July 06, 2023

Doha in 24 Hours For Families, Foodies and Culture Vultures

Qatar is a bustling aviation hub between northern and southern hemisphere destinations. A growing number of people pass through the country's main airport on their way to their final stop. In response, the government has made it easier for stopover passengers to get out of the terminals and into the county to discover what lies beyond the airport transfer lounges. Indeed, with the capital city, Doha, just a 20-minute taxi drive or a half-hour Metro ride away, exploring when time is limited couldn't be easier. So, if you have a lengthy stopover at the airport, it's worth heading into the city for a day.

Doha is a unique Arabian city that integrates traditional heritage and modernity with aplomb, and, as a blossoming tourist destination, it has a lot to offer visitors. Sandy, manicured beaches, green parks, luxury shopping and entertainment venues, remarkable architecture and skyscrapers that loom above cultural landmarks, grand museums and mosques, traditional souqs and a bay full of classic Arabian Dhow sailing boats all await the intrepid traveller. And, with the Metro connecting the most iconic landmarks around the country, you can hop onto it straight from the airport and get to all the highly recommended spots of your choice without losing time in traffic.

We know Doha like the back of our hands, so if you have 24 hours to spare, we have some useful insights and suggestions of what to do and where to go, especially if you like food, culture or are looking for places to take the family:


Mornings are a great time to explore Doha; the air is fresh, the streets are less busy (after rush hour), and you will have many attractions to yourself. Why not try the following depending on your mood:

For Food Lovers: Karak Mqanes at The Pearl

Image: Qatarliving.com

Start your day with breakfast at Karak Mqanes at Porto Arabia in the Pearl - you won't be disappointed. Karak Mqanes is a cafe chain started by Qatari friends looking to bring authentic fireside foods, often eaten after a falcon hunt, to the masses. They serve traditional Qatari fare based on old family recipes in simple, stylish cafes dotted with pictures and memorabilia from Qatari falcon hunting traditions. Try their chapatis, shakshuka (soft-cooked eggs in spiced tomato sauce) and Karak (a Qatari version of tea with milk); they are delicious, filling and will set you back less than QAR 20.

While the Karak Mqanes company has numerous restaurants across Qatar, the breakfast spread at The Pearl, with outdoor seating overlooking Porto Arabia's beautiful marina in the morning light, is truly one to set your pace for the day. And once breakfast is finished, you can also take time to go for a stroll along the sunlit promenade, do some shopping or spend some time exploring other areas of the Pearl. Check out Qanat Quartier's pastel-coloured buildings and meandering canals - reminiscent of Venice, Mediterranean-inspired Medina Centrale, and more. To get the best out of your visit there, you should probably spend 3-4 hours exploring the Pearl.

  • Location: La Croisette 23, Porto Arabia, The Pearl
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red Line to Legtaifiya Metro Station. You can then take the free Metrolink bus M110 that goes to Porto Arabia from the station every 12 minutes.

For Families: Qatar National Library

Image: Ben Bryant/Shutterstock.com

Designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas, the Qatar National Library is just one place you must visit as a family when you are in Doha. From its awe-inspiring design to more than one million books to explore, a dedicated children's library with interactive activities and a play area, a teen section, and a Heritage library displaying a multitude of ancient texts and artefacts, there is something for everyone in the family. If not the books, you can bond over board games and chess in lounge chairs and settees, take a coffee in hanging chairs in the central atrium, or hire a technology room to practice and record some music or your green screen skills. The library offers plenty for people of all ages, and while combining fun with education is not an easy task, QNL gets it all right.

The library is truly a sight to behold in the morning light and is the perfect time to visit when the crowds are less. If you are visiting in the summer months, it is an ideal escape in the noon hours when the sun is at its peak.

  • Location: District of Freedom, Education City, Al Luqta Street, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Green Line to QNL Metro Station.

  • Hours:
    • Saturday to Thursday, 8 am to 8 pm
    • Friday, 4 pm - 8 pm
    • The Children's Library closes at 6:30 pm daily
  • Contacts:

For Culture Vultures: Souq Wakrah

Image: Qatar Living Photos

If you are an early bird and one to chase sunrises, Souq Wakrah is the place to be. With a family beach, old dhows (traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts) pulled up onto the sand, a kid's playground, a beachside promenade, and seafront restaurants over which the sun rises, this truly is the best morning stop you can make.

The souq's location was once a traditional fishing village and still carries the essence of the place. Indeed, you can also walk towards Wakra Fishing Harbour from here and watch fishing boats casting off or docking with their morning catch. You can also see The Pearl monument from here, an iconic monument built in the 1980s to represent Qatar's pearl-diving past. The souq is also home to one of the oldest mosques in Qatar - the Abu Manaratain Mosque, built-in 1940. A visit to the mosque while in the souq also gives insight into the traditional architecture, where buildings were once made of thick mud walls that kept the insides cool. Besides retaining its charm, the souq has lots more to offer, from local cafes to restaurants serving freshly bbq-ed local seafood and dedicated markets for all kinds of local delicacies and products - dates, cheese, perfumes, gold, spices, swords, and more. Souq Wakrah is genuinely a stop for everyone, and you can easily spend an entire day there!

