A Day’s Tour of Doha's Free Sights and Spectacular Views
Like many cities around the world, Doha has a plethora of activities and things to do for residents with free time on their hands and visitors who have come to explore a new destination. However, spending your free time and exploring can be somewhat expensive. Many activities, and things to do, have an associated cost for entry and participation. When you add on the cost of transportation and food and beverages, a day in the city can quite easily burn a substantial hole in your budget. Nonetheless, like most cities across the globe, if you know where to look, there are all sorts of free activities and low-budget options that will keep you entertained, help you make the most of your time and maintain a healthy wallet.
One of the easiest ways to save a few coins but get the most out of a day trip, especially on a sunny day (of which Qatar offers quite a few), is to get out and admire the scenery. Cityscapes are full of beautiful, awe-inspiring architecture to admire, traditional and modern elements to ponder, and historical and heritage sites to appreciate. Most cities have parks and spaces for relaxation and leisure. Many are built alongside natural features, such as the ocean, rivers and mountains, enhancing their overall atmosphere and aesthetics. Doha is no exception; built on the eastern coastline of Qatar, it has modern and contemporary buildings, including a host of towering skyscrapers, impressive World Cup stadiums, and stunning museums and mosques. It also sports numerous green spaces, promenades, wide palm-lined walkways, and an array of historical and heritage landmarks. So, if you want to do more for less and need a helping hand to plan a day's sightseeing in Doha, we've put together a dawn-to-dusk itinerary of free sights and spectacular views around the city. While these sights should be part of any trip to Doha, they are some of the best to leave your pockets relatively full at the end of the day.
Doha’s Free Sights and Spectacular Views
Assuming that you will have some cash for low-budget transport and some food and beverage options, you should be able to store your credit card safely in your pocket as you follow our day's tour around Doha’s free sights and views. So, without further ado…
Your best bet for cheap transport around the city is the Doha Metro. The Metro service offers Standard Day Pass tickets for just QAR 6, bought alongside a reusable travel card costing QAR 10 (under five dollars, pounds or euros in total). Kids under five ride for free. Plus, a free shuttle bus service, the Metrolink, provides first and final destination transport within a 2-5 km radius of the Metro station between 6 am and 11 pm. Metrolink buses generally arrive every 12 minutes.
Early Morning Activities:
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A good place to start your day is at The Pearl, Doha's man-made island, complete with luxury residential precincts, marina, beaches, promenades, plazas, boutique shops and a myriad of cafes and restaurants, all designed to reflect a slice of the Mediterranean blended with traditional Arabian architecture. It is a perfect place to wander during the morning's cooler hours and watch the sunrise over the sand-coloured buildings that ring the marina at Porto Arabia, the Venetian-style homes in Qanat Quartier and the ocean beyond.
To get to The Pearl, take the Metro Red Line north from the city to Legtaifiya Metro Station. Then, hop on a Metrolink shuttle bus to Piazza Arabia, between Towers 6 and 7 in Porto Arabia.
Once you arrive at Porto Arabia, you can walk around the circular marina on wide, peaceful promenades admiring the yachts and the surrounding architecture whilst window shopping in the many boutiques and specialist shops along the way. Dotted with palm trees and interspersed with numerous bridges spanning crystal clear water in canals below, the walk makes you feel like you are on vacation. If you start to feel like you are on holiday in Porto Arabia, a trip to Qanat Quartier will make you feel even more so. Designed on a canal system similar to Venice, with footbridges connecting each mini island to the other, Qanat Quartier is a world away from everyday life. Visitors can walk the streets admiring the brightly coloured houses and exploring plazas, sit outside at one of the many cafes and restaurants for breakfast or morning refreshments, and even find a replica of the famous Venetian bridge, the Rialto.
To get to Qanat Quartier, you can walk or take a water taxi from Porto Arabia. Taxis are available from Marina A, Gate 11, every 20 minutes from 9 am to 11 pm. The journey takes 10 minutes and costs QAR 25 per single trip - tickets can be bought on board or at the Ronautica office at Tower 1. You can even use the water taxi to explore the precinct - what better way to explore a mini Venice than by water!
