January 25, 2024

Six Terrific Tried and Tested, Free Ways to Relax in Qatar

Life is all about balance, especially when it comes to work, rest and play. Maintaining that balance in the modern world can be difficult. Most of us work long hours, juggling childcare, family life and other responsibilities in and around the daily grind. So the idea of maintaining equal time to rest and play can, at times, be, frankly, laughable. And, on top of the cost of living, many of us opt to forego opportunities for relaxation, citing money as another major prohibitive factor.

However, burning the candle at both ends with little time for rest and recuperation can seriously impact our health and wellbeing. Busy schedules and lack of downtime can lead to stress, frustration and fatigue, all of which can cause physical, mental and emotional issues, not to mention ramifications on our productivity and relationships.

But it's not all doom and gloom! Small changes can make big differences. Walking to work instead of driving, taking a proper lunch break, switching phones off in the evenings and at weekends, and heading out and about, swapping screens for alternative diversions can add to increased relaxation time for a happier and healthier you. And we have put together a small list of leisure activities in Qatar for you to explore with your newfound time out, and, what's more, they are completely free - so knocking down all sorts of barriers to balancing our yin and yang in one fell swoop!

Top Five Free Activities in Qatar to Help You Relax

There are so many ways to relax without spending a penny; reading books, listening to music, snoozing on the beach, and picnicking with friends on a sunny day, to name but a few. But relaxing doesn't have to be just sedentary; many of us find rigorous and energetic activities just as relaxing. Fortunately, Qatar has a mix of active and easy going, free activities that can help us to find our zen-like balance; here are just a few:

Spend Time on Qatar’s Public Beaches

Image: VisitQatar

Nothing beats relaxing by the ocean - the warm sun, the sea breeze, soft sand between the toes and nothing to do but relax, read a book, paddle in the sea and maybe build a sandcastle. Qatar has some excellent free public beaches, with facilities ranging from basic to comprehensive, and some stunning wild beaches, just as nature intended, with no facilities at all.

Just south of Doha city is one of Qatar’s most popular stretches of public beaches at Al Wakrah. Encompassing Al Wakrah Family Beach, Al Wakrah Public Beach, Souq Al Wakrah Beach and Al Wakrah Park Beach, the sandy stretch runs for around 6 km from south Wakrah to the north. Al Wakrah Family beach, located in a secure compound, and the beach at Souq Wakrah are great family beaches, with play parks for kids, multiple shower blocks and toilets, cabanas, BBQ grills and snack kiosks at the family beach, and loungers and an array of cafes and restaurants at the Souq. The public and park beaches have slightly fewer facilities but are well-maintained stretches of golden sand. The public beach also has umbrellas, cabanas and seating, a long promenade, plenty of car parking, and numerous restrooms and kiosks. All but the park beach, which has a great area of mangroves to explore, have night lighting. Each beach is free to use and is a perfect destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and the stresses and strains of daily life.

If you want complete escapism, try one of Qatar’s wild beaches. Our favourite is Fuwairit Beach, one of Qatar's most beautiful, wild, undeveloped public beaches. Its calm seas, shallow waters, and white sand dotted with shells and pebbles are an obvious attraction to this remote spot for day trippers and campers. While the shallow waters are a haven for kids to play in, the deeper clear blue waters are great for swimming and snorkelling - there are plenty of fish, crabs and other wildlife to spot, including dolphins and hawksbill turtles (at certain times of the year).

Take a Stroll in One of Qatar’s Many Parks

Image: GET

One of the easiest ways to escape a busy schedule for some free relaxation time is to go for a walk - practically possible wherever you are. However, walking in open green spaces is known to promote greater psychological benefits, including stress relief, than walking in the concrete jungle. Expanses of green make us feel more connected to nature and ourselves and give us space from the stresses of urban living. Thankfully, for a desert country, Qatar has a myriad of parks in and around its towns and cities, which means stepping out into nature is possible almost anywhere.

Our top pick park for walking is Al Bidda Park, Qatar's largest public green space. As a place for recreation and leisure underneath the city skies, it is one of the best places to go - it boasts 188 hectares of green land crisscrossed with pathways for walking. Located alongside Doha's waterfront Corniche, the park is a literal breath of fresh air. It provides delightful views across the ocean and the city to West Bay's sky-scraping towers beyond. The park has three main zones connected via garden bridges. Together with the lawned areas and pathways for walking, it hosts flower gardens, a green maze, heritage sites, water gardens, an amphitheatre, plazas and squares, picnic and bbq areas, and eight playgrounds for kids. However, if you're after something more active, the site also hosts an extensive network of cycle lanes that can also be used for rollerblading, three jogging tracks and seven free open-air gyms.

