When it comes to places to visit Doha might not be a budget traveller’s choice, however, if you get past the fairly pricey flights, Doha can actually be a great contender for a stopover and dare I say even a city break.
Overseeing the Arabian Gulf, this capital city of the small country of Qatar presents a great opportunity to indulge yourself in Middle-Eastern hospitality and explore this jewel of the Gulf.
Read more below about my experience here and why you should consider Doha as your next city break destination.
- Travel to and Around Doha
- Where to Stay in Doha
- Things to do in Doha
- 1. Immerse yourself in Qatari History at the National Museum of Qatar
- 2. See the Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani Palace
- 3. Explore the Wonderful Intricacies of Islam at the Museum of Islamic Art
- 4. Walk Down the Promenade
- 5. Walk down to MIA Park and gaze at Flag Plaza
- 6. Shop till you drop at Souq Waqif
- 7. Other things to do in Doha
- Food & Drinks Highlights in Doha
- Final Thoughts
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is a vibrant and rapidly developing destination that offers a fascinating blend of history, culture, and modernity.
Situated on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Doha has transformed itself from a small fishing village to a thriving metropolis in a relatively short period.
Doha’s history can be traced back to the 1820s when it emerged as a settlement dependent on pearl diving and fishing. The region was ruled by the Al Thani family, which still governs Qatar today.
In the early 20th century, Doha started gaining prominence as a trading centre due to its strategic location along the Gulf. It became the capital of Qatar when the country gained independence in 1971.
Nowadays, Doha’s skyline is a testament to its rapid growth and development. Impressive architectural landmarks such as the iconic skyline feature, the Torch Tower, and the innovative Qatar National Library can be found in the city.
Overall, Doha offers a fascinating blend of history, modernity, and cultural experiences. With its rich heritage, modern infrastructure, and diverse attractions, the city has become a sought-after destination for Western tourists looking to explore the Arabian Peninsula.
Travel to and Around Doha
If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights. The local airport Hamad International (DOH) with its iconic Urs Fischer/ Lamp Bear, is conveniently situated a few kilometres away from the city, on the coastline.
Once you arrive at the airport you are presented with a few convenient ways to make your way into the city.
Doha has developed a modern and efficient public transport system to cater to the needs of both residents and tourists. The city’s public transportation options provide convenient and affordable ways to navigate the city and explore its attractions.
Similar to London‘s DLR line, the Doha Metro is a state-of-the-art, driverless railway system that connects various parts of the city. It consists of three lines: Red, Green, and Gold.
The metro stations are strategically located near major attractions, commercial areas, and residential neighbourhoods. The system is reliable, safe, and offers a comfortable way to travel around Doha.
Doha’s bus network covers a wide range of routes throughout the city, making it an affordable mode of transportation. The buses are air-conditioned and equipped with comfortable seating.
The Doha Metro, bus, and taxi services are integrated into a unified transport network. Travelers can use the “Karwa” and “Qatar Rail” mobile apps for real-time information on routes, schedules, fares, and connections.
These apps are available in English and provide user-friendly interfaces to help tourists navigate the public transport system effectively.
The network itself is recently built and features AC cooled stations as well as cheap fares. In speaking with a local, I remember noting that very few people use public transport to which he replied that they just use it for fun.
Doha per se isn’t a very large city and you could almost say Qatar is Doha and Doha is Qatar. In most cases most people will drive around, so renting a car can definitely be a viable option.
I noticed ride-sharing services like Uber tend to be fairly affordable and can definitely cut the journey time in half if not even more. After all, you paid so much for your flights to come here but you can’t spare a few euros on a taxi?
Best Time to Visit Doha
The best time to visit Doha largely depends on personal preferences and the kind of experience you are seeking. Doha experiences a desert climate, characterized by hot summers and mild winters.
Winter in Doha is considered the most pleasant time to visit. The temperatures are mild, ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F), making it comfortable for outdoor activities and exploration. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect more crowds and higher hotel rates. It’s advisable to book accommodations well in advance if you plan to visit during this period.
For me, I went both in March and May however, I must note that May definitely feels closer to Egypt in summer, with a daily scorching 40°C, but the water is fairly pleasant and warm similar to the Dominican Republic.
Apart from the weather, it’s also worth considering any specific events or festivals you may want to experience in Doha. The city hosts various cultural, sports, and art events throughout the year, such as the Qatar National Day celebrations in December, the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, and sporting events like the Qatar ExxonMobil Open tennis tournament.
In terms of crowd levels and pricing, the peak tourist season in Doha is from November to February, so if you prefer fewer crowds and more budget-friendly options, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Doha is subjective and depends on your tolerance for heat and personal preferences. Consider the weather, your desired activities, and any specific events you want to attend to determine the optimal time for your visit.
Where to Stay in Doha
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. During our city breaks, we tend to sleep at the hotel, have breakfast and be out and about all day, however, since these trips were business trips it also had to cater for some additional requirements.
