With all the new places to eat, shop and explore sprouting up in Doha, every expat is most likely overwhelmed with the amount of things to do. That’s where we come in – we scour the city’s top spots and deliver them in these bite-sized pieces for your convenience. Here are the best five things to do in ten categories from art and culture to beaches and barbecues.
AREAS TO LIVE IN
Before West Bay became popular, Al Sadd was Doha’s number one area to live in. With the rise of the skyscrapers, literally, Al Sadd still has its old charm and has become far more affordable now. We’re talking a fully furnished two-bedroom for QR7,000 affordable.
Ever since the back roads to Lusail, the flyover to Katara and the tunnels to The Pearl-Qatar opened, Al Markhiya has become incredibly convenient. Although it’s mostly villas, the entire area is completely residential, so there’s no noise or any other sort of disturbance and since it’s still part of old Doha, there are all the necessities you need at walking distances.
Agreed, Al Waab isn’t really close to the business districts but if we’re looking at the Rayyan municipality, Al Waab has nice houses and most of them are quite affordable. Villaggio is just down the road, as is Aspire Park and the Torch Hotel, and we think not much else is needed.
While not very convenient and not completely developed, there’s no denying that this is the most beautiful area to live in Qatar.
West Bay If fancy views and contemporary living spaces are your thing, you have a winner.
Al Farkeeh Coast
Al Farkeeh Coast in the Al Khor municipality has a family section and a play zone, but not much else. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, drive further on to find a strip of land that’s almost always isolated. We don’t recommend swimming here. This place is great for shallow net fishing and then barbecuing your catch. We’ve done it a bunch of times and we’re very proud.
GPS: 25.680179, 51.538308.
Al Khor Family Beach
It’s a long drive but it is great for families and barbecues. There is parking, showers and toilets, playgrounds and limited areas of shade. The entire area is secured by fencing.
GPS: 25.678206, 51.538222.
Al Wakra Beach
There are two beaches to barbecue at in Al Wakra – one is great for families with shaded areas, playgrounds and barbecue pits. Shallow swimming is possible, too. Both are top options for grilling your favourite meats, sitting around the campfire and singing together (hopefully with a guitar).
GPS: 25.1314° N, 51.6169° E.
Dune-bashing for around one hour will bring you to one of the most beautiful places in Qatar – the Inland Sea, or Khor-Al-Udeid. This inlet creates a scenic camping spot and the waters are great for swimming too. Don’t be surprised if you see massive numbers of 4WDs pulling off-road for some dune bashing on the trip to the water’s edge. This is truly a barbecue experience like no other.
GPS: 24.6390789, 51.2076852.
This small seaside town has the first beach you will find when you hit the Shamaal highway from Doha, roughly 30km later. It’s not open all night, but if you want to fire up the grill in the evening, it’s very fitting. This beach is for families, primarily. There’s a football pitch, a playground, a park nearby and a really old mosque. There’s a Woqod on your way, too.
GPS: 25.573903, 51.487584
Expect turquoise waters and clean sand in this popular beach up north. There are ATVs to rent for entertainment. This is easily one of Doha’s best beaches.
GPS: 26.073159, 51.359690
Dukhan beach has two areas – one for the families, mostly barbecuing because the rocky shores are not very suitable for swimming with a playground for kids. The other one is a large open space, good for camping and swimming.
GPS: 25.404985, 50.755775.
This is one of Doha’s best and most popular beaches, so expect a lot of crowds. And clear blue waters and soft sand that you can sink your feet into. It’s perfect to lug a barbecue to.
GPS: 26.039893, 51.366963.
Now fully developed for the camping season, Sealine is a great spot for beach activities. There are fitness machines, water sports and loads of restaurants and cafés. Just around the corner, you can go dune bashing, too.
GPS: 24.861143, 51.516837.
Zekreet beach is a top option for overnight camps because the sunrise here is incredible. Expect lots of unique limestone cliffs in unusual surroundings and don’t forget your camera.
GPS: 25.597897, 50.827828.
Café # 999
For its sheer creativity, this is a must-visit café in Doha. It’s an old fire station converted into a café and art gallery. The café itself is spacious, serves some real nice food and great coffee and is the perfect spot to work or relax. There is an outdoor seating area and an old fire truck has been converted into a food truck right across.
Civil Defense Roundabout (4458 2556).
Qatar’s very first 100 percent vegan café is a must-try for its incredibly tasty food with the highest quality ingredients (whether you’re a vegan or not) and the excellent canal views outside. Have a coconut cake by the canal.
