A potent mix of the traditional, the man-made, and the uber-glamourous, Qatar the peninsular Arab country, is home to futuristic skyscrapers, ultra-modern architecture and burgeoning arts, and culinary scenes. I spent a few years in Qatar teaching English and I watched it grow into a very unique and special world-class travel destination, especially it’s now world-class capital Doha. The country is home to some truly spectacular gems which an increasing amount of visitors flock to enjoy, from souqs to shiny malls here are my best and most beautiful places to visit in Qatar…
1. Souq Waqif – an attractive marketplace in Doha selling traditional goods
Souq Waqif is a popular marketplace that is built on the old-century trading market. Set against the background of Doha’s dramatic skyline, the market offers a unique experience for visitors and locals alike. The Souq is a buzzing center of commerce, packed with various vendors selling traditional garments, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs. This area is also home to dozens of authentic restaurants and Shisha lounges.
A trip to Souq Waqif, is incomplete without a visit to the gorgeous Al Bidda Boutique Hotel. This iconic hotel is a collection of 9 beautifully designed buildings that showcase the city’s best at its doorsteps. The hotel has exquisite interiors and its in-house dining menus include gourmet goodies and traditional Arabian feasts.
2. Khor al Adaid – for fun dune bashing and desert glamping
Sand dune bashing is the more adventurous, more fun, and more exotic version of driving cars over sand dunes.
Dune bashing is typically done in an SUV with four-wheel drive and extra-wide tires, to lend stability to the vehicle as it slides across the sand. You can enjoy thrilling experience in Khor al Adaid. For anyone who visits the ultra-modern, skyscraper-filled Gulf city, a day spent riding SUVs in the desert is a can’t-miss activity!
Another exhilarating desert experience is Glamping. This is essentially ‘glamorous camping’ or the option to camp, but without forgoing any of life’s little luxuries. Glampers stay in luxurious, spacious tents with modern facilities like double debs, well-maintained bathrooms, coffee machines, and more.
These modern Bedouin-style tents are set up right in the middle of the desert, amongst the sand dunes and under the stars. A romantic bonfire night under stars is truly an unforgettable experience. Other desert activities include a camel ride or visit to the inland sea, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
3. Pearl-Qatar – a spectacular man-made island off the West Bay coast
Pearl Qatar is an artificial island, covering an area of 14 kms in Doha. This marvelous and man-made island is one of the most luxurious and developed areas in the city, with over 45,000 residents. The island offers an integrated luxury experience with wonderful marinas, shopping boutiques, entertainment centers, and scenic backdrops. Its unrivalled architectural beauty makes it a popular tourist attraction.
Marsala Kempinski Hotel in Pearl Qatar is one of the best 5-star hotels in the country, offering impeccable hospitality and relaxing spa services to its guests.
4. Boutique Restaurant ‘Boho’ Social – one of the best restaurants to visit in Doha
Boho Social is a boutique restaurant, located above Katara Beach Club. the foodies. This Bohemian-inspired joint consists of a chic restaurant, vibrant lounge, and a terrace that offers spectacular seaside views of the Arabian Gulf.
The menu comprises of global cuisines and exquisite dishes from the Americas, Southern Europe, Middle East, and Asia. The restaurant is known for is impeccable food, espresso bar with specialty coffee, laidback atmosphere, and overall dining experience.
5. Qanat Quartier – a picturesque community in Doha where Venetian charm meets Arabian chic
Qanat Quartier is a private precinct, where Arabian charm intertwines with Venetian style. The community comprises of low-rise buildings painted in pretty pastel colors, pedestrian-friendly bridges, piazzas, and waterway of canals. This lovely area is popularly known as the Venice of Qatar.
Qanat is home to a plethora of shops, boutiques and outlets, restaurants and cafes, and a world-class beachfront with outstanding waterfront views. The chic architecture, intricate canals, and stunning views make Qanat Quartier perfect for romance and relaxation.
6. The W Hotel – one of the most glamorous and Instagrammable spots in Doha
The W Hotel is a luxury designer hotel with beautiful, vibrant rooms. Each room is remarkably designed with stylish interiors and tech-savvy amenities such as air-conditioning, iPod docking station, a hairdryer, tea and coffee machine, minibar, etc. The hotel also offers several amenities such as an outdoor pool, spa center, gourmet restaurants.
Award-winning restaurants include the Market by Jean-Georges or Spice Market by the 3 Michelin star celebrity Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Enjoy fancy cocktails, shisha, and mesmerizing beats at the hotel’s in-house outdoor lounge, Wahm or at the Crystal Lounge. Located in the heart of Doha’s West Bay, the W Hotel offers its guests celebrity treatment with world-class service.
