So, you’ve opted for a flight with a layover in Doha, leaving you with several hours to spend at the airport. Well, you are in for a treat. A layover in Qatar is more than just a pause between flights—it’s a chance to discover the world-class features and stellar services at Hamad International Airport (HIA), consistently ranked among the world’s finest airports.
In this article, we’ll not only explore the most entertaining and relaxing ways to spend your time at Doha Airport during a layover but also offer handy tips in case you’re interested in venturing beyond the airport’s luxurious confines. After all, who says a layover can’t be an adventure in itself?
What to Do During Your Doha Airport Downtime
Explore public art installations
Hamad International Airport, which welcomed more than 35 million visitors in 2022, is home to a range of unique public art installations that are sure to catch your eye. Renowned artists from around the world have contributed to the airport’s collection, and you’ll find impressive sculptures and monuments scattered throughout the terminals.
Here are some of them:
Art installations in the Departures area
- Urs Fischer – Lamp Bear: Garnering more buzz than any work of art in the airport is this large yellow teddy bear, a bronze sculpture that evokes childhood memories and the love of travel. Located after Departures security and passport control at the passenger train’s South Node station in the terminal.
- Ahmed Al Bahrani – A Message of Peace to the World: This cubist sculpture features ROTA’s logo and symbolizes hope and happiness for underprivileged children. Located at the South Node station.
- Jean-Michel Othoniel – Cosmos: This globe-shaped installation was inspired by the oldest surviving Islamic astrolabe (an ancient astronomical instrument), representing global travel and intercultural communication. Located near Concourses D and E in the airport’s North Node.
- KAWS – Small Lie: This 32-foot-tall wooden sculpture was inspired by childhood memories of wooden toys, evoking emotional tension. Located in the North Node of Hamad Airport near the Concourse E.
- Marc Quinn – Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado: This large bronze flower is coated with white pigment. Located in the check-in area.
- Tom Otterness – The Playground: This series of eight interactive bronze sculptures is designed to delight and engage your kids—or the ‘kid’ in you. Located near Gates C2, C3, and C8 in Concourse C.
Art installations in the Arrivals area
- Ali Hasan – Desert Horse: This sculpture combines traditional calligraphy with classical molding techniques while referencing Bedouin culture. Located outside the Arrivals ‘meet and greet’ hall, Gate 3.
- Dia al-Azzawi – Flying Man: This Iraqi artist’s two sculptures were inspired by Mesopotamian pillars and a historical Islamic figure who experimented with flight. Located in the Arrivals ‘meet and greet’ hall on the east and west ends.
- Tom Claassen – 8 Oryxes: This group of sculptures depicts a herd of antelopes native to the Arabian Peninsula. Located in the Arrivals ‘meet and greet’ hall near the taxi pavilion on the east end.
Visit the Orchard
During your layover at Hamad International Airport, be sure to visit The Orchard, a massive indoor forest that serves as a new central concourse. The stunning, 60,000-plus-square-foot rainforest-like atrium is filled with natural light. It showcases 300 trees and 25,000 plants from around the world under a magnificent glass roof.
The tallest tree reaches more than 50 feet toward the roof, while a captivating water feature anchors the indoor spectacle. The Orchard is part of a larger expansion project at the airport, which has increased capacity to more than 58 million passengers and includes additional gates, improved baggage handling, expanded cargo facilities, and new shopping and dining options.
Let the kids have fun
Traveling with kids? HIA has you covered. The airport offers various designated play areas and activity nodes for children in Concourses A, B, and C. These areas feature Mac stations, toys and bronze playground structures, ensuring that your little ones stay entertained and energized during your layover.
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Try some local or international food
Feeling hungry? Here is a list of dining options you’ll find at Hamad International Airport. With such a wide range of tastes and dietary preferences, you’re sure to find your favorite meal!
