Planning your trip to Qatar? Whether you’re there for the World Cup or to tick this Arab country off your bucket list, don’t miss the ultimate things to do in Qatar!
Qatar is situated on the west coast of the Persian Gulf, offering a vast amount of attractions that go from sandy beaches to endless dunes in the desert, exotic animals, and unrivaled futuristic cities.
This Arab country merges its heritage and centuries of tradition with modern life, and it’s a perfect destination to experience the stark contrast of both worlds.
While in Qatar, things to do include watching the most popular sport (hint: it’s not soccer), marveling at an astounding phenomenon in the desert, feasting on Qatari delicacies, and shopping (a lot!)
Check out the very best things to do in Qatar this 2022!
Take Part in the World Cup
World Cup 2022 is taking place in Qatar, so you can’t miss the festivities, matches and vibrant atmosphere that will take over the country.
Whether you’re planning to see every match until the end or don’t care much about soccer, you should at least watch one FIFA World Cup match if you’re there at the right time! You can then join the community festivals and fan gatherings that surround this massive global event.
You can also tour the stadiums in which the 2022 World Cup in Qatar will take place, the most iconic being Lusail Stadium, Al Bayt Stadium, and Khalifa International Stadium.
Find the schedule for all matches here, so you can plan ahead which match you’ll be in town to see!
Try the traditional Qatari food
One of the most fun things to do in Qatar is to try the traditional Qatari food and taste all those new flavors that make Arab cuisine so widely known and enjoyed. Some of the dishes you can’t miss during your time in the country are the following.
- Machboos/Kabsa: One of the most typical dishes in the country, it consists of basmati rice cooked with various spices and meat, which can be anything from camel meat to fish or chicken.
- Balaleet: Popular in many countries in the Middle East, this dish is both sweet and savory, and usually served for breakfast either hot or cold. It consists of vermicelli sweetened by saffron, rose water and spices, and topped with an omelet.
- Al Harees: Also popular in several neighboring countries, Al Harees is a favorite meal to break the fast during Ramadan and to be serves in special occasions. It’s made with cracked wheat and meat, and has the consistency of porridge.
- Luqaimat: These sweet, crunchy dumplings are a delicious dessert that resemble doughnuts in both texture and taste. Served soaked in honey or date syrup, you can’t leave Qatar without trying them!
Shop for Souvenirs at Souq Waqif
Souq means market, and this bustling and very popular souq located in the center of Doha is a must visit in the country, as it dates back to over 200 years and is set on the very same location where livestock and objects were traded in past times.
You’ll find its charm in the traditional building that houses it and the immense variety of articles for sale, from gold pieces to spices, handicrafts, traditional costumes and even kitchen utensils. Any of the cafes or eateries at the souq is a great place to try the Qatari traditional food.
Not ready to buy souvenirs or just tried the most delicious Luqaimat? Then you may enjoy learning about falcons while you hold one in your hand, visiting the camels and horses at the Emirati Stables, or taking in the work of local artists. All in all, it’s one of the most entertaining Qatar attractions!
You can visit the souq on your own or enjoy a Doha tour that will include it.
➤ Enjoy a guided visit to the market with the Souq Waqif and Local Market Tour, where you’ll get to try a traditional Qatari meal and learn about the souq’s past as you discover its hidden gems and stalls. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday from 8 AM to 12.30 PM, and 3 PM to 10 PM. Friday from 3 PM to 10 PM.
Go on a Desert Safari
Qatar is an extension of the Rub’al-Khali desert in the Arabian Peninsula, and features 8 beautiful and vast deserts, the biggest one located just south of its capital city, Doha.
Undulating dunes, white sand and endless possibilities to have fun, from dune bashing to drinking Arabic coffee and dates in a Bedouin Camp, make going into the desert one of the most thrilling adventures in Qatar.
The best way to immerse in it is by joining a desert safari, accompanied by knowledgeable guides who will take you to the best spots for sandboarding and to the traditional camps for riding camels, getting henna tattoos or learning about falconry, providing a truly unforgettable experience.