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After an early morning stroll and exploration, head back to Legtaifiya Metro Station via the Metrolink shuttle bus, which also stops outside Qanat Quartier on Pearl Boulevard. Once you arrive at the station, you have a couple of options:
You could head north two stops on the Red Line to Lusail. A quick pit stop to Lusail Stadium, the largest of Qatar's FIFA 2022 World Cup stadiums, is well worth the effort. Designed to emulate a fusion of Arabian crafts, the stadium rises from the ground into a gently curving, traditional handmade bowl-shaped design. During the daytime, especially as the sun rises to its zenith, the light catches on the aged-metallic panels of the facade, making it appear of solid gold - it is a spectacle to behold.
Otherwise, head three stops south on the Red Line to Katara Metro Station to visit Katara Cultural Village. The village was built and designed to reflect and celebrate Qatari and other global cultures and offer a venue for multicultural activities such as international, regional and local festivals, workshops, performances and exhibitions. To that end, Katara is built around a village of traditional-style buildings and streets, home of art galleries, a museum, an opera house and other cultural institutions. However, there is much more to Katara than that…
Having left the Metro station, your first port of call is 21 High Street, an air-conditioned outdoor promenade lined either side by Romanesque buildings housing luxury shops and high-end eateries. Watch out for the children's mall designed to look like a giant present wrapped in a red box and complete with gold and silver bows. Though stunning to look at, it won't do your budget much good to linger here. But, as you reach the plaza at the end of the street, there is plenty more to discover. The plaza, complete with a water fountain and features, leads into the cool, shaded streets of the village. Here you can find the art galleries, take a wander through the Arab Postal Stamp Museum, admire the beautiful blue mosque (with a facade made up of blue and gold Persian and Turkish tiles), the dazzling gold mosque (decorated with gold tiles), pigeon towers (traditional dovecote structures with holes and perches for pigeons) and, the piece de resistance, a colossal and awe-inspiring greek-style amphitheatre. You can spend time sitting in the open-air theatre admiring the views of Katara beach and promenade, the Gulf Sea and the skyscrapers of West Bay beyond, or take centre stage and test the fabulous acoustics. Whichever, this building and the views from it are truly outstanding. Down to the promenade, it's worth taking some time to check out the various sculptures - Gandhi's Three Monkeys and the Force of Nature II - and take a walk by the ocean.
If you're feeling peckish and have brought a picnic, head back to Katara Green Hills through the village. The green space on the hill overlooking Katara is perfect for a relaxing lunchtime break and some elevated views of the village, the ocean, the Pearl or West Bay, and the surrounding area. If you need to grab lunch on the go, you could have something in any of the fantastic cafes and restaurants on the promenade or at 21 High Street. But, if you want to preserve some cash, head north and round to Tasty Street, an area full of food outlets and kiosks selling a variety of delicious bites. From Tasty Street, you will also see the impressive building of the Society of Al Gannas (Qatar's falcon hunting headquarters), shaped like a falcon's leather hood.
Following lunch, a great place to spend the afternoon, and evening, is along Doha's Corniche - a 7 km waterfront promenade coasting Doha Bay. To get to the Corniche, jump back on the Metro from Katara and head south on the Red Line for four stops, alighting at Corniche Metro Station.
On arrival, the choice of sights and views is plentiful. Head east from the Metro station through Umbrella Park to get to the Corniche. On the way, you'll discover airconditioned floral archways covered in a myriad of colourful umbrellas, as well as blooming plants and flowers. If you are looking for a picturesque start to your Corniche explorations, this is a ticked box and an Instagram gem.
Speaking of instagrammable shots... Once on the Corniche, the clear blue sky, the glistening waters of the Gulf, dotted with traditional wooden boats, the green grass and fig palms bordering the coastal walkway, a heap of sculptures and artworks, and the skyscrapers of West Bay towering in the distance, leave you feeling like you're in photographer's heaven. There are so many beautiful features along the seafront you'll find it hard to put your camera away; however, once you do, you can either head north or south along the promenade.