- Emporio Armani Ristorante: Italian cuisine with an intimate atmosphere and runway views
- Gordon Ramsay Burger Restaurant: Premium burgers, fries, and shakes
- Le Grand Comptoir: Brasserie-style French cuisine
- Le Comptoir Libanais: A lebanese-food restaurant
Cafes and Quick Bites:
- Emporio Armani Caffe: Light lunches and pastries
- Evergreen Organics: 100% plant-based café
- Harrods Tea Room: Teas, pastries, and an ice cream parlor
- Ralph’s Coffee: Coffee blends and accessories
- Brioche Dorée: French-style bakery and café
- Wagamama: Pan-Asian cuisine
- Negroni: Italian small plates
- Shawarma Station: Lebanese-style wraps
- Snowflake Ice Cream: Artisan gelato and sorbetto
- The Burger Federation: International and local burger recipes
- VIT: Healthy meals, salad bowls, and fruit juices
- Venchi: Fine chocolates and artisan gelato
- Wok to Walk: Customizable Thai street food
- Spizzico: Quick-service Italian pizza
- Usta Doner: Turkish cuisine, kebabs, and doner
- Oreo Café: Oreo-based desserts and savory fare
- Motta: Authentic Italian cuisine
- Chapati & Karak: Traditional Indian cuisine
A diverse range of cuisines is served at the several food courts you’ll find throughout the airport, including Indian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and international fast food favorites such as Burger King and KFC.
Find your shopping bliss
If you wish to indulge in some retail therapy, Qatar Duty Free offers more than 70 retail outlets and luxury boutiques for you to explore. You’ll surely find brands you’re very familiar with, as well as high-end brands such as Bulgari, Chloé, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hermès, Hublot, Boss, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, and Tiffany & Co.
Relax in a lounge
Say goodbye to jetlags! At Hamad International Airport’s 10 lounges, you can unwind and relax during your layover. Some of them, including Al Mourjan and the Oryx Lounge, can be accessed by anyone for a fee, regardless of your airline and travel class.
The Al Safwa First-Class and Al Mourjan Business Class Lounges at Hamad International Airport were awarded 5-Star stripes from Skytraxx for a reason. Al Safwa is the crème de la crème of lounges, with lavish furnishings and an outstanding dining experience. Al Mourjan isn’t far behind, boasting a wide range of perks, from a la carte dining to family facilities.
These lounges provide comfortable seating, refreshments, and entertainment options, making them the perfect place to rest and recharge.
How to Relax During Layovers of 7+ Daytime Hours
If you’re Doha airport for less than 6 hours, you’ll probably only have time to check your emails, stop by a restaurants and go shopping at the airport’s Orchard. But for any long layover, you have two options: rest and recharge at one of the airport’s hotels or venture out to explore Doha, provided its daytime. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy your time in Qatar.
Recharge at the airport hotels, spas, or at the Vitality Center
You can transform your layover into a delightful mini-vacation at Hamad International Airport by indulging in the luxurious offerings of the airport’s Oryx Hotels. Yes, that’s plural: You now can choose between the Oryx Airport Hotel, which is located close to Concourse B in the airport’s South Node, and the Oryx Garden Hotel, which is located at the end of Concourse C in the North Node.
By staying at the Oryx Hotels, you’ll have complimentary access to the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre, a sanctuary dedicated to wellness which can otherwise be accessed for $48 (QAR 175). The center offers a range of facilities and services, including hydrotherapy tubs, massages, facials, a large swimming pool and even a squash court if you fancy a good workout between flights. To ensure a seamless experience and secure your spot at the hotel or the Vitality Center, advanced booking is highly recommended.
Leaving Doha airport during a layover
If your layover is longer than seven hours during the daytime, you definitely should take the opportunity to explore Qatar, starting with Doha. What’s more, citizens of nearly 100 countries are eligible for visa-free entry into Qatar, making it easy to enjoy a mini-vacation.
Transportation options: taxis, Uber, Metro
Once you’ve decided to leave the airport, there are several transportation options available. Taxis and Uber are popular choices, while the Doha Metro provides a fast and efficient way to reach the city center. From Doha airport on the Metro, you’ll reach the city center in 15 minutes for $0.55 (QAR 2).
Recommended activities outside the airport
Visit Souq Waqif and nearby Msheireb
Souq Waqif is a popular marketplace where you can shop for traditional Qatari goods, such as spices, textiles, and handicrafts. You can also dine at restaurants serving delicious and authentic local Qatari or Middle Eastern cuisine. The lively atmosphere makes Souq Waqif a must-visit destination in Doha. While you’re there, don’t miss Falcon Souq, where you can witness the centuries-old tradition of falconry and admire these majestic birds up close. If you’re an art enthusiast, you’ll love the Souq Waqif Art Center, which hosts exhibitions and workshops by local artists.