7. Banana Island – a small natural island which is one of the best places to explore in Qatar
Known to be one of the most scenic and exotic islands in the world, Banana Island is a resort getaway that offers luxurious facilities amongst idyllic atmospheres.
The island has a beautiful crescent shape that is spread over 12 hectares of land and that comprises of unique marine biodiversity and reefs. A stay on this island consists of limitless water activities and adventures, relaxing wellness and spa and romantic dinners on private beaches.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are a great way to explore the exotic underwater life around this island. Above water, hotels on this island offer world-class spa facilities like indoor and outdoor pools, hammam rooms, ice wells, saunas, Jacuzzis and steam rooms, salons for manicures, pedicures and facials, and relaxation gardens. The resort also includes gourmet restaurants, tennis courts, and golf courses for guests to indulge, relax and enjoy.
Located only a short distance from Doha, this paradise island is definitely a top pick for those looking for the perfect holiday haven.
8. Mall of Qatar – a top tourist and local attraction
The Mall of Qatar opened its doors in 2016 and quickly became one of the most popular shopping centers of Qatar. With over 500 stores and designer boutiques, the Mall of Qatar prides itself in offering both domestic and international brands to its visitors. The mall also comprises of over 100 dining options and outlets like 5-star restaurants, outstanding gourmet cafes and food courts.
Spread over a vast 5.4 million sq. ft., the mall provides world-class entertainment with its first-ever resident troupe of the world. This center is known for live shows on the multi-lift rotating stage, with animated water and lighting features.
9. State Grand Mosque – a wonderful place of religious importance
Located in the Jubailat district of Doha, the State Grand Mosque features a building with multiple domes. The mosque has been built using a mix of modern and traditional Arabic architecture. With distinguished elements from Islamic architecture, the mosque has 3 main doors and 17 side entrances.
The founder of Qatar Mosque Boualaqbib, Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, is the man behind the construction of The State Grand Mosque. The mosque was built in the memory of the father of the constructor. It is definitely worth witnessing the rich heritage and religious influence on this landmark monument.
10. Villaggio Mall – upscale shopping in attractive surroundings
Doha is globally known for its opulent and luxury shopping experience. Experience this global shopping experience at the ‘Villaggio Mall,’ commonly known as Villaggio.
The Villaggio hosts some of the world’s most luxurious and sort after brands like Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana etc. Besides the haute couture fashion, the mall is known for its elegant yet exotic interiors. The main highlight at the Villaggio is the indoor canal gondola boat rides, which offer an exclusive and romantic experience.
Within this high-end mall sits the most advanced cinema screen in the world, IMAX Cinema as well as the ‘Gandolania’ Theme Park that includes an Olympic size ice skating rink, bowling alleys, roller coaster rides, and more. Enjoy a surreal cinematic experience, get your adrenaline going at the in-house amusement park or simply splurge on a well-deserved shopping spree!
11. Katara – a popular tourist spot to explore
The Katara Cultural Village is a hub for exploring art, theater, music, literature, exhibition, and culture. Currently, it is the largest multi-cultural project and offers a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience. People from different walks of life, diverse cultures and varied religions come together to experience and explore different cultures and gain knowledge about it.
Katara offers amazing views and incredible amenities, such as beautiful amphitheaters inspired by Islamic architecture. It also has a private beach, spread across 1.5 km, where visitors can enjoy water activities. The beauty of Katara lies in the fact that people who come here forget their differences and overcome preconceived notions and boundaries.
12. La Mar Doha by Gastón Acurio – a must-visit glamorous restaurant in Doha
La Mar is a Peruvian Restaurant located in one of the finest hotels of Doha. Located in the Intercontinental Hotel, La Mer is a lovely, contemporary restaurant that features authentic Peruvian cuisine by renowned chef Gastón Acurio. Known for their rich flavors and exotic ingredients, popular dishes include authentic cebiches. Don’t miss out on the delicious cocktail menu that includes a hand-crafted ‘Classic Pisco Sour’!
Besides incredible food and amazing service, the restaurant also offers a stunning panoramic view of the entire Doha skyline.
13. Mia Park
Situated adjacent to the Museum of Islamic Art, Mia Park is a scenic park that has a lovely waterfront promenade lined, with Arabian palm trees, small hills and green lawns and children’s play areas.
The park is known for its unique hilly terrain and stunning city views. Besides being surrounded by beautiful nature and a peaceful atmosphere, the park offers lots of activities. Children’s playgrounds include a carousel and mini toy train. Mia Park also has hammocks, bicycles, walking paths, and cafes. Visit the park during sunset for breathtaking views of the Doha skyline.
