A modern metropolis that has risen from the desert, Doha boasts a sparkling skyline of towering skyscrapers, a collection of luxury hotels and restaurants, and sprawling shopping malls. But the Qatari capital – an emerging city attracting more and more tourists intrigued by this Middle Eastern state – also brims with culture, from vibrant souqs (marketplace) to fascinating museums and galleries. Here’s a guide to seeing everything Doha has to offer in just 48 hours.
Morning: Explore the Aspire Zone
Start your day in nature by visiting Aspire Park, where you can stop at one of the cafés, before moving on to the Aspire Zone – an impressive sports complex. Since being selected to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Doha has well and truly been put on the map. It’s a short taxi ride from the city centre and includes the 48,000-seat Khalifa International Stadium and the Aspire Dome. The dome is the world’s largest indoor multipurpose sports hall, containing 13 different playing fields, and is quite an impressive sight.
Families with small children should head over to KidZania Doha, where kids can explore a massive child-size city and have hours and hours of fun. It’s perfect for children aged between one and 14.
Afternoon: Shop until you drop at Qatar’s most popular mall
From KidZania Doha, you can take a quick stroll to the Villaggio Mall, which is Qatar’s main shopping centre. The Venetian-style mall has more than 200 stores, complete with high-end brands such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin. Although it’s taken inspiration from Las Vegas’ The Venetian, it’s much more than shops. Inside, there’s an ice rink, bowling centre and a 150m-long (492ft-long) canal, which offers gondola rides. If that’s not enough, the mall is also home to the Gondolania Theme Park – an indoor amusement park that includes a Ferris wheel and roller coaster. When hunger strikes, fill yourself up at one of the many cafés and restaurants available.
Night: Dinner at Doha’s tallest structure
The Aspire Tower – also known as The Torch – stands at the heart of the Aspire Zone and right next to the mall. Built as a landmark for the 2006 Asian Games, it’s now home to a famous five-star hotel and THREE SIXTY, the only revolving restaurant in Doha. The sophisticated restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine and cocktails with silver service – however, it’s quite pricey. For spectacular views, visit at night when the 300m-tall (984ft-tall) tower twinkles with lights and the restaurant, located on the 47th floor, offers panoramic views of the lit-up stadium and the sparkling skyline of West Bay – or the city centre – in the distance.
Morning: Take a culture tour Downtown
Walking around Doha isn’t ideal, particularly with temperatures reaching 50C (122F). However, if you’re visiting during the cooler months or fancy lathering up with suntan lotion, then head to Doha Port and Dhow Harbour to explore the southern – and cultural – side of the bay.
If you’re a fan of museums, spend the day at the National Museum of Qatar or the Museum of Islamic Art, where you’ll be able to deepen your knowledge of art and religion. If you’d prefer to take in some of the city’s other sites, head to Souq Waqif, located next to the Dhow Harbour. This colourful marketplace, which was completed in the 20th century, is known for its many shisha lounges, restaurants and markets that sell everything from traditional garments to handicrafts. Wander the spice-scented streets and peruse the vibrant market; it’s the perfect place for some authentic souvenir shopping.
The Pearl Monument – an ode to Qatar’s primary revenue stream before oil was discovered in 1939 – provides a great photo opportunity with views across the water to the skyline of West Bay. If you’re feeling brave, and the heat isn’t too intense, walk the 7km-long (4m-long) Doha Corniche, which skirts around the water to West Bay – the main skyscrapers of Downtown Doha.
Afternoon: Soak up some warm sunshine
Jump in a taxi for the 15-minute drive north of West Bay to The Pearl-Qatar – a man-made island that has become Qatar’s version of Dubai’s The Palm Islands. The island is a popular, luxury neighbourhood for Doha’s wealthy families and also boasts a diverse range of amenities and entertainment facilities. Exchange the bustle of the inner city for an afternoon of window-shopping in designer boutiques and supercar showrooms, or simply take a sun-drenched stroll around the area.
Stop for lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, complete with beautiful views of the yachts and boats docked in the marina. Choose from high-end dining to informal snacking in one of the dozens of dining establishments dotted throughout the development. Shakespeare and Co. is a beautifully designed eatery with antique furniture and vintage-inspired art, and offers fresh salads, pizzas and hot food at reasonable prices.
On route back to Doha, make a stop at the Katara Cultural Village – a celebration of Qatar’s love and appreciation for theatre, literature, music and art. It’s home to a vast, modern amphitheatre, museum and convention centre, as well as shops and restaurants. The buildings feature rainbow-coloured tiles and mosaic patterns, while delicate flowers fringe the edge of the walkways. Brightly coloured benches are dotted throughout and have views of the water. Wander the streets and take in the architecture (don’t miss the stunning dovecotes) before enjoying an ice cream on Katara Beach. Remember to show respect to the culture and dress conservatively when you’re out and about.
Night: Dinner and drinks in Doha
Located just around the corner from Souq Waqif, the Orient Pearl is Doha’s largest single dining experience, located in a vast mansion on the waterfront with several restaurants under one roof. Syrian cuisine is served in Joury, while Smat offers a menu of Qatar classics. Meanwhile, Arabic restaurant Nayrabeen offers guests al fresco dining on the terrace overlooking the fountain show.
Continue your night out in style, and hop in a taxi around the bay to the skyscrapers of the city’s chicest hotels and nightspots like the Wahm Lounge at the W Doha. The exclusive and trendy poolside lounge offers an extensive menu of delicious cocktails, top whiskies and even a choice of cigars. However, bring your passport to enter; they’re strict on ID in Qatar (mostly a dry state) and won’t accept driver’s licences.