Also, located within walking distance of Souq Waqif, the rapidly developing area of Msheireb offers a fascinating blend of modern architecture and traditional Qatari design, with its museums and art galleries, cool concepts stores and hip cafes.
Visiting Msheireb Museums, is one of the top things to do in Msheireb. Housed in several restored heritage homes, they showcase the history and culture of Qatar, providing you with a deeper understanding of the country’s past and its journey to modernization.
Explore the Museum of Islamic Art
Visiting the Museum of Islamic Art is a must when you come to Qatar. This beautiful museum features a vast collection of Islamic art spanning more than 1,400 years. Besides, if you’re looking for the perfect spot to snap some amazing selfies, you can’t go wrong with the unparalleled views of the Doha skyline and the sea.
Experience the Pearl-Qatar
If you want to experience the epitome of luxury and sophistication in Qatar, you must visit The Pearl. This manmade island offers an array of upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment options, making it the perfect place to indulge in a day of opulence. Take a leisurely stroll around the island and soak in the luxurious surroundings – it’s an experience you won’t want to miss!
Visit Katara Cultural Village
Katara Cultural Village is a hub for art and culture in Doha. Top attractions include the stunning Katara Mosque, the impressive Greek-style Katara Amphitheatre, and the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra at the Katara Opera House. You can also stop by the Village’s art galleries, planetarium, and Katara Beach—in case you want to work on your tan or dive into water sports or activities.
Stroll along the Corniche
You can’t miss a stroll along the Doha Corniche, a waterfront promenade that boasts stunning views of the Doha skyline and its magnificent landmarks. From the breathtaking Museum of Islamic Art to the futuristic towers of the West Bay district, including Burj Doha and the Tornado Tower, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take in the stunning sights and snap some memorable photos.
Shop at one of Qatar’s top malls
If you’re a fan of luxury shopping, make sure to visit one of Qatar’s top malls while you’re in Doha. Place Vendôme, Al Hazm Mall, and Via Domo at Villaggio Mall are just a few of the upscale shopping destinations that offer an impressive array of international brands, dining options, and family-friendly entertainment venues.
Leave it to the Pros: Book a Tour
Whether you decide to stay at the airport or leave it, you can make your life easier by booking one of the transit tours organized by Discover Qatar, which can be found on the Qatar Airways website. For layovers of four to eight hours, you can take an airport tour to unravel the artful highlights of the airport with an expert guide. With more than eight hours of transit time, you can transform your stop into an extended holiday by exploring Doha’s main attractions or embarking on a desert escapade.
Things to Do During Your Layover at Doha Airport [PDF]
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Frequently Asked Questions (and Tips)
Do I need to go through Immigration for a connecting flight at Doha?
If you’re connecting to another international flight, you do not need to go through Immigration. However, if you plan to leave the airport to explore Doha, you will need to pass through Immigration and meet any applicable visa requirements.
Do I have time to explore the airport?
Whether you have time to explore Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha depends on the duration of your layover. If your layover is shorter than two hours, it’s best to prioritize making your way to your connecting gate to avoid any potential delay.
What’s the ideal time I need to leave the airport?
If you have a layover lasting longer than seven hours during the daytime, it’s recommended that you leave the airport to make the most of your time in Doha—unless you have an overnight layover in Doha airport, which you could choose to spend at one of the Oryx hotels. But if you’re on a six-hour layover at Doha Airport, for example, you should stay at the airport.
Is there Wi-Fi at the airport?
Yes, Doha Airport offers complimentary wireless internet access throughout the passenger terminal. Look for the #HIAQatar network and sign in to connect.
Can I change money at Doha Airport?
There are multiple ATMs and six foreign exchange stores located throughout the passenger terminal building at Doha Airport.
Which is better between Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai?
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, is often mistakenly equated with its Middle Eastern neighbors, all of which are globally recognized travel hubs. We’ve compared Abu Dhabi to Doha and Dubai vs Doha as stopover destination in other articles, but here’s a quick refresher. Doha is significantly different from Dubai; it is typically perceived as more authentic and family-friendly, whereas Dubai, larger than Doha, boasts more shopping malls and party options for the younger demographic. Similarly, Abu Dhabi and Doha differ in many ways. Comparatively, Doha is considered safer and offers a wider range of museums than Abu Dhabi. However, Abu Dhabi showcases some of the world’s most impressive Islamic architecture and provides a wealth of adrenaline-pumping activities.