Best things to do in Doha
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Play at Megapolis
If a teenager were to design their ultimate location for indoor fun it would look similar to this enormous Pearl-Qatar amusement centre. It has a giant games arcade, bowling alley, karaoke suites, driving and golf simulators, billiards hall, boutique shops and more. It also has amazing virtual reality. Immersive stuff.
Sun-Sat 10-2am. Megapolis. The Pearl-Qatar, www.megapolisqatar.com (3303 0555).
Explore the underwater world
“Under the sea, under the sea, down where it’s wetter, you know it is better, take it from me.” Learn to scuba dive and be taken to brilliant dive sites all around the Qatar coast, becoming part of the Doha dive community.
Poseidon Dive Centre, Hilton Doha, West Bay, www.pdcqatar.com (6608 4040).
Shop a lot at Mall of Qatar
There are more than five million square feet of space in this giant new mall. To put that another way, it is ginormous. 500 shops worth of big, in fact. When not buying stuff and window shopping, revel in the fantastic family entertainment, including a 360-degree custom-built stage, 19-screen cinema and the Extremeland entertainment hub.
Daily. 10am-midnight. Mall of Qatar, Al Jahhaniya Interchange, Street 373, www.mallofqatar.com.qa (4034 6000).
See the souqs and practise your haggling
An authentic shopping experience outside of the glam air-conditioned malls is distinctly Arabic and fun. Well-presented and recently modernised while still retaining a Bedouin style, Souq Waqif is where to go for souvenirs, carpets, spices, scents and discount clothing and materials.
Just off the Corniche, adjacent to Grand Hamad Street, Ali Bin Abdulla Street and Al Souq Street.
Kayak in Doha’s mangroves
Be adventurous and join a tour company on a guided paddle through the mangroves at Al Thakira Bay. Look out for flamingos, crabs and varied animal and plant life as you glide through the waters. There are camping options for added outdoor thrills, or you can book in a two-hour tour which has a stop for a secluded barbecue before the major sights.
Entalek, Al Rayyan, www.entalek.org (3023 3207).
See a desert sea and beautiful dunes
A desert safari is a brilliant way to get out of Doha and see the surrounding country. Tour companies like Discover Qatar take you on a 4x4 roller coaster ride over dunes and into the heart of the sand lands. Itineraries usually include a stop off at a camel farm, traditional refreshments and a look at the stunning Inland Sea. This UNESCO-recognised natural reserve is a tranquil expanse, which can only be reached by driving over the rugged dunes.
Discover Qatar, Qatar Airways Tower 1, Airport Road, www.qatarairways.com (4423 7940).
It is only five years until Qatar becomes the sporting capital of the world and, as the nation marches towards the World Cup, Aspire Zone is the hub of all things active. World class sport facilities include football, athletics, cricket, tennis, swimming and much more.
Aspire Zone, Aspire Zone Road, www.aspirezone.qa (4413 8188).
Stingray surfing, boomerango, spaceboat – we would love to have been in the office the day rides were named at Doha’s waterpark. Partly because we reckon after naming them people were allowed to ride the slides, circle the lazy river and generally just splash about in the sun. But also because we want to share the name ‛Aquattaq’.
Sun-Wed 1-10pm, Thu-Sat 10am-10pm. Aqua Park Qatar, Salwa Road, www.aquaparkqatar.com (4490 5672).
Appreciate modern Islamic art
Stunning. The iconic building, the views, the challenging exhibitions, the gorgeous park – everything about this Corniche gallery and museum is spectacular. Exhibitions include metalwork, ceramics, textiles and manuscripts. Take one of the free tours, look in at the excellent restaurants and just enjoy being in one of the most picture-postcard perfect places in the Middle East.
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha Corniche, www.mia.org.qa (4422 4444).
Have a giggle at the Laughter Factory
Twenty years’ experience and associations with the UK’s legendary Comedy Store gives this regional institution access to the best comedians touring today. With a reputation for breaking some of the biggest names in the funny business before they were famous it is the best smiles-per-minute night out in Doha. Laughter guaranteed.
Grand Hyatt Doha, West Bay Lagoon, www.thelaughterfactory.com (+971 50 878 6728).
Eat on a donut
The most interactive dining experience in Doha puts you in charge of both navigating your own boat and also cooking your own food. BBQ Donuts are circular seafaring craft, on which you can sail up and down the West Bay waters. Underneath the sun umbrella and snacking on grilled meats, it is fun and filling.
