Over 37 million travellers pass through Doha’s Hamad International Airport each year. But how many of these travellers are taking the time to discover Doha en route to their final destination? I recently got to experience 24-hours in Doha en route from Chiang Mai to Birmingham with Qatar Airways. It felt like a bit of a whirlwind, but we squeezed in all the top sights of Doha and it made me realise how much there is to see there. If you fancy adding a slice of Middle Eastern culture to your next adventure, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Doha (and how to get a free hotel stay, if you’re quick).
Stopover in Doha for Free with Qatar Airways
In a bid to encourage more transit passengers to discover Doha, Qatar Airways are offering a free hotel stay and free transit visa in Doha to all of their passengers that book before 28 February 2018 and travel before 30 April 2018. Economy passengers will be given a free night in a 4* hotel, and Business Class passengers will be given a free night in a 5* hotel. Click here to book flights and claim the +Qatar offer.
Things to Do on a Layover in Doha
1. Visit The Museum of Islamic Art
Amongst all the glitzy skyscrapers, the most iconic building in Doha has to be the Museum of Islamic Art. Located in a prime location on the Corniche and surrounded by Doha Bay, the museum stands tall on its own island, away from all the high-rise buildings. The building is a work of art in itself, but it also houses 3 floors of historical Islamic Art. There’s also a modern café to rest tired feet, but a short, intense visit here should do the trick. Admission is free.
How Long to Spend: 1-2 Hours
Top Tip: A modest dress code is very important here. Be sure to have your legs, chest and shoulders covered.
2. Explore Katara Cultural Village
Doha’s purpose-built cultural village is a fascinating place to explore when on a layover. There’s a heritage centre, opera house, libraries, amphitheatre, art galleries as well as café, restaurants and green areas. The most impressive part has to be the white stone amphitheatre which has a classical Greek design with Islamic features. Overlooking the glittering ocean and skyline, it’s beautiful to visit at any time of day. Close by there is also a public beach with water sports.
How Long to Spend: 1 hour or longer if you want to stop for lunch or dinner
3. Enjoy a Traditional Qatari (Dhow) Boat Ride
The Corniche is a 7km waterfront promenade that stretches around Doha Bay. Moored up along the Corniche is a scattering of traditional wooden long boats known as Qatari Dhow boats. Many of them operate boat trips for tourists and stand out with their colourful lights. These boats are very close to the Museum of Islamic Art, so it would be a good idea to do both attractions one after the other.
How Long to Spend: Boat trip durations can vary. Book in advance or just enquire on the day.
4. Haggle for Souvenirs at Souk Waqif
Get lost in the labyrinth of the Souk Waqif and hunt out some treasures to take home with you. The narrow alleys of the Souk are filled with market stalls and tiny shops selling everything from spices and ceramics to fabrics and fragrances. There are lots of casual cafe cafes with outdoor seating that serve drinks, food and shisha (it would be a fun and reasonably priced place to eat on a stopover in Doha). I really enjoyed my experience at the Souk Waqif apart from walking through the pet shop area, which I found really upsetting as it has puppies and kittens in cramped cages.
How Long to Spend: 1-3 hours. The best time to visit is in the evening, when the Souk is at its most atmospheric.
Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to try and barter the shopkeeper for a better price and remember to dress modestly.
Where to Stay on a Layover in Doha
Shangri-La Doha, West Bay
I spent one night in the luxurious Shangri-La Doha, which is located in Doha’s West Bay, otherwise known as the financial district. This was the third Shangri-La I have stayed at (the others being Boracay and Chiang Mai) and I love how each individual hotel design is influenced by its location. The skyscraper hotel feels incredibly luxurious and contemporary with Middle-Eastern influencers and patterns. The food was exceptional, as was the service. There’s also a fabulous pool area which sadly I didn’t have time to visit. Read More Reviews and Book.
Souq Waqif Boutique Hotel by Tivoli
If you prefer your hotels smaller and more boutique in style, this is a perfect option. I got the chance to have dinner and a show round of this hotel whilst in Doha and if I were to return to Doha this is definitely where I would stay. The interiors are beautiful and the location is right in the heart of the Souk Waqif, so it has an authentic Middle-Eastern feel as opposed to the high-rise buildings of West Bay. Read More Reviews and Book.
I loved getting the chance to stop over in Doha and whilst I only scratched the surface of this intriguing Middle-Eastern City, it was definitely enough time to get a feel for the place. It isn’t somewhere I would want to spend a full week, but if you’re ever passing through I would definitely recommend a culture-filled stop over in Doha.
Book flights to Doha with Qatar Airways before 28th February 2018 and receive 1 free 4* or 5* hotel night in Doha.
What did you think of my 24 hours in Doha Guide? Have you ever passed through Doha or are you planning to visit? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Jess x
Want to read more about my Eastern adventure? Read Retracing My Steps in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Thanks to Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar International Adventures for organising my itinerary whilst in Doha.
My 24 hours in Doha was part of a press tip from Birmingham to Chiang Mai with Birmingham Airport and Qatar Airways. All views, words and images are my own.
What a beautiful, paradise: tucked away and unknow for many.
Truly, much praise to those for making this happen.
Zia ur rahman says
I have a layover in Doha qatar 14 hours. What would you suggest me?
Thanks in advance.
Great dress! 🙂
Thanks Ana! It was great for Qatar. x
Girl this guide is AMAZING – I’ve never explored any of the middle east (again, only ever stopped over in Dubai or Abu Dhabi) but am definitely intrigued by it! This guide is wonderful and definitely would make me consider travelling to Doha! (the market looks incredible, I love bringing souvenirs back for my home!).
Oh love thank you so much! I think you’d absolutely love the Middle East, it’s so fabulous in many ways as long as you are respectful of the local culture. xx
I love this – I always want my flight to get cancelled for 24 hours when I go through here and Dubai. Although 24 hours isn’t long it’s enough for those places you might not necessarily have gone to on their own, looks like you had a great time,
Hey Jet, thanks for your comment! If a flight gets cancelled in Doha it would a nice bonus as you’d have a chance to go and explore. I agree 24 hours isn’t long enough to do the city justice but thats usually how long most people spend here if they’re on a layover 🙂
Angie Silver (@SilverSpoonLDN) says
What an ideal stopover!!
Thanks Angie! It was great 🙂
Lots of great tips Jess. I would love to wander around the souks, although I definitely wouldn’t want to see those animals caged so I would need to avoid that part! x
Jenny | Luxestyle
Thanks Jenny! The souk was definitely the most exciting part. I love looking at all the weird and wonderful trinkets in the stalls. There wasn’t much hassle either. The caged animals were so sad though. It reminded me how far ahead the UK is compared to other parts of the world in terms of animal welfare. x
Aftab Pathan says
This sounds like the perfect way to have a quick 24hr stop over. Love this post, Jess!
Thanks Aftab! It was a great place to explore during a layover. A nice middle eastern experience and handy for breaking up the journey x
I would definetly have a stay over in Doha. You managed to see so much in a short space of time too!
Thanks Mrs B! We did cram in a lot in the short time we were there. I would advise picking a couple of the things in my guide and going at a more leisurely pace x