Why choose Qatar as your next travel destination?
Well, it’s a mesmerizing land of contrasts that seamlessly blends time-honored traditions with cutting-edge architectural marvels, vast desert landscapes with pristine Arabian Gulf beaches, and the bustling city life of Doha with serene Bedouin oasis retreats.
Add to that a plethora of exciting recreational activities and the chance to unwind in opulent beachfront hotels, and you’ve got the perfect getaway.
And if you’ve ever wondered, there is much more to explore beyond Doha.
Here is your guide to the main cities and areas to visit.
Doha, Qatar’s pulsating heart, graces the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula with its magnetic presence. As the capital city, Doha artfully weaves together a tapestry of cultural traditions, a thriving gastronomic scene, and an awe-inspiring modern skyline that effortlessly captivates the wanderlust of travelers. That traveler could be you!
What to see in Doha
An array of distinct districts unfolds before you in Doha, each beckoning with its own charm and unique experiences.
Souq Waqif is a must-visit if you are looking to fully experience the culture of Qatar. This vibrant marketplace, built on an ancient market site, offers a dazzling array of traditional Qatari dress, local handicrafts, spices, perfumes, and more, creating a sensory feast. After exploring the old-world labyrinthine alleys and mud-rendered shops, take a break to indulge in authentic Qatari cuisine.
The falcon souq is a highlight not to be missed as you can witness the majestic national bird of Qatar up close. Be sure to capture the moment with a photo alongside the stunning falcons, creating a lasting memory of your visit.
Msheireb Downtown Doha
Just a 10-minute walk from Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha is a new district that pairs modern luxury with traditional experiences. Among the things to see in Msheireb, you’ll find cultural attractions such as Msheireb Museums and M7, the creative hub that focuses on design, fashion, and tech industries, and Msheireb Galleria, a new-generation shopping mall with creative fashion shores and concept stores.
The Msheireb Museums are housed in four beautifully restored heritage homes that were rescued from demolition during the development of this modern district. One of them, the Company House, tells the story of how oil transformed the country’s fortunes.
Additionally, Msheireb offers an array of hip restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy anything from Peruvian and Japanese fusion to traditional Qatari meals.
A man-made island located 1000 feet (350 meters) off Doha, Pearl Qatar is a chic, affluent, pedestrian-friendly district. Accessible by bridge, it offers a variety of upscale options, including high-end restaurants and designer boutiques. The district’s marina is an impressive sight, too, with spectacular yachts and marvelous views of the Arabian Gulf that leave visitors mesmerized.
Katara Cultural Village is located between The Pearl and West Bay. At Katara, you can immerse yourself in Qatar’s cultural heritage, with museums, art galleries, and performance spaces showcasing traditional and contemporary arts. If you’re lucky, you might stumble into an event happening in the amphitheater, which boasts of excellent acoustics and seating for up to 5,000 spectators. World-class concerts and cultural events are held throughout the year. Also happening year-round in the village are a variety of festivals, such as the Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition and the Katara Traditional Dhow Festival.
Katara Cultural Village is also home to the Golden Masjid, a magnificent Ottoman-style mosque. The structure features amazing architecture and intricate golden details.
Finally, if you want to unwind, just head to Katara Beach, which spans over 1.5 km (0.93 miles). It’s a popular best destination in Qatar, with a variety of sports activities available, including parasailing, jet skiing, boat trip and kitesurfing.
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West Bay is another neighborhood you should consider exploring, particularly for its splendid skyline and impressive architecture, including the Burj Qatar, also known as Doha Tower. The area is home to a growing business district, several luxury hotels, shopping centers such as the City Center mall and Salam Stores, and high-end restaurants such as Zengo, which afford exquisite views of the city skyline and the Arabian Gulf from the 61st floor of the five-star Kempinski hotel.
The Corniche is a promenade in Doha along seven kilometers (four miles) of the waterfront. You’ll be so spellbound by the views of the Arabian Gulf and city skyline that you’ll barely notice that you burned hundreds of calories—allowing you to justify dessert when you choose a restaurant later in the day. You can explore attractions such as the Museum of Islamic Art, the Doha Port, and several parks, including Al Bidda Park and Hotel Park.
The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I. M. Pei (most famous for creating the Louvre), features traditional Islamic patterns in its modern design and houses a collection spanning 1,400 years and three continents.
Then there’s the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, a robust, 430,500-square-foot structure with 11 galleries showcasing Qatar’s rich history. Whether admiring the views or immersing yourself in Qatar’s heritage, you cannot miss strolling and exploring the Corniche during your visit.
Lusail is a fast-growing city within a city that’s well worth a visit, and it’s located just north of Doha. The extravagant Place Vendôme, spread over four floors, is bursting with luxury stores that sell nearly 600 luxury and high-street brands catering to every taste. Home to Lusail Stadium, where the 2022 FIFA World Cup championship game was played, Lusail is also beloved for its well-maintained waterfront promenade, where you can admire skyscrapers of various shapes and sizes while strolling alongside the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Crescent-shaped Katara Towers, inspired by Qatar’s heritage and the national symbol of two swords, houses the five-star Fairmont and six-star Raffles hotels in addition to restaurants that include Michelin three-star chef Enrico Crippa’s Alba and an entertainment complex.