Work Out in an Outdoor Gym

Image: Qatar Living

Sometimes, the best way to unwind is to work up a sweat. Regular exercise helps to relax the muscles, reduces stress hormones, such as cortisol, and releases happy chemicals, such as endorphins, a perfect cocktail to help relieve tension, anxiety and irritation and promote relaxation. And, while most gyms, sports courts, fitness centres and clubs require a fee, Qatar offers a host of free outdoor gyms, giving you ample opportunity to burn off some calories, tone your muscles, alleviate stress and relax, gratis!

Our favourite outdoor gym is at Umm Al Seneem Park, a delightful 13-hectare green space located southwest of Doha between Ain Khaled and Mesaimeer. The park offers three free outdoor fitness parks, which include various exercise equipment, such as monkey bars, dip and push-up bars, pull-up bars, lat pull-downs, skiers, air walkers, exercise bikes, sit-up benches and shoulder flexors - ideal for a stress-busting workout. However, if you want to burn off more steam, the park also offers a 1.143 km air-conditioned outdoor track. The track - the world's longest, a 1.1 km cycle track, and a Fitness Box - is an upcycled shipping container with a giant screen that broadcasts free tailor-made fitness classes led by professional fitness instructors.

Jump on Your Bike and Follow a Cycling Route

Image: Qatar Living

Cycling is a fantastic way to blow off the cobwebs of life and disconnect from daily strife; plus, it is an excellent way to keep fit and see your surroundings - infinitely faster than walking and with more opportunities to observe the scenery than when driving. In recent years, Qatar has installed a host of cycling paths in parks and alongside promenades and major road networks.

One of Qatar's most impressive cycle trails is the Olympic Cycle Park (the longest continuous cycle track at 32.869 km/20.4 miles in 2020). The trail runs from the Doha Sports Club, north of West Bay, to Al Khor to the north of the country, alongside Al Khor Coastal Road and past Lusail, Sumaysimah and Al Bayt Stadium. However, if you don't want to cover such mammoth distances, try another of our favourites at Doha Festival City (DFC) in Umm Salal Muhammed. DFC Outdoor Leisure Trail has a free 4 km cycling route, suitable for beginners and advanced cyclists, with thirteen technical trail features for mountain bikers, including different surfaces, obstacles, water features, tunnels, and drop-offs.

Get Outdoors and Go Camping

Image: WorldHeritageJourneys

If getting closer to nature and being outside of the urban environment is a proven way to relax, then camping is the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern living in a cheap and easy package. Away from the hubbub of life, if only for a night, you can enjoy the simpler things - food cooked over an open fire, fresh air, nature spotting and sleeping under the stars - and relaxing away from the commotion and clamour of everyday living. Qatar has numerous camping sights along its coast, but the most awe-inspiring is the Inland Sea - also known as Khor Al Adaid. So, if you have a tent and an SUV, then pack up and head out to Qatar's natural wonder of the world.

The Inland Sea is around an hour and a half south of Doha, nestled in the country's towering desert dunes. And, since over 30 km of the route is over desert tracks and dunes, driving there feels like an escape from the norm, especially when the sandy path gives way to the vivid blue waters of an inland lagoon. The lagoon is one of the few places in the world where the sea encroaches so deeply into the desert - its unique features make it incomparable with any other lagoonal system anywhere else. Astoundingly picturesque, Khor Al Adaid is recognised by UNESCO as a nature reserve with a unique ecosystem. It is home to various birds, land animals, and marine life - some of which have rare or threatened status. Aside from the extraordinary and scenic landscape, a trip to the desert camping also offers you the chance to relax on the beach, picnic, BBQ, swim, fish, explore the dunes, and stargaze in the evening. For the more adventurous, there is dune bashing and sandboarding.

Get Your Cultural Kicks in Qatar’s Art Galleries and Museums

Image: QM

Relaxation comes in many forms, especially as we all unwind in different ways, depending on what makes each of us tick. Another great way to relax is to spend a few hours ambling around an art gallery or museum. Most arts venues are peaceful, quiet, elegant and aesthetically pleasing places that have a calming effect on you. The tranquil galleries are filled with inspiring, thought-provoking, unique pieces of art, and as you immerse yourself, you disengage with the outside world, leaving your stresses at the door. What's more, wandering from gallery to gallery, floor to floor, is also an excellent way to get physically active…another great way to induce relaxation!

As a starting point for all things art in Qatar, our recommendation is the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Education City. The museum, housed in a former school building, incorporates seven serene galleries of paintings, sculptures and other art forms that capture and represent the story of modern Arab art spanning the last two hundred years. Alongside the comprehensive permanent collection, the museum also houses five galleries dedicated to temporary exhibitions that showcase the works of renowned and up-and-coming Arab artists. The museum is free to enter for Qatari residents, as are most of the country’s art galleries and museums!

Main image: Shutterstock/SvenHansche

Published: October 26, 2023
Last updated: January 25, 2024
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