I wrote a full guide about the best Qatar desert safaris from Doha, but to make it short these are the very best ones in my opinion.
➤ The Private Half-Day Desert Safari takes you and your group on an exhilarating journey, in which you’ll enjoy dune bashing, sandboarding, and camel riding, as well as a visit to the Inland Sea. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ This Desert Safari from Doha includes transfers in an air-conditioned vehicle and takes you camel riding, dune bashing, and sandboarding. Photo stops and a visit to the Inland Sea are also part of the trip. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Stroll Along the Doha Corniche
Doha Corniche is a 4-mile (7 km) promenade that runs along Doha Bay, offering astounding views of the water and a very enjoyable stroll at any time of day (but especially at night!)
Along the way you’ll find several stores and souvenir shops, sports facilities, and cafes where to stop for lunch or a pastry as you take in the scenery in front of you. Strolling down the highlights is one of the very best things to do in Doha.
Highlights of the Doha Corniche that you can’t miss include the skyline viewpoint, from where you’ll get spectacular snaps of the bay with its dhows (traditional boats), and the Pearl Monument. Did you know Qatar’s main source of income was pearl diving, before the oil boom?
➤ To truly make the most of your time in Doha, I suggest booking the Private Doha City Tour which takes you to the Corniche, as well as other impressive Doha attractions such as Souq Waqif, the Perle-Qatar, the State Grand Mosque and the National Museum. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Visit the Museum of Islamic Art
The Museum of Islamic Art is one of the most splendid museums in Qatar, located on an island and housing a collection that represents around 1,300 years of Islamic Art from various countries. In this museum you’ll find the perfect combination of art and heritage, and it’s a must-visit for art and history buffs, but not limited to them!
Old Islamic books, textiles, jewelry and gems, ceramics, Arabic calligraphy and woodwork are some of the exhibited objects you’ll get to see, and there’s also a café, a gift shop, a library, and a park.
Do some Retail Therapy at The Pearl
The Pearl-Qatar is a man-made island, better known for being home to high-end Doha restaurants and hotels, as well as luxurious stores and (very expensive) world-renowned brands that make the island a shopping paradise.
Versace, Balenciaga, Hermes, Armani, and Hugo Boss are only a few of the brands you’ll come across while exploring the Pearl, as besides being a very lavish residential area, one of the main purposes of non-residents when visiting is, indeed, shopping!
Ps. Even if retail therapy is not in your travel plans, don’t miss a chance to visit the Pearl and be shocked at its opulence! You can also enjoy the stunning views from the island by strolling along its boardwalks, sipping a drink in one of the waterfront cafes, or indulging in a very fancy dining experience.
Activities to do in Qatar’s The Pearl also include trying out the Piano Stairs at Qanat Quartier are also a good attraction at the Pearl, as well as the very photogenic Venetian Bridge.
Check Out the Barzan Towers
Situated around 12 miles (20 km) north of Doha in the town Umm Saalal Mohammed you’ll find the Barzan Towers, which in Arabic means High Place. No wonder, since these 19th-century towers are 52.5 feet (16 meters) tall at the highest point!
Built in the shape of a T, their main purpose was to be used as watchtowers to prevent an Ottoman invasion, but they were also used to track the new moon during Ramadan, as well as an observatory.
The walls are one meter broad and very well-maintained, and the towers now serve as a museum that displays the rich history of the country. Don’t forget to climb to the top of the watchtowers to enjoy the view!
Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 12.30 AM
Entrance Fee: Free
Relax on a Dhow Cruise
A Dhow is a wooden ship traditionally used by fishermen and pearl divers, and which constitutes an integral part of Qatari culture. These magnificent vessels, which can actually last for over 100 years, are still an icon of the country, and are nowadays used for sightseeing cruises along the coast.
Going on a Dhow cruise is a great way to discover a new angle of the city of Doha and get impressive views of its skyline, as well as be transported to a by-gone era, gliding on the Persian Gulf and relaxing after all the walking around you’ve probably been doing.