8am-10pm. Diplomatic Club, West Bay Lagoon, www.thediplomaticclub.com (4484 7450).
Eat in Doha’s best restaurant
Unrelentingly glamorous, delightfully intimate and gloriously atmospheric – the Chinese import of Hakkasan, at the St. Regis Doha, should go straight to the top of your must-dine list. It is pricey, but the fantastic bar and exemplary food are fine dining at its very best.
Hakkasan Doha, St. Regis Doha, West Bay, www.hakkasan.com (4446 0170).
Watch Xavi play
One of the greatest footballers of all time plays here in Doha. Not going to watch him is like passing up the chance to watch The Beatles or owning a Ferrari and keeping it in the garage. There are other teams and any Qatar Star League game you can get along to is highly recommended, but Al Sadd's Xavi is the standout superstar.
Al Sadd Club, Al Nadi Street, www.al-saddclub.com (4444 8080).
Enjoy a lazy afternoon tea
Scones, crumpets, tarts, eclairs, finger sandwiches and a fetching tea selection make the Four Seasons hotel afternoon tea a favourite in an impressive field. It all feels rather opulent and you’d be forgiven for raising your pinky finger as you sip hot drinks and pick at crumbs.
Four Seasons Doha, Doha Corniche, www.fourseasons.com (4494 8600).
Try a celebrity chef’s menu
Award-winning chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay and Vineet Bhatia have opened Qatar outposts of their culinary empires in Doha. They tend to be at the fine-dining end of the spectrum, but all are accessible and an opportunity to sample dishes inspired by, if not cooked by, global gourmet greats.
Various locations, including Gordon Ramsay, St. Regis Doha, West Bay, www.gordonramsaydoha.com (4446 0105).
Escape to Banana Island Resort
The wow factor is strong on this private island resort. After taking a 25-minute boat tour to arrive, you can relax on the resort’s impressive beach, play on the surf simulator or bowling alley, visit the impressive hammam or visit the many restaurants and cafes. A true getaway without leaving the country may be just what the doctor ordered.
Banana Island Resort by Anantara, Banana Island, www.anantara.com (4040 5050).
Clubbing at Illusion
Clubbing doesn’t come more magical than the amazing rooftop at Marsa Malaz Kempinski. Lush and plush interiors are a cross between a private club and a boudoir lounge, and out on the deck you’ll be afforded stunning Pearl-Qatar views. It is home to some of the best dance and ladies’ nights in Doha and a visit to see how the city parties is strongly recommended at this awesome venue.
Daily 4pm-2am. Illusion, Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Qatar, www.illusiondoha.com (4035 5757).
Have A famous Doha Friday Brunch
All-you-can-eat feasts have become an integral part of the Doha dining scene and the finest in the land is at the Four Seasons. Spread across Elements, Il Teatro and Arabica, it is laid-back and culinary highlights including a Peking duck station, dim sum deliveries, an entire chocolate cellar and impressive carvery station. Bring a new belt.
QR340-440. Fridays. 12.30-4.30pm. Four Seasons Doha, Doha Corniche, www.fourseasons.com (4494 8600).
Budget food at Oriental Kitchen
When it is time to tighten the purse strings, but still eat out, we usually drop in at this great Chinese-Malaysian hangout. It is tiny and always packed with diners gorging on budget-friendly rice or noodle dishes. Two people can comfortably eat and drink for less than QR100 and it is usually excellent as well.
Sat-Thu, 10.30am-3pm, 5.30-10pm; Fri 12.30-10pm. Oriental Kitchen, Kuwaiti Building, Al Khaldiya (3336 3279).
Karak at Katara
A steaming cup of this masala chai is a favourite drink across the Middle East and South Asia and has been adopted as a favourite drink in Doha. The spiced, sweet tea is creamy and cheap and can be used to wash down budget flat breads in this fun anytime snack spot.
Open 24hours. Chapati & Karak, Hikma Street, Katara Cultural Village, Katara, www.karakandchapati.com (4408 1408).
Jazz at The Club
Doha has had a love affair with jazz in recent years and although this imperiously cool lounge no longer has a tie-in with New York’s Lincoln Center, it is still the place for swinging live music in the city. A revolving line-up of resident musicians changes seasonally and you will see awesome jamming sessions and hear classics aplenty on a chic and stylish night out here.
Tue-Sat 7pm-2am. The Club, St. Regis Doha, West Bay, www.theclubdoha.com (3387 0925).
