In 2022, thousands of soccer fans will travel to Doha, Qatar for the World Cup. Many will be experiencing this fascinating Middle Eastern destination for the first time. Doha is an incredible destination and the World Cup is the perfect reason to travel to this dynamic, thriving locale.
One of the many great things about Doha is how close it is to everything else in the country. Compact Qatar is a convenient country to explore and despite its size has many unique landscapes and attractions, all within a reasonable drive from the capital city of Doha. With Doha city itself only a 15-minute drive from Hamad International Airport. In our visits to Qatar in preparation for the World Cup in 2022, we have had the pleasure of experiencing some of the best things to do in Doha and the surrounding area.
There are so many things to see in Doha that we’ve created a list to help our guests decide what to visit in Doha and how to best spend their time in this exciting destination.
Part of the tourism and public works strategy in Doha is centered on museums and visitors can reap the benefits of these wonderful institutions. The I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art is really quite stunning. In addition to the 1,400 years’ worth of Islamic art, there’s also a library featuring specialist books, and a great restaurant as well. Also noteworthy is the new National Museum of Qatar, which opened in 2019 and is a pretty big deal. Designed by Jean Nouvel, it’s worth visiting just to check out the architecture alone. In addition, the museum’s gift shop is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and worth checking out solely for the cool design. Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum also makes for an interesting visit. The private museum houses more than 15,000 exhibits from Sheikh Faisal’s personal collection, giving visitors a taste of traditional Qatari life in the pre-oil era.
As Doha’s largest market, you’ll find a little bit of everything at Souq Waqif: traditional Qatari clothing, souvenirs, food, art, home décor, even animals. It is a bit of a maze so it’s worth taking a look at a map first if there are certain items you are looking for. We recommend bringing cash as many vendors will not accept credit cards (and be prepared to barter). Souq Waqif opens at 10am and closes at 10pm, though many shops shut down between 12-4 in the afternoon. Go in the morning for a quiet visit or in the evening for the liveliest atmosphere.
Built on a former pearl diving site, The Pearl Qatar is a planned neighborhood/island known for all things luxury. On this man-made island you’ll find high-end residences, international fashion houses, high-end shopping malls, luxury car showrooms, wonderful restaurants, boutique coffee shops, and more. The Pearl also boasts plenty of scenic coastline, perfect for a relaxing walk.
If you want to experience a unique thing to do around Doha, camel racing might be right up your alley. Al Shahaniya Racetrack is Qatar’s most notable camel racing venue. Races generally take place October through April (usually Fridays and Saturdays) and while it’s a draw for tourists, camel racing is also a popular sport in Qatari culture. The camels are controlled by robot jockeys, adding to the intrigue of the sport. The racetrack is about an hours’ drive from Doha, accessible by rental car or as part of a tour.
As one of the richest cities in the world, shopping is a favorite pastime of Doha residents. From traditional souqs (markets) like Souq Waqif, to mega-malls to designer boutiques, you’re sure to find a spot to suit your needs. We have little doubt that our guests at the World Cup will be impressed by the sheer number of options available. Another great thing about shopping in Doha: no sales tax!
Visitors will find no shortage of shopping in Doha. In particular, shopping malls are big in this city, both in terms of popularity and size. City Center Mall in Doha’s West Bay is one of the largest. In addition to the 350 stores, the mall also boasts a bowling alley, ice skating rink, a children’s amusement center, 14-screen movie theater, and 38 restaurants. Also popular is Villaggio Mall in Doha’s Aspire Zone. It’s attractively designed after Venice, complete with an indoor canal and gondolas, and has a myriad of other attractions in addition to the shopping. Just outside of Doha in Al Rayyan, you’ll find the Mall of Qatar. The largest mall in the country is just a few years old and contains 500,000 square meters of shopping, entertainment, and restaurants. A nice bonus to the malls in Doha: the blissful air-conditioning. Complete your shopping experience by returning to one of Doha’s luxury hotels.
If you’re wondering what else to visit in Doha, the Corniche is great option. This waterfront promenade runs just shy of five miles along Doha Bay. It’s a great place for walking, running, biking, or just some people watching. The Corniche offers some great views of the city, particularly at night when the skyline is lit up. Along the Corniche you’ll find parks and greenspaces, and in the water you’re sure to spot traditional wooden boats called dhows. For a unique perspective of the city, hop on one of the many dhows offering tours of the bay.
Katara Cultural Village
This purpose-built recreational district is a popular place for events, concerts, and festivals. In addition to its draw as an entertainment destination, there’s a lot to marvel at architecturally, with no shortage of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities. Katara Cultural Village has plenty of coffee shops to sit and relax in as well as a wide variety of restaurant options. If you’re a big shopper, there’s some of that too. There’s even a great public beach. It’s an easy place to spend a full day and a good option for those traveling with families.
Just a short drive south of Doha is Al Wakrah, a coastal city that has plenty to offer travelers. Visitors can check out its popular Souq Al Wakrah, wander the lovely public gardens, take a stroll along the city’s Corniche (waterfront promenade), or relax on the beaches. As one of the country’s larger cities, Al Wakrah boasts plenty of places for shopping and dining. Al Wakrah is also home to Al Janoub Stadium, one of the venues for the World Cup in 2022.
The Singing Dunes and Khor Al Adaid
While Doha has plenty to offer inside the city limits, you’ll need to travel outside of city to experience the singing dunes and the inland sea. As you head southwest from Doha and Al Wakrah, you’ll find a fascinating natural phenomenon known as the singing dunes. Caused by the movement of grains of sand over massive sand dunes, you can hear the singing effect by sliding down the dunes. While it may sound a bit childish, it’s a whole lot of fun and the landscape is pretty cool just to look at. Keep heading south to check out UNESCO-recognized Khor Al Adiad, also known as the inland sea. This unique reserve is one of the few spots in the world where the sea reaches deep into the desert.