Al Sadd is a neighborhood that combines modernity and tradition. It’s home to some of the city’s most popular shopping destinations, including Villaggio Mall and the Royal Plaza mall, making it an obligatory stop if you or your companion needs their ‘retail therapy’ fix. But it’s also home to some of the most iconic landmarks in Doha, such as the Al Sadd Sports Club stadium and the Qatar National Theatre.
Al Khor, a coastal city in northern Qatar, will give you an appreciation for the country’s traditional fishing industry and scenic seaside. The town’s bustling port, located in the heart of the city, serves as a major hub for the country’s fishing and pearl industries.
What to see in Al Khor
Despite its small size, Al Khor offers a range of attractions to explore. If you’re interested in local history and culture, a visit to the Al Khor Museum provides an overview of the city’s rich heritage and the region’s history of pearl diving, which is one of the fun facts about Qatar. The museum houses a collection of artifacts, including traditional fishing equipment and pottery as well as exhibits on the city’s architecture and local traditions.
Another must-see destination in Al Khor is the Al Bayt Stadium, one of the main venues used during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Designed to resemble the traditional tents used by the nomadic Bedouin tribes, the architecture is truly unique for a stadium. In addition to hosting international football (soccer) matches, the stadium serves the community and visitors alike by hosting a range of events throughout the year.
If you are looking to experience Al Khor’s natural beauty, a trip to Al Thakira Mangroves will give you a chance to observe and appreciate the region’s unique ecosystem. The mangroves, located only a short drive from the city center, offer a peaceful respite from the bustle of the city. You can take a leisurely kayak tour through the mangroves to spot a variety of bird species and other wildlife as you paddle.
Al Wakrah is a charming city with a rich history, evident in the historic buildings and traditional souqs that still thrive there. With its picturesque seaside location, Al Wakrah has become a popular destination for visitors looking for a unique and authentic experience in Qatar. Why not join them?
What to see in Al Wakrah
There are several attractions in Al Wakrah that you shouldn’t miss. The Al Wakrah Souq is a bustling marketplace where you can wander through the maze of shops and stalls, haggle for goods, and sample traditional Qatari cuisine. The Al Wakrah Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s rich past, with exhibits highlighting the region’s history and cultural heritage. Al Wakrah Beach is also a popular spot with its dazzling views of the Arabian Gulf, giving you a chance to relax in the sun or take a refreshing dip in the sea. If you’re looking for adventure, the Al Wakrah Marina offers a variety of water sports activities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and fishing excursions.
Found in western Qatar, Al Rayyan is a city known for its historical and cultural significance. While it’s only the fourth-largest city in the country, it is known for its blend of traditional Qatari ways and a modern lifestyle. During a visit, you will see that the city is home to an abundance of architectural marvels and boasts some of the finest museums, galleries, and parks in the country.
What to see in Al Rayyan
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the rich cultural history of Al Rayyan, a visit to the Al Wajba Fort is a must. The fort dates back to the early 20th century and offers visitors insights into Qatar’s past. Another iconic landmark is the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, which showcases an impressive collection of artifacts spanning over a thousand years of Islamic art and culture.
If you’re a nature lover, you will especially appreciate Al Rayyan Park, a green oasis in the heart of the city spread over 160 acres of gardens, playgrounds, and picnic areas. If you crave adventure, you can visit the Al Rayyan Equestrian Centre, where horseback riding and show jumping are popular activities.
Another sight worth seeing is the Qatar National Library in Al Rayyan’s Education City. This diamond-shaped building, which houses more than a million books (including rare manuscripts), was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, a principal architect of the iconic Seattle Public Library.
Located just 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Doha, Mesaieed (also called Umm Said) was one of the most important cities in the country during the 20th century, known for its industry and as a hub for the petroleum industry. Today, it attracts travelers seeking an authentic Arabian experience.
What to see in Mesaieed
One of the main attractions near Mesaieed is Sealine Beach, known worldwide for its turquoise waters and golden dunes. The dunes are called ‘singing sands’ for the mysterious sounds they produce. In how many other places does the sand sing? Not many. Mesaieed is the perfect spot for adventurous travelers as you can indulge in activities such as swimming, jet skiing, kitesurfing, and ‘dune bashing’ (a form of off-roading). If you prefer a more laid-back experience, there are camel rides and plenty of spots to enjoy a relaxing picnic or barbecue in luxury camps.
Just a few minutes north of Sealine Beach, you’ll find Umm Said Beach, known for its serenity and crystal-clear waters. Take a dip in the sea, lounge on the beach, and soak up the sun while enjoying the gentle breeze.
If you’re traveling from Doha to Mesaieed, be sure to stop by the Al Wakrah Souq, a traditional marketplace where you can find everything from spices and textiles to pottery and handicrafts. It is 22 kilometers north of Mesaieed. Right next to it, you’ll find the Al Wakrah Fort, which was built in the early 20th century.