No matter how long you intend to stay in the Middle East, a few words and essential phrases of local language will help you along. Take Arabic lessons to get some handy phrases as well as learn about local traditions and culture. Alternatively, you can top up English-language skills or start another language entirely. Your call, hombre.
Berlitz Language Centre, Eastern Ring Road, Mesaimeer, www.berlitz-qatar.com (4455 0506).
See gold sparkle
It is the sheer volume and the varying degrees of shininess that captivate us on a walk through the Gold Souq. Millions of dollars’ worth of gleaming precious metals hang draped in shop windows. Rings, necklaces, bullion, watches and all manner of gold-plated souvenirs await your best bartering skills.
Next to Al-Ghanim Central Bus Station, off Banks Street.
Experience a luxury spa
Pampering and spa treatments are popular with Doha residents and tourists alike. With many exclusive retreats around, you can pick a therapy to suit your needs and expectations of luxury. Try something unusual like a coffee and chocolate body scrub at a swanky spa at the entrance to The Pearl-Qatar. You won’t know whether to snore, or lick yourself.
Jaula Spa, Grand Hyatt Doha, West Bay Lagoon, www.hyatt.com (4448 1056).
Ride the monster bus
Newcomers, first-time travellers and one-off visitors alike will benefit from taking a sightseeing tour of Doha. The bright and friendly bus tours operate a hop-on, hop-off system, meaning you can leave the guided tours at any time and take in sights such as the museums, souqs, key hotels and districts. Coming soon is a giant-wheeled off-road bus to take tours into the dunes. Should be very special indeed.
Daily 9am-9pm. Various locations, www.dohabus.com (4442 2444).
Enjoy outdoor cinema in Doha
Al fresco movies are fun, casual and easy-going ways to spend an evening. Which is why Hawa Scene, facilitated by the Doha Government, is so well-received. Films tend to be family favourites and it is expected that there is a general chatter. So don’t go if you’re seeking a premium cinema experience. For family movie night down on a picnic blanket in a park, however, this is hard to beat.
Thu-Fri from 7pm. Hawa Scene, Dah Al Hamam Park, www.hawascene.com (4447 8850).
Ride a dhow
The traditional Arabian sea craft can still be spotted sailing up and down Gulf waters. The old-style wooden boats are still used for transport and trade, but are just as likely to be for tourists now. Tours and excursions can take you overnight or for water sports. Test your sea legs by enjoying a barbecue cruise to begin with. As you would guess, this includes a barbecue dinner and a trip long enough to give you plenty of time for snorkelling and photo opportunities, too.
Qatar International Adventures, Al Rawabi Street, Al Muntazah Building, www.qia-qatar.com (4455 3954).
Experience culture and more at Katara
One of our favourite spots in Doha. Simple. The cultural hub has an amphitheatre, opera house, craft markets, folk music performances and lots of art in general. Look out for regularly-updating exhibitions, performances and seminars. If nothing calls out to your cultural sensibilities then rest assured the abundance of cafes and snackstops plus an excellent public beach should have you visiting at least once a week, anyway.
Katara Cultural Village, www.katara.net (4408 0000).
Listen to dunes sing
The ethereal whistles and haunting moans of a “singing sand dune” can only be heard in a handful of places around the world, and right here in Doha is one of them. If you’ve been telling yourself you need to get out of the malls, then a visit here has to go on your to-do list. The music is made by the winds shifting the sands and there is nothing quite like it. We also reckon that the best sounds can be heard from a makeshift sled sliding down the dunes and kicking up more grains into your own private amphitheatre.
Head out on Salwa Road towards Mesaieed and set GPS for 25.038891, 51.406010.
Camp in Qatar
Toast marshmallows, tell spooky stories by moonlight, drift off to the sounds of the sea and improvise toilets. Okay, that last one might take some of the adventurous edge of a camping expedition on the Qatari coast, but don’t let it put you off. You can go with a tour company (in which case all details and arrangements are dealt with for you) or, if proper precautions are taken, make your own adventure. Unusual limestone cliffs and some pretty bays in Zekreet or the sandy beaches and untroubled mangroves of Fuwairat are good starting points.
For Zekreet take the Al Rayyan Road and aim for 25.491801, 50.843566 on a GPS. For Fuwairat drive to 26.026772, 51.381092. Respect animals, local customs and the environment when camping.
If you’ve ever seen a camel stand up and walk forwards you’ll know it is a creature with its own way of doing things. Add in robot jockeys (we’re not kidding here) and an enthusiastic crowd and a race is a Doha sight to remember. Place it on your bucket list and take the next opportunity you can to witness it first-hand.