Qanat Quartier (4472 0437).
It’s cute and colourful and a great option for spending hours with your laptop or for friendly catch ups. The industrial chic design is aesthetically very pleasing and the coffee is an absolute corker.
The Business Park (4408 7744).
MIA Park Café
This open-air café located inside MIA Park is one of Doha’s most iconic coffee shops purely for its exquisite view. In winter days, you can cosy up with a warm blanket on the grass with a hot beverage or sit on one of the comfy chairs and admire the skyline right in front of you. This s a top experience.
Museum of Islamic Art (4422 4120).
Torch Tea Garden
This stunning spot really does justice to its name and brings the outdoors, indoor. The 360º view of Doha is very unique with wonderful glimpses of Aspire Lake below on one side, West Bay towers and old Doha, too. And since it’s a tea garden, expect some of the very best brews right here.
The Torch Doha (4446 5600).
Al Hazm Mall
This mall is the most luxurious retail spot in Doha (for now at least). It’s bathed in Italian marble with vintage cars on every corner, plush waterfalls and some of the city’s most expensive restaurants.
Al Markhiya (4411 1444).
Doha Festival City
It’s easy to navigate, the parking arrangement is fantastic and the selection of shops is pretty great. If these aren’t enough reasons, there’s also The Cheesecake Factory and the Angry Birds World indoor theme park. Watch this space for more.
Umm Slal Mohammed (4035 4444).
Ask anyone in Doha why they like Gulf Mall so much and they can never say. Neither can we – there’s just something about it that keeps pulling us back. We’ll let you know when we figure it out. We love the cinema here, too.
Al Gharaffa (4031 0600).
You read right, this mall is actually named The Mall. It’s one of Doha’s oldest and is still a really nice place to visit once in a while. There’s a good selection of retail stores, Opera bakery and a really popular cinema.
D Ring Road (4467 8888).
Old but gold, Villaggio still holds a special place in our hearts despite the incredible influx of brand-new malls in the city. We never get tired of the Venice-themed setting and the gondola rides with overexcited kids.
Al Waab (4413 5222).
Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani’s collection of antiques and art must be one of the most enviable in the world. Since the ’60s, Sheikh Faisal has curated a staggering collection of art, ceramics, cars, religious texts and more, and there are around 3,000 objects on display over five huge halls in this museum at Al Samriya. Don’t miss the incredible vintage car collection.
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
Get an Arab perspective on contemporary art in this interesting space. The new extensive collection brings together landmark artists and pivotal works that redefine modern and contemporary art practises and historical narratives.
Education City (4487 6662).
Located in the oldest part of Doha, four heritage houses are under one roof in Doha’s newest urban development. There’s the Bin Jelmood House that celebrates the abolition of the global slave trade, the Radwani House that shows the evolution of family life in Qatar, the Company House that used to be the headquarters of the first oil company and finally Mohammed Bin Jassim House that takes you through Msheireb over the years.
Msheireb Downtown Doha (800 3642).
Museum of Islamic Art
The iconic I. M. Pei-designed building is one of Doha’s top attractions. The main atrium offers spectacular West Bay views through three storey-high windows and the museum’s permanent exhibitions display beautiful objects from across the Islamic world – everything from metalwork, ceramics and textiles to manuscripts that date as far back as the 9th Century. Entrance is free for everyone and it’s worth taking advantage of one of the free tours.
Doha Corniche (4422 4444).
National Museum of Qatar
After a long wait, NMoQ finally opens on March 28. The museum is modelled after a desert rose with circular disks enclosing a massive space. Centred on Qatar’s restored historic palace, this architectural masterpiece by Jean Nouvel is integrated with commissioned artworks and films, rare objects and expansive gardens.
Al Thakira Mangroves
The beautiful mangroves on Purple Island, also known as Al Thakira Mangroves, have become one of the absolute must-do things for visitors and residents. The contrast of greenery in the midst of Qatar’s deserts is exciting and during winter months, you will see flamingos and other exotic birds.
GPS: 25.742060, 51.557683.
The Inland Sea, or Khor-Al-Udeid, is an inlet that creates a scenic camping spot and the visual of the sea in the middle of the desert is incredible. The waters are great for swimming in, too. The sand dunes touch the water and turtles can be sometimes seen. We’ve also heard that dugongs are visible from this area, along with some migratory birds.
GPS: 24.37523, 51.21236.