Heading north, you can get closer to the colossal cloud-touching buildings of West Bay. There is plenty of stunning architecture to admire, some undeniably modern but some beautifully blending with Arabic and Islamic design. You'll also discover two beautiful parks - Al Dafna and Sheraton Park. Al Dafna, right along the seafront, has plenty of green space for relaxing and a great play area for kids. Sheraton Park also has an adventure playground for kids, plus some tranquil water features and a grassy hill to sit on and admire the view, which also takes in the distinctive Sheraton Grand Hotel, Doha's first international hotel, built in the late 70s and shaped like a pyramid.
Heading south, you come across some of our favourite parks in Qatar, Al Bidda Park and the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) Park. Al Bidda Park is one of Qatar's largest and offers seven exciting kids' play areas, bike and running tracks, open-air gyms, courts for ball sports, a maze, a camel trail, bike hire shops, cafes and restaurants, bbq facilities and much more. MIA Park, set around the impressive building housing the museum, is bordered by the ocean and, aside from a lovely lawned area and kids' parks, has two cafes that look across the water to West Bay - one of the nicest views of the city. In between, you can stop to admire the Amir Diwan, the workplace and the office of the Amir. Take a boat ride on a traditional boat (join an organised dhow cruise, or haggle for a price with private boat owners), or mooch around the ground of one of Qatar's most impressive buildings, the National Museum of Qatar. The museum is made up of interlocking sand-coloured disks designed to resemble the blossoming crystals of the desert rose and is an architectural wonder to behold. You can wander around the ground taking in the buildings' grandeur, relax in the green spaces or admire the various artworks dotted around. However, if the afternoon is too hot, you could head indoors to the Msheireb Museums, which are open to the public for free. The Msheireb Museums celebrate Qatar's national history, culture and social development through four restored heritage buildings, each set around its own traditional and tranquil courtyard.
The Metro offers transport to various locations along the Corniche - Al Bidda on the Red Line, Msheireb and the National Museum on the Gold Line. However, it's just as easy and more aesthetically pleasing to potter up and down the Corniche to your destinations.
Main image: Kirill Neiezhmakov/Shutterstock.com
Souq Waqif is one of the best places to spend an evening in Qatar, and it also has a Metro Station on the Gold Line.
Souq Waqif is Doha's traditional Qatari marketplace and, though at least one hundred years old, a facelift in 2006 has made this destination one of the most popular places in the city to visit, especially in the evening. Low traditional buildings dominate, with alleyways running like a maze throughout the market. Shops on either side of the narrow passageways sell and offer a multitude of wares and services, from clothing, fabric shops and tailors to shops selling trinkets and souvenirs. In the hidden alleyways, you can find a Gold Souq, a spice market, a Falcon Souq, oil and perfume shops, art galleries, and even a theatre. Along the main strip through the market, where the streets are wider, an array of cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops and boutique hotels can be found. And on the edges of the market, you can find camel and horse stables, a play park for children, shops selling local dates and honey, and an underground Novo cinema decked out in traditional Qatari style. There is also a central square for events and activities - various festivals are celebrated at the souq during the year, which often involve traditional displays of singing, dancing and music). From the souq, you can even see the adjacent Fanar Cultural Centre. The circular mosque (come cultural centre), with its spiralling minaret that, lit up at night and creating a stunning spectacle against the dark sky, is one of Doha's most photographed sights.
You could easily spend an entire evening at the souq, exploring the small passageways and shops, watching Qatari men play Dama (a traditional board game), and taking photographs of the beautiful architecture, public art installations, colourful fabrics and wares, and the melee of people. And there are plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by; benches line the main strip, and cafes and restaurants spill out onto the streets and the square. Speaking of which, if you are hungry, there is plenty of choices when it comes to eating out - traditional fare to European and beyond. However, if you are trying to save money, some of the eateries within the hidden alleyways and outskirts of the market are worth trying. From traditional Qatari street food to restaurants serving Yemini dishes seated on carpeted floors and cushions - the experience is as satisfying as the full pocket you will still have after you pay for your meal!
Once your evening draws to a close, head home on the Metro with a day's memories made, a full stomach and a full wallet!