➤ The City Tour and Dhow Boat Cruise is a 4-hour excursion that takes you to the main landmarks of Doha with photo stops included, and to stroll around Souq Waqif, before boarding a traditional dhow to sail along the coast. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Discover Qatar’s History at the National Museum
One of the most interesting tourist attractions in Qatar is the National Museum of Qatar, housed in a mind-blowing building that resembles a rose, and while the structure alone is worth the visit, be sure to check it inside to catch a glimpse of the country’s history.
The museum is completely dedicated to the historical events of Qatar, with exhibitions about life before the oil boom, displays of Bedouin artifacts and information, and all about the effects that the oil discovery had on the country, as well as records of its development over the years.
It’s a great place to gain a deep understanding of the country you’re visiting and to understand more about its customs and traditions, and while the exhibitions are spectacular, things to see in Qatar’s museum also include laboratories, an auditorium, and a massive park with an artificial lagoon, and you could also browse its shops or have a snack at the café.
Opening Hours: Saturday to Thursday from 9 AM to 7 PM, Friday opens at 1.30 PM.
Entrance Fee: QR50 (14 dollars)
Immerse in Nature at Al Khor Island
Also known as Purple Island, Al Khor Island is widely popular for boasting astounding natural beauty, gorgeous landscapes, and a wide variety of flora and fauna to delight all visitors, especially those traveling with children.
This lush island, filled with mangroves and greenery, is located close to the city of Al Khor and around an hour’s drive from Doha, becoming the perfect destination for a day trip. Kayaking, hiking, camping, birdwatching, and picnicking are among the best activities you can enjoy in this natural paradise that feels so far from the bustle and hustle of the city.
➤ You can also join the Private North Of Qatar Tour, in which your guide will drive you to some of the highlights in the northern part of the country, including the historical Al Zubara Fort, Al Thakhira Beach, and Al Khor Island. The tour includes hotel pick-up and drop-off. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Explore West Qatar
Doha and its surrounding areas are not the only worthy attraction in the country. The west coast of Qatar boasts astounding natural rock formations, caves, monuments in the desert, and lovely beaches, and it’s where you’ll enjoy some of the best Qatar sightseeing.
In West Qatar you can’t miss Film City, nowadays also regarded as a ghost city, as it was built as a film set for various movies and shows and is now deserted. The city actually depicts a traditional village, so it’s very interesting to walk around.
The Ras Abrouq Rock Formations are another absolute must during your time in Qatar! These impressive structures, sculpted by the erosion of the sand and the wind, take after the shape of a mushroom, and they’re a great destination for avid hikers, as you can trek up the cape to marvel at the views of the peninsula. Don’t forget to check out Zakreet Fort while you’re there!
The East/West West/East art installation is another popular landmark, made of four steel plates of around 49 feet (15 meters) tall situated in the desert, and Dunkhan Beach is a great place to relax after your busy day.
➤ If you’re staying in Doha, a great way to enjoy this part of the country is by booking the private Qatar West Coast Tour, which includes roundtrip transportation and a visit to the Zakreet Fort and rock formations, to the sculptures in the desert, to Film City, and also to witness a camel racing training. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Watch a Camel Race
Camel Racing is a very popular sport in Qatar, practiced professionally since the early 1970’s. During the high season, which takes place between October and February, there are camel racing tournaments every Friday at Al Shahaniya race track, the most famous one in the country.
They attract locals and tourists alike seeking to witness this thrilling event in which the jockeys are not people, but colorfully dressed and remote-controlled robots. The robots even have speakers so that the operators can talk to the camels and encourage them throughout the race.
During the races, locals actually drive along the road that’s parallel to the race track to follow the camels, but you could also relax in the stands and watch it from there.
