Doha is somewhere we’d been thinking about visiting for a while but always ended up choosing the UAE instead. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi get the lionshare of attention from this region, Doha (the capital of Qatar) is often overlooked by the majority of travellers.
This is a shame because this city has a lot to offer, from beautiful museums, brilliant restaurants and some pretty stunning views. It’s a city of culture and a distinct middle eastern identity, intertwined with modern design.
The great thing about Doha is that you don’t need very long to cover it and we believe that a 2 day stopover should be sufficient to cover most of the best things to do in Qatar.
The best things to do in Doha for a 2 day stopover
National Museum of Doha
One of the newest tourist attractions to open in Doha, this museum is very striking from the outside. It is an architectural masterpiece and designed to resemble a desert flower - the rock that forms in the desert.
It’s such an intricate design that we had trouble even locating the front door! The inside is a lot more minimalist and has a range of permanent galleries as well as some temporary exhibitions.
The main museum takes you through Qatar’s history and culture with 11 different galleries. We’d also recommend checking out the exhibition on Qatar from 1950-2030 (if it’s still running by the time you visit). It was fascinating to see how much Qatar has changed since finding oil in 1937, from a bedouin country to one of the most modern in the world.
The aerial pictures give you a great look at the rapid development from small desert village to busy metropolis.
Info about the National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum has only just opened and costs 50 Rials ($14) per person to go in, but for residents it’s free. You can visit the temporary exhibition for free.
Had we not have visited in 48oc we’d have walked along the whole corniche which spans 7 km.
As it was we went for a very short walk and a bit of a look around. It has fantastic views of the skyline and you walk following the water which is very pleasant.
The shot above was taken from near the Al Mourjan restaurant, which has a platform that stretches out into the harbour. Be careful with the tides as at high tide the water can splash up to the top of the platform!
We only visited the souk on our last evening and had we have gone earlier we’d have gone back several times. Yes it’s a bit touristy but it’s been done nicely and it’s very atmospheric. You could spend a while wandering around and shopping for clothes or trinkets but we came for the food.
There’s cusine from all over the world, including some that we’ve never tried before like Iraqi. It’s got a nice international vibe with dondurma sellers which took us right back to Turkey, but overall the atmosphere is undeniably middle eastern.
Al Jasra Restaurant
We knew we wanted to try some traditional food and on researching discovered it was actually way harder than it should be to find! In fact we only read about this one restaurant which was inside Waqif Souq.
We’re not going to lie, it’s not the most flavoursome food we’ve tried but we were still happy to have tasted it. There are a number of different dishes, I had something a bit like a vegetarian biryani and Joe had a lamb and rice dish. The restaurant is tiny with just a few tables and it’s run by a group of friendly women.
If you don’t fancy trying a Qatari meal we’d recommend the Indian food in Qatar. It was generally excellent.
Finding Al Jasra
Al Jasra is tucked down a backstreet and not at all obvious! Look for signs for the Ottoman Restaurant and you’ll soon see the signs for Al Jasra. You can see the exact location on Google Maps below.
There are many mosques in Doha but we really liked this one in the heart of the Katara Cultural Village. The outside is beautifully ornate and the inside has a very welcoming feel. Women will need to cover up before going inside, if you don’t have anything for your head they will give you a scarf. Heads, shoulders and legs must be covered.
The turquoise tiles inside the mosque were absolutely stunning and our favourite part about the interior.
Getting to Katara Mosque
Katara Mosque is north of the city centre and a little further away than most of the things to do in Doha. It should take about 10 minutes by taxi and cost no more than 15 rials ($4 USD).
Assuming the weather is warm and let’s face it, it probably is, then the beach just a few minutes walk from the mosque is where you want to be. It won’t be the most spectacular piece of sand you’ve ever laid eyes on but it is clean and pretty enough.
