It’s always nice when a city is bijou enough to absorb in a few days – and Doha is a great example of this. Which is handy, as it’s often a stopover for travellers heading for far-flung destinations.
Qatar’s capital encapsulates everything you’d want from a city break, from memorable attractions to traditional and modern architecture. There is also, of course, the stadiums that hosted the Fifa World Cup in 2022 and many souks for your shopping fix.
If you are a culture vulture who loves a good museum, then Doha is also home to some of the most pristine in the world.
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Best museums in Doha
National Museum of Qatar
Qatar’s National Museum is housed in a spectacular, futuristic-looking building, which is based on the shape of the Qatari desert rose crystal. Interesting attractions include videos of elders describing nomadic life when moving seasonally between the desert and the sea. This is a must visit to understand the cultural context of the country.
Museum of Islamic Art
A colossal collection of Islamic art sourced from around the globe, from antique gold leafed and exquisitely illustrated religious scriptures to stunning embroidered, intricate carpets, eye-catching jewellery and more. The café looks out to Doha’s dramatic skyline.
Located in Msheireb Downtown Doha, there are four history museums housed in attractive Arabic-style mansions. The thought-provoking exhibitions explore subjects such as slavery in modern pearling and date cultivation, and the rich diverse influence of the various communities that have settled in Qatar.
3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum
Even if you are not into sports, this is a very interesting museum. Here you’ll see the Victory Works collection – beautiful large sculptures by Swiss artist David Pflugi which are signed by all the players who have reached the World Cup final since 1998. Qatar’s transformation into a global sports destination is also shown through videos, medals and more.
Top attractions and things to do
Located on the banks of the Wadi Musheireb, Souq Waqif is built on the site of Doha’s century-old trading market and in a traditional Qatari architectural style. You’ll see spices, shawls, shoes, clothes, incense, handwoven rattan mats, perfumes, desert rose crystals, lanterns, gold jewellery, and many Qatari decorations. Enjoy a traditional game of “majlis” at the Majlis Al Dama within the souq, where you will be guided through the game over a cup of Arabic coffee.
Calligraphy classes at Souq Waqif Art Center
Book a one-on-one calligraphy class and create your very own picture, be it your name or a message. There are demonstrations of each calligraphy format, from flowery to more robust, and if it doesn’t come out as you’d hoped, the teacher will create one for you, on your choice of patterned paper.
Discover Doha by water on a dhow cruise
A fantastic way to see a different side of Doha, from the water, is onboard a traditional dhow boat. With wind blowing through your hair and music playing in the background, little beats a boat ride and this way you will fully capture Doha’s stunning skyline and architecture.
Katara Cultural Village
The arts rule this intriguing village which houses an impressive amphitheatre, art galleries, workshops, theatres and a pretty beach to relax on. There’s also a plethora of restaurants and cafes, as well as a string of street food style outlets. If you like shopping head to the luxury boutique Galeries Lafayette.
This artificial island is a real delight. Adults will love the rich array of classy eateries and shops, while children will be catered for with playgrounds and carousel rides. Everyone will enjoy hopping on and off the water taxis before posing for pictures in front of the pretty multi-coloured residential houses.
Where to stay: Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery
My base was the centrally-located, charming Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery, which is just 20 minutes from Hamad International Airport and within walking distance of the bustling Souq Waqif, museums and the cultural centre. A relaxing respite after a day exploring, you can take a dip in the pool, treat yourself to a treatment in the spa or have dinner al fresco at the excellent restaurant Cila, which serves local classics. The rooms and suites are spacious and the staff both welcoming and attentive. Room rates start from 500 QAR (£110) per night.
Where to eat and drink
Cila at Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery
For traditional Qatari dishes with a modern twist, this restaurant, nestled inside the Alwadi Hotel Doha - MGallery, has seats inside and out, so you can dine while taking in the Doha vistas. I started with a lovely lentil soup, followed by a fresh fattoush salad, flatbreads straight out the oven, wilted garlicky greens and a magnificent main dish of Qatari “machboos”, fragrant rice scented with saffron, pine nuts, cashews and almonds, topped with gigantic local shrimps. I didn’t have room for pudding but they do a mean grilled cheese “kunafeh” served with pistachio and sugar syrup.
Cecconi’s at The Ned
Cecconi’s was a real treat. I started with crisp calamari fritti and a punchy lemon aioli, then an indulgent spaghetti, oscietra caviar and lemon ricotta dish, alongside a mouth-watering “Melano” mocktail featuring honey dew melon, pineapple, lemon, lychee and aquafaba. My companion opted for a pud and gave good feedback on the traditional tiramisu. The Ned has six more restaurants, each donning stunning design, delicious cuisine and if you sit outside, epic views of Doha’s skyline.
Jiwan at the National Museum of Qatar
This is a resplendent restaurant on the fourth floor of the National Museum of Qatar. Expect upscale, creative dishes from a menu overseen by award-winning chef Alain Ducasse. I went for the Jiwan nine-course tasting menu which had generous-sized portions and beautiful presentation. Three innovative mocktails are included, using Middle Eastern ingredients such as Omani lemon and hibiscus.
Damasca One Restaurant
The food here is so authentically Syrian, it was like being back in Syria. Ingredients are fresh, the staff are very attentive and the live Arabic music creates a joyful atmosphere. I had the delicious “harraq bi’sba”, a lentil, pomegranate molasses starter featuring fried dough pieces, coriander, olive oil and caramelised onions. Other dishes included tasty stuffed vine leaves, rolled kebab wraps with pickles and sauce, Syrian fatteh, aubergine with ground beef, pita chips and yoghurt. To finish there was a delightfully sweet kunafeh with ice-cream and pistachio.
A special restaurant where you can eat in the courtyard of a former traditional Qatari grand home. The chef was chosen from a competition searching for the best Qatari home cook, so quintessential Qatari cuisine is a given. I tried the chicken and rice “madrouba” which was delicately spiced and succulent; the harees, a blended chicken and wheat buttery delight; lamb machboos, which was bursting with flavour; and a saffron milk pudding with a mint tea to end.
Manos at The St.Regis Marsa Arabia Island
The second you walk through the door it is like you are in Greece – Symi island to be exact – and it certainly reminded me of my time there, from the quaint Grecian décor, to the welcoming smiling staff, music and of course Greek cuisine. Pick a seat by the window to look out to the water. I started with a silky and fresh pink taramasalata dip with hot pitta breads, Greek salad, and sesame-coated hot saganaki cheese with honey. This was followed by lobster pasta, with the lobster coming from the restaurant’s own live “fish market”. Guests can choose the fish they’d like and request how they want it cooked. The “loukoumades” doughnuts and ice cream made for a delicious dessert.
Travel details: how to get there
Qatar Airways operates direct flights to Hamad International Airport in Doha from a number of UK airports, including London Heathrow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Birmingham. Qatar Airways currently flies to more than 160 destinations worldwide, connecting through its Doha hub. See qatarairways.com
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