14. The National Museum of Qatar
Constructed in place of the original Qatar National Museum, the National Museum of Qatar was opened recently in 2019. This great museum was designed by the famous architect Jean Nouvel, who was inspired by ‘The Desert Rose Crystal’ found in Qatar. The museum offers multi-faceted and immersive experience through its 11 remarkable galleries. It showcases the nation’s rich heritage and culture as well as and demonstrates Qatar’s extensive network with other nations and cultures around the world.
In addition to the unique architecture and stunning gallery spaces, the museum comprises a 220-seat auditorium; 2 restaurants or café that even serve traditional food. The museum site also includes the Palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim Al Thani, which is also known as the heart of the National Identity of Qatar.
15. MIA Museum – one of the best places to visit in Qatar
The Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) is known to be a center of knowledge that showcases the world of Islamic art. The museum represents Islamic art dating back over 1400 years from 3 continents. MIA is known to be the flagship of all the Qatar Museums.
The vision of MIA is to illuminate Islamic art and open the people’s creative minds for a better future. MIA aims to transform Qatar’s art state into the cultural capital of the Middle East. A visit to the Museum of Islamic Art is sure to leave you feeling spreads a creative, informed, curious, aware and joyous, all at once.
16. Nobu – a beautiful restaurant to experience in Doha
Nobu Doha is the world’s largest Nobu restaurant. This renowned restaurant is uniquely perched above the Arabian Gulf, serving acclaimed Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa’s signature style Japanese cuisine. The gourmet chain restaurant is famous for its Friday Brunch, designed by the celebrity chef himself.
This fine dining establishment offers a one-of-a-kind experience because of its incredible menu and amazing location with breathtaking sea views. The restaurant’s interiors are gorgeous, designed with utmost detail and inspired by Islamic architecture. The restaurant owner, Robert De Niro, has passionately built this place to ensure guests leave with the most memorable dining experience of their lives.
17. Festival City Mall – the largest entertainment, dining and fashion mall in Doha
Festival City Mall is a favorite for shopping amongst locals and tourists, alike. Home to over 200 international brands, the mall is a one-stop solution for everything from clothing, jewelry and accessories to makeup, gadgets and home furnishings. The mall also offers unlimited dining and entertainment options.
It consists of the world’s first ever Angry Birds World, a Winter-Theme Park, and a e-gaming hub, Virtuosity. Currently one of the largest malls in Qatar, 600,000 sq. mt. space of shopping is pure paradise for all the shopaholics out there!
18. EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST by Richard Serra – a cultural attraction to visit in Qatar
EAST-WEST / WEST-EAST by Richard Serra is a breathtaking sculpture located at the Brouq Natural Reserve. Since its installation in 2014, it has become a known landmark and a celebrated living sculpture. The sculpture comprises 4 steel plants, each one of which is over 14 inches in height.
Located amidst a vast area in the heart of the desert, this definitely a sight to see. The location is symbolic of how Richard Serra was so mesmerized by the desert that it made a place in his heart.
19. Porto Arabia – among Doha’s most vibrant luxury destinations
Porto Arabia is a modern Mediterranean district that displays both outdoor and indoor retail stores. Its stores include an extensive range of local as well as international brands. This luxury destination also offers a broad range of amazing dining options and a five-star hotel and resort, and other amenities and services like an open-air boardwalk, valet parking, buggy transport, and more.
Residential apartments in this district include four-bedroom apartments, penthouse, 1 to 3-bedroom townhouses. With a waterfront setting, warm hospitality, and luxury services, Porto Arabia exudes luxury.
20. The Sheraton Hotel – a popular upscale Doha hotel
When visitors look for the ultimate hotel in Qatar, one name that shines bright is The Sheraton Hotel. As one of the most luxurious hotel chains globally, it guarantees its guests a world-class experience.
Guests can enjoy picturesque views from their spacious and designer rooms. Rooms are elegantly decorated, well-lit and have lavish balconies. Bathrooms are well-maintained and come with plush bathrobes and expensive bath products.
The hotel also offers exclusive amenities such as a private pool, state-of-the-art gym, sauna, spa, indoor games, etc. The hotel owns a well-manicured lawn and a private beach that adds to its allure. With beautiful interiors, a prime location, and excellent guest services, it is no wonder that The Sheraton Hotel is such a sought-after property.
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Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Ireland, UK and the US but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting craving for culture, good food and great football. Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and also runs his own blog and Instagram page. He also counts Melbourne, Cape Town and Tel Aviv among his favourite places. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @scottbalaam