers and wood carving. Don’t miss the Falcon Souq, but you can probably skip the pets.
There is also a large number of eateries within the souq if you are looking for a dinner stop.
Open Daily, best visited in the evening 4pm to 10pm, most restaurants open throughout the day
Stay: There is a collection of luxury boutique hotels attached to the Souq for a truly unique Qatar experience – learn more about these 9 hotels here
A man-made island, dubbed “the Arabian Riviera” this luxury development of residents and boutique shops intertwined by canals needs to be seen to be believed! From luxury yachts to popular dining spots, here’s where you come to see and be seen.
Learn more at thepearlqatar.com
Corniche & Traditional Dhow Cruise
Take a traditional Dhow cruise from the Corniche with stunning skyline views of the West Bay to one side with it’s skyscrapers and MIA and the beautiful parks and corniche to the other.
Along the corniche, pack a picnic, fly a kite, use the exercise equipment or join the weekend pop up souq.
You might be surprised just how many parks and outdoor spaces you will find in Doha, pop over to our family guide to Doha to find plenty more parks to enjoy, especially in the cooler winter months.
National Museum of Qatar
The story of the nation told in this dramatic and beautiful new building. You are taken on a journey through three chapters, the beginning, Life in Qatar and the Modern History of Qatar, across 11 galleries. You can see a detailed guide around the National Museum of Qatar here.
Tourist entry fees apply. Sat to Thu 9am to 7pm, Fri 1.30pm to 7pm
What is the easiest way to tackle all these sites in Doha?
If you have several days stopped in Doha, you can take your time to explore all these sites, as well as add on day trips and evening tours as we’ll touch on below.
With only a short day or two though, you may find it worthwhile joining a small tour group, for the convenience of having a driver and English-speaking guide and getting to the highlights quickly. Why not try some of these options:
Trasport in Doha is otherwise largely by taxi. In the winter months, you can get between some of the sites by foot, but a taxi or driver will really be essential beyond the centre of Doha.
Qatar Day Trips and further afield attractions
(Note some of these attractions we have relied upon third party sources for the GPS nav details! Please check this information as you set off as fuel, food and toilet facilities beyond the city can be scarce)
Alternatively, we suggest you arrange an organised tour which will assist you in tracking down some of these lesser-known places.
Heading West & North in Qatar
Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum
Certainly a more unusual experience! An eclectic collection of artefacts bound to delight culture and history buffs, this is one of the biggest private collection museums in the world – over 15,000 items are exhibited.
Established in 1998 in the Watari fort Al Samriya Farm (around 20km from the city), the collection represents items that Sheikh Faisal has collected from around the world for the last 50 years. The museum is divided into Qatar Heritage, Islamic Art and Vehicles.
Ne entry fee, open Sun-Thu 9am to 4.30pm, Fri 2pm to 7pm, Sat 10am to 6pm
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a museum in the ancient town of Zubarah, in the north of Qatar. The village itself is now a ghost town, but the museum is a great place to learn more about Bedouin life and Arabian trade from centuries past. It is one of the best-preserved examples from 18th-19th-century settlement in Qatar.
Open Sat to Thu 8am to 6pm
Art in the Desert
A slightly more unusual one, East-West/West-East is a desert sculpture by Richard Serra. About 90 minutes drive away from Doha are four enormous steel plates jutting from the desert plains.
No road markings to get you there, of course! But try N25o 31.019’E050o51.948.
If this interests you, check it out as part of a west-coast Qatar half-day tour from Doha including Zekreet Fort.
This tour includes “Film City” – a replica desert Arabian village. The truth behind its existence is a bit of a mystery but here’s a pretty good explanation with directions to this eerie place!
Umm Salal Muhammad Fortress & Barzan Towers
A series of fortified buildings now mostly in ruins but still two towers and a mosque remain. They were built in the late 19th century to protect against possible Ottoman invasion. The Umm Salal Fortress is still inhabited so can only be viewed from the outside. Just 15km north of Doha this is one of the easier historic sites to reach. Free Entry.
Al Khor Museum
A small museum in Al Khor town, around 60km north of Doha. You will find here an anthropological section looking at local marine life and traditional fishing and shipbuilding industry, followed by artefacts and ancient industry from the region. Entry Free.
Probably not worth a standalone visit but an interesting stop on a North Qatar road trip.
This guided tour of North Qatar will take you to the fort as well as Umm Salal Fortress and Al Khor Museum.
Al-Jassasiya Rock Carvings
As you’ll find is quite typical of Qatar’s lesser-known attractions there are no signposts to get her, but this is a fascinating part of history on the country’s north. There are around 900 well-preserved Petroglyphs to be discovered. Found about one hour north on the Doha expressway then take Al Shamal Rd, exit 66.
Heading south & west in Qatar
The Singing Sand Dunes
Covering a space of about 100 square kilometres as you head toward Saudi Arabia, about 40kms from Doha. These crescent-shaped dunes are about 60m high and create a magical vibrating sound when the sand dunes move.
You can access the area in a 2wd car and hike in for your pictures, or even take a bbq dinner (and take everything home with you!)
This is a natural phenomenon so, of course, no guarantee. They are at their finest on a windy day, and best to come early in the day or around sunset yo avoid the peak heat. They will not sing when the ground has been wet.
Found at 25.03803, 51.40733
The inland Sea – Khor al-Udeid
Khor Al-Udeid is an inland sea area on the Saudi border about 80kms south-east of Doha. It combines the best of enjoying the desert dunes with beachfront access and is a UNESCO recognised natural reserve.
Many desert camp providers set up shop here so activities are quite varied from dune bashing to camel rides and camping.
You can head as far as the island sea on a full-day tour into the desert which will include lunch and dinner as well as desert activities, or try these options:
A note on desert safaris: These usually involve an element of dune bashing, so not recommended for small children, pregnant women or those with heart conditions or suffering from motion sickness. When booking in desert tours with family, see if there are alternative routes to get to the desert camp experience.
Combine City & Desert attractions in Qatar
If you would like to combine the best of both Doha and the desert dunes, this Qatar Tour will take you to both:
We hope you have enjoyed our tour through Qatar, don’t forget to check out these additional Qatar resources we have for family travellers
- Qatar with Kids – A family travel guide
- Best of Doha with kids – things to see and do for all the family
- How to do a Doha Stopover – make the most of a short stop in DOH
- What to wear in Doha & Qatar – understanding conservative dress
- The best time to visit Qatar – coping with the heat and events to watch for
- Middle East cruises stopping in Doha – see which top cruises are stopping in Doha this winter
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Thanks for the great info which you have shared about Qatar!