  • Location: Al Wakrah Seafront, Al Wakrah, Qatar
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red Line to Al Wakra Metro Station. You can then take the free Metrolink bus M127, which goes to Souq Al Wakrah every 12 minutes.

  • Opening times:
    • Saturday to Thursday, 7: 30 am to 12 am
    • Friday - 7: 30 am to 11:15 am, then from 12.30 pm to 12 am
  • Other useful information: If you are looking to catch the early sunrise, check into the Tivoli Souq Al Wakra hotel to ensure you see it in all its glory! Also, if you are planning to spend time on the beach at the souq, it is advised that you wear modest attire.


Afternoons are, generally, when it gets busier in Doha, with the residents finishing work and starting to venture outdoors. Try one of these options to while away the hours after midday.

For Food Lovers: SMAT

Image: OrientPearlQatar.com

Whether you are in Doha during the summer months or the cooler winter, lunch at SMAT is worth adding to your itinerary. The restaurant is famed in Doha for its gastronomic cuisine that truly reflects Qatari and Gulf country food heritage. Though the food and flavours are authentic, the restaurant's unique selling point is the modern twists and fusion flavours they bring to each dish and the exceptional and often funky presentation. Try the Biryani Kabuli Wellington, a typical Biryani with Kabuli spices and, with a twist on the European beef wellington, a lamb shank in baked puff pastry - it's a masterpiece to look at and to taste.

Besides the food, the attention to detail in the interior is a highlight. Tables are covered with runners with traditional motifs and patterns, walls adorned with mashrabiya patterns (an architectural element characteristic of traditional architecture in the Islamic world), chairs and sofas covered with traditional prints, and centrepieces on tables with elements reflecting the local landscape and the culture. With so much choice on the menu, beautiful surroundings and a stunning view of the Corniche and the ocean beyond, dining here is a must. Though be warned, lunch at SMAT will not be cheap!

  • Location: SMAT, Second Floor, Orient Pearl Restaurant, Al Corniche, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Gold Line to the National Museum Metro Station. The restaurant is 14 minute's walk from there.

For Families: Katara Cultural Village

Image: Danny Iacob/Shutterstock.com

Katara Cultural Village is the ideal spot for a wholesome educational, and fun-filled afternoon with the family. 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, 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…

Whether you are in Doha for 24 hours or even less, visiting Katara is a must. There are many things to see and do, from walking down the outdoor air-conditioned promenade at 21st High Street and shopping at the luxury store Galeries Lafayette to discovering more about the planet at one of the most advanced Planetariums in the Middle East - Al Thuraya. Or maybe explore the iconic Turkish-inspired blue mosque, the stunning Greek amphitheatre, the Al Bahie Auction House, watch the world go by atop Katara hills or enjoy watersports at the Katara beach. There are also plenty of unique restaurants, cafes, and food kiosks to try. Some notable ones, and truly unique to Qatar, include Al Jazeera Media cafe, Boho Social, and Chapati and Karak.

  • Location: Katara, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red Line to Katara Metro Station.

  • Opening Times: Katara is open 24 hours per day
  • Contacts:
    • Tel: +97444080000
  • Website: https://www.katara.net/en
  • Other useful information: At Katara, buggies are available in which to explore the area and to get to the stops of your interest to save time. It would also be good to look at the Katara Events calendar for any performances, festivals, workshops or exhibitions scheduled during your visit.

For Culture Vultures: Msheireb

Image: Qatar Living Photos

A visit to the Msheireb Museums should be on your itinerary if you are interested in significant events, culture, and customs that have influenced Qatar over the years. The museums incorporate four traditional houses - Bin Jelmood House, Company House, Mohammed Bin Jassim House, and Radwani House - renovated to reflect classic Qatari architecture during the early 1800s. Inside each home, the narrative of the displays and information provided delves into different facets of Qatari life, recounting the country's most significant achievements alongside the adversities which have shaped it. Everything is covered from traditional family lifestyles and customs, the discovery of oil, the region's connection with slavery, and subsequent detachment. Many narratives are delivered in the first person, making for an enlightening encounter.

After visiting the museums, you could walk down to Barahat Msheireb, a spacious plaza area surrounded by cafés and restaurants.

  • Location: Mohammed Bin Jassim Street, Msheireb Downtown, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red/Green/Gold Line to Msheireb Metro Station.

  • Opening Times:
    • Monday to Thursday, 9 am – 5 pm
    • Friday, 3 pm – 9 pm
    • Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm
    • Closed on Sunday
  • Contacts:
  • Other useful information: Try one of the museums' individual, group, and institution-guided tours; they may be customised to match your requirements. Also, the Msheireb museums are within walking distance of Souq Waqif, another to-do list for the culture enthusiast.


