Feel more in Qatar. With a whisper of cooling wind whistling over the dunes, the country’s towering deserts are timelessly beautiful; lapped by the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, its sparkling coastline is a haven for watersports, be that lazy days spent sailing or swooping through the air while kite-surfing. And there are endless cosmopolitan delights in Doha, where public artworks turn city streets into open-air galleries; shoppers sway between traditional souks and ultra-modern malls; and authentic dining experiences with stunning views cover seemingly every global cuisine.
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei and on its own purpose-built island abutting the Corniche (Doha’s waterfront promenade), the MIA is home to one of the world’s richest collections of Islamic art. Its galleries span three continents and cover 1,400 years of cultural heritage. Displays, both secular and religious, incorporate ancient ceramics, intricate jewelry, rare books and exemplary examples of Islamic art. Another highlight is found on the top floor, where Alain Ducasse’s fine-dining restaurant, IDAM, overlooks Doha’s skyline and serves modern French-Mediterranean dishes infused with Arabic influences.
A breathtaking marvel whose design was inspired by the curves and folds of the desert rose, the National Museum of Qatar is one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. It’s also where you’ll learn all about Qatar’s eventful history, from antiquity to modernity. Immersive installations and surprising exhibits await in its galleries - look out for the dazzling Baruda Carpet, embedded with over 1.5 million shimmering pearls. Kids will also love exploring the ‘shipwreck’ that takes centre stage in NMoQ park’s playground.
Msheireb Downtown Doha is where past and future meet. Formerly Doha’s old commercial hub and now the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project, in this walkable district of elegant white-limestone buildings cooling tree-lined pedestrian pathways lead to colorful boutiques and artisans’ buzzing workshops. Feel wonder during visits to Msheireb Museums, four heritage houses that convey old Qatar’s charm and spirit, and by exploring spectacular large-scale temporary exhibitions that often pay tribute to the titans of high fashion, from Valentino to Dior.
Its name is derived from the ancient spelling of ‘Qatar’, this is one of Doha’s most diverse cultural districts: wander its shaded laneways and you’ll find attractions ranging from Qatar’s Visual Arts Centre to the Arab Postal Stamps Museum. Added to that are the shorefront amphitheatre, which hosts up to 5,000 spectators for theatre and opera performances; the shimmering Gold Mosque; Al Thuraya Planetarium; a range of shops and dining venues; and a tranquil beachside promenade gently perfumed with the spritz of sea salt. At Tasty Street, where affordable food stalls are open from late afternoon to night, the air is deliciously heavy with the scent of hot chocolate, sizzling falafel and just-baked pastries.
A surreal sight about an hour from Doha’s, East-West/West-East is a modern masterpiece. Conceived by the American artist Richard Serra, this mammoth, kilometre-long work comprises a series of 14-metre-high metal slabs slotted between lunar rock formations. Entirely unique, undeniably impressive and unexpectedly moving, it is perhaps the most ambitious of Qatar’s many public artworks - and it’s particularly special at dusk when the soft, honey-pink light of the setting sun casts long, dramatic shadows over this otherworldly terrain.
Situated on the site of Doha’s old trading market, Souq Waqif is an intriguing window into Qatar’s fused past and present: a warren of low-rise traditional buildings backed by Doha’s dramatic modern skyline and decorated with modern art installations such as Le Pouce, a giant golden thumb. This is the city’s traditional heartland, with herds of camels grazing on its fringes, a falcon hospital in its centre, and friends and families feasting together on platters of mezze, fresh falafel and sizzling shawarma. And everywhere you look are stall holders selling fragrant spices, shimmering fabrics and distinctive homewares.
On its own secluded, sweeping private beach, this well-known and much-loved resort is an oasis of relaxation. Modelled after a traditional Qatari village and popular with families, its sprawling grounds house three pools (including one especially for children and families), and a grandly equipped spa. Here relaxing traditional Arabic-style treatments might include invigorating hammams or reviving massages where therapists gently stroke away muscle ache, relaxing both body and mind. Another highlight comes at night, when the views of Doha’s illuminated skyline sparkling across the bay are especially beautiful.
It isn’t just Doha’s skyline that’s evolving - its shoreline is too. Comprising a succession of public and private beaches alongside gardens, kids’ play areas, restaurants and cafés, the newly developed West Bay North Beach means all the best bits of the seaside are seconds from the pleasures of the city. Feel warmth’s embrace as you sunbathe before enjoying the thrill of a day on the water, whether that’s simply swimming, gently paddleboarding or zipping along the Arabian Gulf by jet ski.