Khor Al Udaid
About 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Mesaieed, not far from the border with Saudi Arabia, lies Khor al Udaid (or Khawr al Udayd), one of Qatar’s most impressive natural wonders and one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Also known as the ‘Inland Sea,’ Khor Al Udaid is Qatar’s largest natural reserve, occupying 1,833 square kilometers (708 square miles).
If you’re a past visitor to Qatar, you may not have ventured to this area because it was only designated as a natural reserve in 2007, and this disputed territory wasn’t handed over by Saudi Arabia to Qatar until November 2021. It has enough to offer to be a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the presence of wildlife, it’s unique on earth for the continuous infilling of its lagoon.
What to see in Khor Al Udaid
Khor Al Udaid is one of the few places in the world where the desert meets the sea. In Khor Al Udaid, you can witness the ethereal landscape of dunes that tower 40 meters (130 feet) above the desert and gradually descending to meet the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf. It’s a popular spot for beachgoers but also for those who enjoy off-roading. Additionally, the nature reserve is home to a variety of wildlife, including camels, Arabian gazelles, the Arabian oryx, ospreys, flamingos, endangered sea turtles, and the rare dugong, making it a must-visit destination for wildlife lovers.
As one of Qatar’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Qatar’s largest archaeological site, Al Zubarah is a city that exudes history and culture. Located on the northwestern coast of the country, it served as a thriving trading port in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite its small size, you should visit Al Zubarah for a fascinating glimpse into the past as its well-preserved buildings include a fort and traditional Qatari houses.
What to see in Al Zubarah
When you visit Al Zubarah, you will be transported back in time as you wander its narrow streets and alleyways. The city’s fort, built in 1938, is a key attraction with its impressive defensive walls and towers that offer distant views of the surrounding desert landscape. Additionally, the Al Zubarah Museum offers a wealth of information about the city’s history, including its role in the pearl industry and the daily lives of its residents. The museum’s exhibits include artifacts, photographs, and videos that showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. If you’re looking to explore beyond the city limits, the Al Zubarah Archaeological Site is a short drive away. Featured are the remains of a 200-year-old town and a well-preserved mosque.
Nestled on the west coast of Qatar is the quaint city of Dukhan. While often overshadowed by the metropolis of Doha, this town has its own special charm. It’s known for its tranquil beaches and landscape, making it the perfect destination if you’re seeking a break from the cacophony of city life.
What to see in Dukhan
There is no shortage of attractions for you to visit in Dukhan. One of the most popular is West Bay Beach with its pristine sandy shores and breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf. Another chief attraction is Dukhan Hill Park, where you can enjoy a stroll amidst lush greenery and take in panoramic views of the city.
Umm Salal Muhammad
Umm Salal Muhammad, located in northern Qatar, is a city that has flown under the radar, yet it’s brimming with cultural and historical significance. The city is named after the father of Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, the founder of modern Qatar. With its beautiful old buildings, narrow alleys, and mosques, you should take the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Qatari culture in Umm Salal Muhammad.
What to see in Umm Salal Muhammad
One of the chief sights in Umm Salal Muhammad is the Umm Salal Fort, also known as Barzan Towers, built during the late 19th century by Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim Al Thani. Constructed using locally-sourced limestone and coral, the fort offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of Qatar and its rulers. Additionally, the Abdullah bin Jassim House is a restored traditional Qatari home that shows how Qataris used to live. While there, you can stroll through the many rooms, courtyards, and gardens to admire the traditional architecture and decorative motifs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Qatar?
Qatar is on a small peninsula that juts out of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East. Its only land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south; the rest of the country is surrounded by the Arabian Gulf. Despite its small size, Qatar has become a notable destination for luxury family travel, known for its pristine beaches, vibrant cultural scene, and outdoor activities that attract visitors from all over the globe.
How big is Qatar?
Qatar is a small country with an area of 11,581 square kilometers (4,471 square miles). To put it in perspective, that’s about the size of the state of Connecticut in the United States and slightly smaller than Luxembourg.
What are the biggest cities in Qatar?
Doha, Al Rayyan, Al Wakrah, Umm Salal Muhammad, and Al Khor are the five most populated cities in Qatar. According to the Qatar Census 2020, Doha numbers 1.2 million people, followed by Al Rayyan (826,000) and Al Wakra (265,000).
Where is the desert in Qatar?
The Inland Sea, located on the west coast of Qatar, is a popular destination known for its towering dunes, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters. This is where you can enjoy activities such as sandboarding, camel rides, and camping under the stars. Also, Bedouin camps found in different parts of the desert provide an opportunity for you to experience traditional Bedouin culture with traditional meals, falconry displays, and live music around a campfire. For a thrilling adventure, you can head to the Doha Desert for dune bashing (a Middle Eastern form of off-roading). Alternatively, Mesaieed offers a relaxed desert experience with traditional Arabic dinners under the stars.