Evenings are a great time to explore the city; people start to venture outdoors for dinner, picnics, a sociable coffee, shopping trips and more...the streets and green spaces take on a buzzy atmosphere. So, what are your options for evening entertainment?

For Food Lovers: Bandar Aden in Souq Waqif

Image: Paul Cowan/Shutterstock.com

Located on the edge of Souq Waqif, Bandar Aden, an authentic Yemeni eatery, will blow your mind with its wholesome, traditional, simple cuisine. Their slow-cooked stews, such as Salta and Fahsa, are outstanding, as are their meat-and-rice dishes or Mandi. Mandi, in particular, is a great plate to try if you want to experience a dish cooked traditionally. The meat is cooked in an outdoor oven, usually underground, called a taboon (or, more commonly known, a tandoor). The clay oven is heated with charcoal, and the meat is suspended over the heat source to cook/smoke. The dish is served with spiced rice - simple but full of flavour. Inside the restaurant, you can sit at a table or on the floor in small, private side rooms. With comfortable floor cushions to rest against, you can eat your meal as the locals do. One of the bonuses of eating at this no-frills restaurant is that the dining here is also very affordable.

After your meal, you can head out to the souq and maybe purchase a keepsake as you navigate the market's complex labyrinth. The market houses a wide range of shops selling a multitude of items, including shoes, antiques, woven textiles, carpets, wooden furniture, perfumes, spices and glass decorations. You can even check out the falcon souq and the camel and horse stables. Both the restaurant and the souq offer one of the most genuine experiences in the city.

  • Location: Abdullah Bin Jassim Street, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Gold Line to Souq Waqif Metro Station.

  • Opening Times:
    • Saturday to Thursday, 8 am - 11 pm
    • Friday, 12:30 pm - 11 pm
  • Contacts:

For Families: Doha Festival City

Image: AAQ/Shutterstock.com

Doha Festival City is a one-stop-shop for fun, food and fashion for the whole family. This mall, one of Qatar's largest, offers everything from essential to luxury shopping, a myriad of restaurants, cafes and food courts, and a host of exciting entertainment options. Indeed, it has an eighteen-screen VOX Cinema, including an immersive 4Dx and luxury theatres, the latter complete with plush leather recliners and food and drinks service. Families will also enjoy the mall's e-gaming centre, Virtuocity, and two amusement parks, Angry Birds World and SnowDunes. Virtuocity, the region's first gaming centre, provides virtual/real-life entertainment with full-motion racing simulations, a multipurpose eSports arena, escape rooms and more. The world's first Angry Birds World theme park is part indoors and part outdoors and accommodates a vast array of adrenaline rides and adventure activities for all ages. The highlight of the theme park is a massive slingshot which can be seen outside the mall. SnowDunes is a snow-themed park with twelve rides and activities, including a multitude of slides and air-tube tobogganing, that will keep the whole family entertained.

  • Location: Umm Salal Muhammed, Qatar
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red Line to Lusail-QNB Metro Station.

  • Opening Times:
    • Saturday to Wednesday, 10 am - 10 pm
    • Thursday to Friday, 10 am - 11 pm (closed during Friday prayers)
  • Contacts:
    • Tel: +97440354444

For Culture Vultures: Dhow Ride

Image: Fitria Ramli/Shutterstock.com

Main image: Noushad Thekkayil/Shutterstock.com

There are excellent cultural experiences all over the globe, but a voyage on a Dhow (traditional Qatari wooden boat) is an encounter that matches the best of them. Dhows are a remnant of Qatar's days as a maritime country when fishermen and pearl divers traded along the coast in these wooden vessels - long before the discovery of oil and gas, which transformed the country's fortunes and saw a decline in sea trade. However, the nation has restored many old boats to preserve the country's culture and tradition, and many of those boats now offer sea cruises to visitors and residents.

Dhows may be seen all along the Corniche promenade, although most Dhow cruises depart from the pier in front of the Museum of Islamic Art. You may rent passage on a Dhow to ferry you around the bay and view the city from the water, or you can go on a three- to four-hour nighttime Dhow cruise with food, traditional music and entertainment. During the day, the Dhow cruise is the perfect time to check out some of the city's coastal architecture - from old iconic structures like the Sheraton Grand Hotel to the state-of-the-art Museum of Islamic Arts and the glittering, futuristic towers of Westbay. In the evening, a BBQ feast with authentic local dishes and Qatari hospitality onboard a Dhow is an ideal way to spend a delightful, relaxing evening. Seeing the city light up as the light fades is the perfect way to end your 24 hours in Doha.

  • Location: Al Corniche, Doha
  • Getting There: Taxi, Car Hire or Metro

On the Metro, take the Red Line to Corniche Metro Station.

Published: June 26, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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