Having said this, Doha features some of the best in class hotels with excellent customer service and hospitality. Some of the hotels feature pools and spas as well as private beaches. In terms of location I would say anywhere around the Corniche should be fine as most touristic points are in that area.
If you do find yourself a bit more generous, I would say going for a 5* hotel would definitely be worth it. Prices when compared to Europe are about the same if not even lower.
The hotels I stood at during my trips to Doha are:
- Hilton Doha – read more about my experience at this hotel here.
- Hyatt Regency Oryx Doha – read more about the hotel and my experience here.
Word of advice, outside the hotels, you won’t find alcohol to be served in Dohan restaurants and other venues. Most bars tend to be dry bars. So if you want a beer be sure to have it at the hotel before you head out for dinner.
Things to do in Doha
Similar to Monaco, Doha isn’t a large city and you may think that you can brave the high temperatures, you couldn’t be more wrong. Whatever your transport budget may be, be sure to account for transport whether public transport, taxis or renting a car. Simply walking in the mid-day Dohan sun it will crucify you.
Moreover, if visiting during Spring and Summer, I’d suggest you plan your visiting day from 3pm onwards. It tends to cooldown a bit more after that time and will make your experience a little bit more pleasant.
When it comes to museums and tickets, you will find that there isn’t an overwhelming amount of museums however, most of them seem to be grouped in one museum pass which you can find here. Personally, I got the basic option which worked well for me.
Let’s explore some of what I’d recommend visiting when in Doha:
1. Immerse yourself in Qatari History at the National Museum of Qatar
The Qatar National Museum is a prominent cultural institution located in Doha. Designed by renowned architect Jean Nouvel, the museum offers a captivating and immersive experience that showcases Qatar’s rich heritage, history, and culture
The museum’s exhibits and galleries are curated to tell the story of Qatar’s history, culture, and achievements. Visitors can explore a wide range of displays, interactive installations, multimedia presentations, and artifacts that showcase Qatar’s natural environment, prehistoric past, Islamic heritage, and contemporary developments.
I found it fairly interactive and also features plenty of projections and 3D cinema. Also, one thing to note, when I visited, you had to scan your tickets when entering several expos, so make sure you keep it handy.
Overall, I would allocate 2-3 hours to get the most out of all expositions.
2. See the Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani Palace
Just as you finish with the National Museum, you can walk in the court of the former royal Palace. The palace was constructed in the early 20th century and served as the residence of Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani, a prominent Qatari leader and member of the ruling Al-Thani family.
Sheikh Abdulla bin Jassim Al-Thani played a significant role in shaping Qatar’s modern history and development.
I found that the Palace itself isn’t all that impressive, however, it should still feature on your to do list as it showcases Qatari heritage reflecting the country’s cultural heritage. The design features ornate Arabic patterns, decorative motifs, and distinctive arches, capturing the essence of Qatari craftsmanship and aesthetics.
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3. Explore the Wonderful Intricacies of Islam at the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar, is a world-class cultural institution that showcases an exceptional collection of Islamic art and artifacts. The building itself is designed to look like a woman wearing a burka.
The Museum of Islamic Art is housed in a striking building located on its own island along Doha’s waterfront and showcases exceptional masterpieces from different periods and regions.
Visitors can admire intricate calligraphy, finely crafted metalwork, stunning carpets, and delicate ceramics. The collection includes pieces from the Ottoman Empire, Mughal India, Persia, Andalusia, and other significant Islamic regions.
Finally, the museum hosts a café which overlooks the wonderful Corniche waterfront and in the distance the amazing Doha skyline with skyscrapers. A suggestion would be to visit the museum and finish by 6pm and sit down in the café area to look at the wonderful lit skyline.
4. Walk Down the Promenade
Another great thing you could consider, is walking down the promenade by the waterfront. You will walk past many boats and yachts as well as cafes and restaurants.
It’s a great way to take a few good photos of the Doha skyscraper skyline especially in the evenings as it city comes to life with the wonderfully illuminated buildings.
5. Walk down to MIA Park and gaze at Flag Plaza
Another great opportunity to cool off in the evenings is to head over to MIA park, which comes across like an oasis given the lush green grass and tall palm trees. The park also offers food stalls, opened throughout the day.
Not far form MIA Park you will also find Flag Plaza, which is a nice collection of flags making for a good photo background.
6. Shop till you drop at Souq Waqif
Souq Waqif has a rich history that dates back centuries. The market has been a trading hub in Doha since the time of the Bedouin tribes. It has been meticulously restored to reflect its original Qatari architectural style, preserving its cultural heritage and traditional ambiance.
The Souq’s narrow alleys, bustling stalls, and traditional architecture create an authentic and lively atmosphere. The market’s design is reminiscent of a traditional Arabian marketplace, with mud-rendered buildings, exposed timber beams, and decorative motifs. This unique setting allows visitors to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds, and scents of Qatari culture.