You can swim in a netted off area as well as take part in a variety of water sports, including jet skis and kayaking. Women will need to be covered up, so you will have to swim in trousers and a t shirt. We read online you needed to fully cover your arms but we saw lots of local women swimming in t shirts so assume it to be ok.
Getting to Katara Beach
Katara Beach is a five minute walk south of the mosque.
Museum of Islamic Art
We’ve saved the best until last. This is one of our favourite art museums in the world. The building itself is spectacular and is perched right on the water so there are terrific views inside. The art collection is big but not so big that you can’t look at every piece which I appreciated – sometimes it can be overwhelming when there is too much to see!
There is art from all over the Middle East, India and Spain some dating back from the 6th century. Most is incredibly well preserved and absolutely beautiful, from mosaics to hand carved doors and pots.
It was our favourite place in the whole of Qatar and a must for your itinerary.
Essential info about the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is on the southern end of the Corniche and juts out into the water. Entry here is 50 riel ($14) per person and allows you multiple entries for 3 days. Residents and citizens can get in for free.
MIA Café for epic view
Time your visit to finish up at the museum just before sunset so you can head along to the MIA park to watch the sunset over the Doha skyline. You’ll need to walk for around ten minutes along the paved pathway until you get to the grassy mound which makes a great spot to sit and take in the view.
If you fancy a drink the café right beside the mound is right on the water and had comfy seats making it the perfect spot to relax.
Getting to the MIA Cafe
Whilst it may be the museum cafe, it is a 10-15 minute walk along the foreshore! Follow the curved bay to the mound where you’ll get this incredible viewpoint. You can see the exact location below.
Essential information about visiting Qatar
Should you visit Qatar?
We’ll be honest, Qatar doesn’t have a great reputation at the moment. Whether it’s because of alleged corruption with the football World Cup or the embargos from its neighbouring countries, Qatar has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
However, the problems are more political, between governments, and won’t have an impact on your trip. Qatar is a diverse city full of people from all over the world, those we met were incredibly friendly and welcoming. It is easy to stereotype based on the nightly news and Qatar is one of those places where the experience on the ground is very different to what you’d expect.
Is it safe to visit Qatar?
Yes. Qatar is a safe place for travellers and should be viewed in the same way as the UAE. This means you must be respectful of the culture (make sure you cover your shoulders and knees in holy buildings, and try to dress conservatively in public), but otherwise you will have no problems at all.
Weather in Qatar
Qatar is a desert country that gets incredibly hot. Whilst the winter (November - February) gets slightly cooler, it is still pretty hot. Summer (June - September) in Qatar is brutal and we saw daytime temperatures of 48C, dropping to a low of 35C at night. In those conditions, you can’t spend very long outside!
Prices in Qatar
In general, Doha is very good value. Whilst you could spend a fortune if you wanted to you can also get by on a tight budget. You can find street food (primarily Indian) for $4-5 per person for a main, taxis tend to cost $3-4 for the majority of rides within the city, and you can get a really good hotel 4* for $50 per night. Entry to the museums is a little bit pricey ($14 pp), but there are plenty of free things to do which can ease your budget.
Will visiting Qatar impact my future travels?
No. Whilst Qatar has been cut off by its neighbours, the only impact you will feel is a longer flight (they now have to go via Iran) and an inability to go directly from Qatar to the UAE or Saudi Arabia. If you visit Qatar, you won’t be blocked from visiting anywhere else.
Over 80 countries are allowed into Qatar for up to 30 days without a visa. Check before you go if you’re entitled to this!
Where to stay in Doha
At $50 USD per night when we booked it, we can easily say that we’ve never stayed in a better value hotel than the Radisson Blu in Doha. The rooms are huge, really comfortable and have really nice luxurious touches.
Covered in gold, the Radisson Blu stands out from everything around it from the outside but is understated on the inside. It is really close to the city centre and also includes a free airport shuttle that leaves every hour, making a stopover really easy.
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Are you planning a trip to Qatar? Do you have any places you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments below!