If you’ve had too much of all the cultural works in the city centre museums, head out to see some of the most important petroglyphs, carved on rocks, about an hour north of the city. The petroglyphs of Jebel Jassassiyeh contain around 900 artworks believed to be dated from the Neolithic era (around 12,000 years ago)..
GPS: 25.951563, 51.405996.
The Musfir Sinkhole located inside the Zekreet desert is an underground cave formation. As you descend into the cave, the temperatures start to drop and in the summer, the feeling of air-conditioning in the middle of the desert is quite interesting.
GPS: 25.1752° N, 51.2117°.
Zekreet is one of Doha’s most fascinating natural wonders. Limestone formations are scattered all around to create Qatar’s very own version of the Grand Canyon. Explore the treasure trove of cliffs and ridges and prepare to be stunned.
GPS: 25.4855° N, 50.8469° E.
Al Khor Park
The drive to Al Khor Park is long but the beauty of the park is completely worth it. There are open grassy lawns, a mini zoo, an aviary and a mini zip line.
One of Doha’s most green spots, Aspire Park is characterised by its soft jogging track, beautiful artificial lake in the middle (yes, ducks included), log cabin-themed coffee shops, play areas for kids and massive areas of lush landscaping. Go for a run, climb the little hills, use the free open air gym or just practise some yoga on the grass.
While it’s not free to enter, the park is perfect for an entire family day out. There are lots of adventure activities to be tried out, water features, a small zoo and a greenhouse. Take a tour on a golf cart through the Baladna farms if time permits.
Dahl Al Hammam Park
Located right opposite Tawar Mall, this park is great for doing a few rounds while the kids take a break. There’s a basketball court located on the other side of the park and it’s free for everyone to use.
Museum of Islamic Art Park
This expansive space has gorgeous views of West Bay and children will have a ball just running around or competing against each other in the fun obstacle course. There are several play areas dedicated to children and bicycles are available to rent for the adults. For QR25 per session, kids can also try out the bungee trampolines. The café with its views is a must-try.
PLACES TO WALK
Al Bidda Park
After months of construction, all the areas surrounding the roads parallel to the Corniche have been converted into beautiful, green parks with barbecue pits, playgrounds, toilets and a few other amenities. You can even bring your pets here.
The long, winding track around this lush green space is perfect for walking or jogging, especially since the ground here is softer than regular jogging tracks. The temperature is always cooler there, thanks to all the trees and the artificial lake in the centre. Plus, if you’re feeling extra fit, there’s an open-air gym that’s free for everyone.
The run across the length of the Corniche until Costa is a popular one but we suggest slowing down a little to admire the impressive skyline, the brightly lit boats and the sea breeze.
Dahl Al Hammam Park
It’s conveniently located near Landmark Mall, it’s away from the city hustle and it has got a playground for the kids. For some extra fun, bring a basketball along and shoot some hoops in court.
A series of bridges, tunnels and canals surrounded by incredible, pastel-coloured buildings sounds like the most perfect walk. And after a few 7am sessions every day, we can guarantee it is.
Richard Serra’s sculpture East-West/West-East is a breathtaking marriage of stunning scenery and provocative art. You need to see this landscape-busting art that spans more than one kilometre and comprises four steel plates, each upwards of 14 metres tall. Prepare to be stunned.
Gandhi’s Three Monkeys
Subodh Gupta’s extraordinary interpretation of Gandhi’s famous three monkeys is located inside Katara Cultural Village. There are sculptures of soldiers, one wearing a gas mask, another wearing a helmet and aviators and the third wearing a hood. Each piece has been created with traditional cooking utensils and lunchboxes used in India.
Katara Cultural Village.
American artist Tony Smith designed Smoke in 1967 and this monumental sculpture now sits outside Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). This two-tiered aluminium sculpture stands more than seven metres tall and is a combination of geometric components, including five tetrahedrons and 45 extended octahedrons.
Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre.
The Challenge 2015
Renowned Iraqi artist Ahmed Bahrani worked with Qatar Museums to create a marvellous piece of art spanning a large space outside Lusail Stadium. Large bronze hands reach for the sky with one of them holding a football.
The Miraculous Journey
Damien Hirst, known for his controversial artwork (the dead cow, anyone?), has a large-scale installation outside Sidra Hospital. Dedicated to women, a series of fourteen monumental bronze sculptures chronicles the gestation of a fetus inside a uterus, from conception to birth. It ends with a statue of a 14-metre-tall anatomically correct baby boy. The colossal figures range from five to 11 metres in height. Pretty incredible.