Overall, it is a fairly large shopping market and although smaller than Istanbul‘s Grand Bazaar, it still offers tourists a good choice of products.
Moreover, here you will find plenty of cafes, restaurants and shisha gardens with good prices and excellent service.
7. Other things to do in Doha
Here are some other suggestions about some more exciting things to do in Doha:
Food & Drinks Highlights in Doha
Qatari cuisine also features an abundance of seafood, given the country’s coastal location. Fresh fish, shrimp, and crab are commonly used in dishes such as grilled fish, fish biryani, and seafood machbous. Do yourself a favour and don’t embarrass yourself by ordering pork or alcoholic beverages. You don’t want to be that foreigner.
Qatari cuisine often incorporates flavours like saffron, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, and rose water, resulting in aromatic and flavourful dishes. The culture of hospitality is highly valued in Qatar, and traditional meals are often shared with family and friends, emphasizing the importance of community and togetherness in Qatari culinary traditions.
Having said this I must say that Lebanese cuisine seems to be the norm when inviting friends or colleagues to dine out. One could say you could find more Lebanese themed restaurants in Doha than in Beirut. And that works perfectly fine for me as I enjoy this fresh Mediterranean cuisine.
Below I will list a selection of restaurants I would recommend when going to Doha:
Try Some Good Shish Tawook at Al Bustan Restaurant
If you are staying in the Diplomatic District of Doha then I would suggest Al-Bustan Restaurant. An upper-casual restaurant offering exceptional Lebanese cuisine with extraordinary customer service.
I had the shish tawook (chicken skewers) with tabbouleh salad. On the side you also get a selection flatbreads and bread roll as well as a selection of middle-eastern starters while you wait. It was so good, I decided to go the second day there also.
The staff seemed to impressed that I returned, I even got a free milk based pudding as a dessert. Prices can be a bit on the higher end for Doha but then again the service and quality speak for themselves.
Try Syrian Comfort Food at Damasca One Restaurant
Damasca One is an excellent choice after an evening of shopping in the Souq. It showcases a modern interior with options to dine on the outside terrace overlooking the Souq.
One other perk is that it offers shishas for when you want to relax and have a smoke with a view.
I tried the typical lamb shawarma accompanied by fries and pickles. Overall an excellent choice and the accompanying tahini sauce served on the side brought the much needed lubrication for the meat.
For dessert you ask? Grape and mint shisha with Moroccan tea. An excellent night cap whilst admiring the passing by shoppers and tourists.
Delight Yourself in one of Doha’s Best: Babel – Lebanese Restaurant
The restaurant serves middle eastern cuisine with a Qatar/Lebanese touch. Everything here is carefully taken care of. And at this price point you would expect this. It is situated in one of Doha’s more affluent neighbourhoods, one of the very few places where foreigners are allowed to own property.
Just as an idea, plates and cutlery aren’t kept for more than 15 minutes and you will always get a new set of plates and cutlery. Drinks are pretty good also and they particularly make a very nice mint lemonade.
When we went there we tried a sample of foods and must say everything was cooked to perfection. The potatoes harra were crisp but fluffy on the inside, the beef sausages were bursting with flavour, the lamb kofta’s were surprisingly refreshing and delicious just to name a few. Even the home made bread was simply divine.
To finish we had a middle eastern style ice-cream covered in nuts, an ice-cream very similar to the one you find in Turkey. The balance of sweetness to creaminess was simply sublime.
What can I say – 10/10.
Try Mediterranean/ Greek Inspired Cuisine at Gaia Doha
Another upscale restaurant in Doha is Gaia Doha. A Greek, Mediterranean themed upscale restaurant. The modern décor and exquisite ambiance make it for a very balanced fine dining experience. The service is again, exemplary, as you would expect for a restaurant on Doha’s West Bay.
Some of the dishes I tried were exemplary however, some honourable mentions were the braised baby goat, salt baked fish and garlic pan fried prawns. An interesting combination was also the feta cheese and watermelon salad which provided a very refreshing experience after the starters.
Everything was executed flawlessly and presented to the highest standard. I would say this is a must if your budget permits.
Doha is an excellent destination for anyone looking to experience the Middle East in style. Whilst the high plane prices are fairly prohibitive for spontaneous city breaks for budget conscious travellers, the quality of service and amenities once you are here are more than sufficient warrant the effort.
Overall, it’s a great destination for families and solo travellers. You can always consider Doha as a stopover destination as Qatar Airways do offer discounted packages to encourage you to stay over for a few nights.
The city itself is more than safe and you will never feel uncomfortable. Locals are fairly accommodating as well and accept Western clothing, so in other words it is a very cosmopolitan location.
As a result, we believe that Doha with its wonderful views by the waterfront, excellent museums and amazing restaurants offers tourists a glimpse into the Arab hi-life here in the Gulf.
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