Welcome to Doha, the fast paced, growing metropolitan capital city of Qatar. Located on the northeastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, based on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Doha is the epicenter of Qatar finance, politics and city life.
Over the last decade it has also emerged as a growing tourist destination with over 2 million annual visitors arriving in Qatar. And while the oil and gas industry is still the main export for Qatar, tourism has expanded to become a significant income source and opportunity for growth within the smaller communities.
Doha is easy to travel to, with plenty of affordable flights with Etihad Airways to Hamad International Airport of Doha. And as the tourism industry grows, so do the number of fun and exciting tourist attractions for visitors. We’ll take a look at the top 8 places to visit in Doha for those new to the city.
Popular Places to Visit in Doha
Souq Waqif is a huge marketplace in Doha where you can find all different kinds of traditional attire, local handicrafts, spices and souvenirs at an affordable price. If you’re looking to bring a bit of Qatar home with you, or buy gifts for friends and family, this is the place. Inside the market there are also several restaurants and hookah lounges if you want to stop for food and some atmosphere while you shop.
This souq was founded more than a hundred years ago to help assist trade between the local Doha residents and the nomadic Bedouins. The current souq building was renovated back in 2006 by the Qatar government and now boasts some more modern amenities. If you happen to be visiting in April keep an eye out for the annual Spring festival, featuring music, theatre, acrobatics and a wrestling championship.
Katara Cultural Village
This area was constructed to host the Doha Tribeca Film Festival back in October 2010, with the event now an annual opportunity for promoting Arabic films. The space has an amphitheater, a large conference hall, a multipurpose cinema hall, an opera house and a souq (market) beside the beach.
It’s named after Katar, which is the old name of Qatar, in order to pay homage to the ancient culture of the land.
The white sands of Katara Beach, just a short drive north of Doha downtown, is the perfect city getaway for some sun and sea. The beach is located inside Katara Cultural Village, another area of Doha known for its scenic beauty and serene environment.
Katara is a private beach, so tourists will need to buy passes to visit, but there are a host of different activities to enjoy once you’re there. Along with some beach volley ball and swimming there’s also water skiing, parasailing, boating, kneeboarding, scuba diving, kitesurfing, riding a gondola and windsurfing. There are also several cafes and restaurants close to the beach where tourists can enjoy snacks, lunch or a cold drink after a day at the beach.
National Museum of Qatar
The National Museum of Qatar was opened in 1975, and its current building was inaugurated in 2019. Visitors to the museum can marvel at the different costumes, jewelry and household items of Bedouin and other local tribes. Soak in the history and culture of the land through archaeological artifacts, books, decorative items, and historical documents that are displayed.
The galleries of the museum are arranged into three different themes, each set out in chronological order so it’s easy to follow the historical timeline of Qatar. You can also find Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani’s Palace located on the museum grounds.
Museum of Islamic Art
While you’re getting local history fix, don’t forget to check out the Museum of Islamic Art. This museum is located on an artificial peninsula at one end of the Doha Corniche. It’s close to Dhow Harbor, which overlooks the southern part of Doha Bay. The museum building was specifically designed and constructed according to Islamic architecture, combined with some modern geometric patterns.
It has a huge collection of artifacts related to Islamic art, such as textiles, jewelry, metal works, woodworks, ceramic and glass items. The artifact collection spans the globe, with items coming from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, India, Spain and throughout Central Asia.
Pearl Qatar is an artificial island in Doha that is the only place in Qatar where foreigners can own homes. This four square kilometer residential area was designed by the Callison architecture firm and expanded by the United Development Company. For this reason alone it’s an interesting area to visit.
Its name comes from the pearl diving site on which this island is developed. The entire area is divided into 12 districts, each representing a specific architectural style, including European, Arabic and Mediterranean. One district named Abraj Quartier has two towers housing only commercial establishments.
This 5 mile long waterfront walkway runs the length of Doha Bay and is a prominent tourist attraction of the city. This popular walking and jogging spot is lined with palm tress and has beautiful views of the bay and an interesting look at the modern architecture of the city. Development continues to stretch the length of the walkway, now pushing even further north with several new skyscrapers.
The Doha Corniche is divided into three main parts; namely Corniche Park and Promenade, Corniche Street, and the Government zone. The Museum of Islamic Art and Sheraton Hotel are two prominent landmarks of the Corniche.
One more museum to check out while in Doha is the Mathaf, an Arab museum of modern art. It was inaugurated in 2010 and its name means ‘museum’ in Arabic. This building covers an area of 5500 square meters in the Education City of Doha, displaying more than 9000 sculptures and paintings of the Arab world. Most of these items were donated by Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammad Al Thani and are now managed by the Qatar Museum Authority.