Feel the joy of a day that goes beautifully at The Pearl Qatar, a picturesque island near Doha’s prestigious West Bay District that excels at relaxed recreation. Featuring Mediterranean-style marinas where visitors can board yachts or speed boats for exhilarating voyages past Doha’s sparkling skyline, the pretty, pastel-colored precinct offers grand hotels and upmarket shopping experiences. Lining the waterfront, its lively eateries range from outdoor fine-dining venues to cosy canalside chocolateries, all framed by elegant pedestrian-friendly squares and distinctive Venetian-style buildings.
With a pretty canal flowing through its centre and a huge dancing fountain bursting into life at its courtyard, Place Vendôme Qatar is a French fantasy in the heart of Qatar. Inspired by the shopping boulevards of Paris, this amazing mall is home to the world’s most luxurious brands alongside high-street favorites. Expect to be spellbound by dazzling jewelry, fall in love with fabulous fashion and enjoy precious time with friends and family as you explore endless entertainment options.
A newly opened island off the coast of Lusail, Al Maha Island is a fantastical holiday destination within effortless reach of downtown Doha. Ringed by seaside restaurants that serve everything from superlative sushi to homely Italian - and include glamorous names like Zuma, La Petite Maison and Billionaire - it incorporates a chic beach club and is also home to Lusail Winter Wonderland, a family-friendly festive fair with cosy chalets, cute shops and thrilling theme park rides.
A new architectural icon for the country, the interlocked curves that form the exteriors of Lusail’s Fairmont Doha and Raffles Doha dramatically reference the silhouette of crossed swords. Given this is such a flagship building, it’s unsurprising these two lavish hotels are among the most extravagant in the Middle East. Housing glamorous restaurants - the landmark is already one of Qatar’s most exciting dining destinations – alongside impeccable wellness facilities and spectacular seafront signature suites, the hotels promise unparalleled service and the highest levels of luxury.
Also known as Khor Al Adaid, Qatar’s Inland Sea is one of the only places in the world where towering desert dunes tumble directly into the sea: the awe-inspiring contrast of infinite sands colliding with endless turquoise waters must be seen to be believed. And it’s arguably most magical at dusk, when couples can admire glossy sunsets and shimmering stars before camping down in a roomy, romantic tent. Still spectacular by day, the surrounding landscape also forms a blue-sky playground that’s perfect for dune buggying, paragliding and camel trekking.
Rugged and remote, Purple Island draws escapists and adventurers keen to be reimmersed in nature. Flanked by mangrove forests, it is a haven for kayakers, walkers and bird-watchers, while hardy campers (mindful that there are no facilities on site) are welcome to stay the night for an adventurous, back-to-basics sleepover.
A newly minted lifestyle district that integrates boutiques, leisure facilities and cultural activities under the warmth of glowing amber light, Lusail Boulevard fizzes with energy. Stretching over one kilometre, this grand new avenue was inspired by the Champs-Élysées but there’s no mistaking you’re in the Middle East. On balmy evenings, shoppers can admire Qatar’s golden sunsets as they stroll under palm trees just minutes from the Arabian Gulf.
A 7km-long promenade, Doha’s crescent-shaped Corniche is beloved by locals and travelers for relaxed walks by its waterways or to attend the events and festivals that are so frequently held here. First-time visitors will find the skyline views are unsurpassed, while the Corniche is also a gateway to one of the city’s loveliest activities: languid cruises along the bay aboard one of Doha’s beautiful handcrafted dhow boats, where couples can gently sail upon the waves as the sunset paints a gloss of pastel colors across the skyline’s silver skyscrapers.
Set on a pristine half-moon beach, this private-island resort by Anantara is one of Qatar’s most glamorous hideaways. Family-friendly and exceptionally relaxing, the retreat offers surfing, diving and bowling, alongside a putting green, cinema and a grand oud-scented spa where gentle therapists work miracles with their massages and indulgent hammam treatments leave you refreshed and renewed as can be. Floating above the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, its over-water villas are among the most coveted abodes in all of Doha.
Near where cascading sand dunes tumble towards the iridescent waters of the Inland Sea, The Outpost Al Barari is one of Qatar’s most atmospheric retreats. Housing just 21 tented suites – many with pools – the resort is intimate, relaxed and incredibly romantic. After days spent exploring the camp’s surroundings or even hot-air ballooning, couples can gather at Al Barari’s flickering fire pit to admire dreamy sunsets and, later, the enigmatic desert landscape ablaze under the glow of infinite stars.
Flying to India, Asia, or Africa? Why not make a stopover in Qatar?
More reasons why to stopover in Qatar >>
Whether it's a day or 4 days, Qatar has something for every traveler. Enjoy the following list of possible attractions that will fit your travel schedule.
Learn what attractions are around Qatar >>
Read other facts about Qatar >>