Take the Doha-Dukhan road, and take the first exit from the roundabout after Al Rayyan football stadium. The race track is signposted (4487 2028).
Watch life happen on the Corniche
The pretty waterfront promenade in Doha stretches along for more than 5km and a determined pedestrian or cyclist can cover every part of it. Late afternoon, as the sun is setting, you will see power-walkers, families, idle chatterers, selfie-takers, view-admirers and karak-sippers all striding on towards West Bay. In a city not well-known for hikes and walks, this is a route you can stop on any time for a breeze and a view.
Play on the sea
Living on the water's edge is all the excuse you need to get wet and wild and enjoy some outdoor watersports. Aqua club and activity specialists such as the Blue Pearl Club have great facilities allowing you to try a hand at wind-surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and more. This could be your chance to try the developing sport of kitesurfing. Having been labelled "the new golf" due to its popularity with a youthful generation of CEOs trying it out, it was given a further boost when former US President Barack Obama chose it as a first holiday activity upon leaving the Whitehouse.
Club Blue Pearl, Porto Arabia, Pearl-Qatar, www.clubbluepearl.com (6660 2830).
Feel speed at Losail
Motorsports in Doha tend to mean a trip to Losail circuit. It has been home to multiple international races and some thrilling sport. Better than that, however, you can get down on the track yourself. Either on foot or a bicycle as part of numerous fitness drives or, for speed freaks, as part of a track day. Take high-performance touring cars or powered-up motorbikes around the same course the professionals use and put your driving to the test against the best.
Losail Circuit Sports Club, Al Wusail, North Relief Road, www.circuitlosail.com (4472 9151).
Make a trip to Mathaf
A world-class curation of the very best and most challenging of modern art in the Middle East is on permanent display at this stunning gallery. Tour guides can lead you through exhibits, there are art lessons and workshops, work space is available and it has a regularly updating calendar of events. Soak up culture and feel inspired here.
Sat-Sun, 11am-6pm (closed Mondays); Fri, 3-8pm. Mathaf, Al Luqta Street, Education City, www.mathaf.org.qa (4402 8855).
Day at the beach club
The stunning private beaches of Doha are ideal for lazy days with intermittent splashes of activity. A visit to a resort such as the gorgeous Sharq Village, by Ritz-Carlton, is typical of what you can expect. Beautiful lagoon-style pools, private cabanas on the beach, beach games, sunsets you will never forget and hours of tanning time are all within reach for visitors and anyone fancying bunking off work. Or maybe that’s just us.
Dhs100-200. Daily. 9am-sunset. Sharq Village, Ras Abu Abboud Street, www.ritzcarlton.com (4425 6666).
Luxury cinema and giant screens
Seven-star cinema screens show the latest blockbusters and raise the benchmark of Hollywood. Fully reclining seats, premium meals, extra blankets and pillows come as standard. Be warned, however, you might not want to go back to a regular screening after sampling this. The same can be said of the giant IMAX screens at the Novo cinema in Doha. Movies, frankly, don't get any better.
Novo Cinema, Cordoba Street, The Pearl-Qatar, www.novocinemas.com (4418 5736).
Party with wow factor
Doha’s nightlife gets better every year and there are loads of brilliant lounges and hangouts to explore. Few compete with the stunning 56th floor of the InterContinental Doha – The City for jaw-dropping swagger, though. Turn up at Strata Lounge’s Wednesday ladies’ night for a couple of free drinks and the chance to win a designer handbag. If you are a lady, that is. Gents will have to make do with some of the city’s best views, a chic ambience and good company.
Free. Wednesdays 9pm-2am. Strata Lounge, InterContinental Doha - The City, West Bay, www.ihg.com (4015 8888).
Understand regional heritage
Doha is booming. The massive construction boom taking the city to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and beyond is changing the landscape forever. Before old history is overshadowed by something altogether shinier, you should make the effort to see how far Qatar has come. Forts, towers and archaeological sites are preserved and celebrated. The Al Zubarah Archaeological site is UNESCO-protected and represents hundreds of years of heritage in the country. Walk among residential palaces, see the military fort and learn about he pearling heritage of Qatar. Make plans, also, to see Al Rakayat Fort, Barzan Towers and Purple Island. Immediately.
For Al Zubarah fort visit the Madinat Al Shamal area, approximately 37km off Al Shamal Road.
Time Out Doha,