➤ This Private Camel Race Tour is a half-day experience that will take you to Al Shahaniya racing track, where you’ll get to go behind the scenes and get pictures with the camels, as well as experience the race as most Qataris do: driving alongside it! ➥ BOOK IT HERE
Go Kayaking at Al Thakhira Mangroves Forest
Al Thakhira Natural Reserve is one of Qatar’s treasures, as it’s the home of the country’s largest mangrove reserve, which so strikingly contrasts the vastness of the desert surrounding it. It’s an ideal destination to seek escape from the city’s bustle and the arid landscapes, and the best way to enjoy it is kayaking!
You’ll get to spot the amazing wildlife that lives in this lush ecosystem, that includes not only fish and a wide variety of bird species, but also herons and beautiful flamingos.
Stand-up paddleboarding is another popular activity at this mangrove forest, which you can visit on your own or by joining a tour, with the benefit of it including transfers from the city and the kayak rental.
Marvel at the Inland Sea
What to see in Qatar’s desert besides sand dunes? Water, of course! Wait, did you say water in the desert? Actually, yes, and you can see it at Khor Al Adaid, popularly known as Inland Sea, which is a UNESCO-recognized natural reserve that features a very unique, untouched landscape of immense beauty.
The inland sea is actually a tidal river that meets the sand dunes during the high tide, becoming an oasis of calm, blue waters against the golden dunes of the desert.
It’s actually one of very few places in the world where the sand dunes and water touch, so it’s natural that it’s one of the best places to visit in Qatar!
While the majestic scenery alone is worth the visit, you’ll also have the chance to meet the inhabitants of this unique ecosystem that include ospreys, oryx, turtles and terns.
The Inland Sea can only be reached with a 4×4 vehicle as you’ll have to drive across the dunes, adding to the adventure.
Go Swimming at Fuwairit Beach
Fuwairit Beach is a great destination for a day of fun, relaxation, and sun. This long stretch of beach features powdery white sand and warm, clear waters that are perfect for swimming but also for families with small kids, as the water is very shallow the first few meters and quite safe for them to play and splash.
It’s also a popular camping spot for the spectacular views of the sunrise, and the ideal time to visit is in the morning, as there are fewer crowds and the beach is quieter. If you do like the crowds, though, in the afternoon you’re more likely to find large groups of people and a more noisy atmosphere.
Bear in mind that there are no facilities around the beach, either for shopping or eating, so you should pack some snacks and refreshments before you go, especially if you plan on spending the day there. Taking a beach umbrella and towels or chairs is also advisable – you’ll find none of that on the Fuwairit Beach!
This very picturesque beach is fenced and closed to tourists between April and July because every year during that time turtles come to lay their eggs, and the beach is not reopened until the baby turtles go back into the sea.
Fun fact: It’s believed that those same turtles will come back to this very beach around 30 years later to lay their own eggs!
Enjoy the Endless Entertainment at Doha Festival City
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Doha, Qatar, you should check out Doha Festival City, a gigantic mall (one of the biggest in the country, actually) where you can spend literally hours without getting bored.
At Doha Festival City you’ll find over 400 stores selling everything from sports goods to luxurious brands and homeware, two food courts with dining outlets for every taste, and plenty of entertainment opportunities.
The mall features a cinema, snow dunes, game hubs with Escape Rooms and a Gaming Arena, and possibly the most popular of them all: the Angry Birds World. The park boasts pools, treehouses, rides, and tons of games to keep your kids amused for a long time.
Opening Hours: Sunday to Wednesday from 10 AM to 10 PM, Thursday to Saturday closes at midnight.
Things to do in Qatar FAQ
Spending the day at the beach, going on a desert safari, dune bashing, and watching a camel race are among the things Qatari people enjoy.
Top activities include going on a desert safari, kayaking through the mangroves at Al Thakhira, exploring the West Coast of Qatar, and visiting the spectacular museums in Doha.
Qatar is actually one of the most expensive countries in the Middle East, but it can be affordable if you book in advance, travel in the low season, and opt to eat at food courts or budget eateries instead of high-end restaurants.
Public displays of affection are not allowed in Qatar, and you should dress conservatively, aiming to cover your shoulders and knees. It’s prohibited to photograph religious and military sites, as well as locals.