With Doha being a fairly compact city to see and the Qatar Airways Stopover Program on offer, it’s very easy and enjoyable to spend your layover in Doha exploring the city, and country, with 1 day in Doha, or up to 4 days in Doha!
I have already shared my 3 day in Doha itinerary on this blog because 3-4 days is a great amount of time to spend in Qatar whether you have a Doha layover or you’re on a specific Doha trip like I was.
In this post, I want to focus on what to do in Doha for a day as I know many people will only want a 1 day in Doha to break up their flight, or you only want to spend 1 of your days in Doha sightseeing and the rest relaxing in a beautiful hotel!
I’ll tell you more about the amazing Qatar Stopover program with Qatar Airways incase this is what you are on, or are interested in. But of course, you may decide to book 2 separate flights yourself on the likes of Skyscanner and do a DIY Doha stopover instead with cheaper airlines and just have 1 day in Doha in between to see all of the things to do in Doha in 1 day!
Post World-Cup, everyone is intrigued by Qatar because of the amazing success of the games and how much the fans enjoyed it! For more information and travel tips for Doha, read my Guide to Doha here!
One of the things many people wonder before booking a trip to a Gulf Country like Qatar though is what to wear in Qatar. So be sure to read my full guide on the Qatar Dress Code and what to wear in Qatar as tourist here!
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Qatar Airways Doha Stopover
Qatar Airways offer an official stopover program which is one of it’s kind.
Many people call it the ‘Qatar Airways Free Stopover Program’ because the idea is that your 2 flights in and out of Doha connecting you from Europe to Asia or Australia for example, should not cost anymore with a 1-4 day long layover in Doha city than they would if you only had a 2-3 hour connection in Doha Airport.
The Qatar Airways stopover program is not completely free however, as you do have to pay additional costs on top of your flights for your hotel in Doha on your stopover nights in the city.
With that being said, the beauty of this Doha stopover package is that Qatar Airways offers these hotels to you MUCH cheaper than if you were to book them yourself online! A Qatar Stopover Hotel on their package starts at $14 USD a night for a 4 star hotel states Qatar Airways! Impressive!
If you’re still at the planning stages of your Qatar stopover, check out how to book a stopover in Doha with Qatar Airways here and what routes and packages are available.
Layover in Doha
Many cities around the world are hard to see in just 1 day, but Doha is a great city to spend just 1 day in if you are short on time, or just want to get a quick and feel for the country and city.
Hamad International Airport is located really close to the South of Doha city and many of the top Doha attractions. Doha attractions near the airport include Souq Waqif, the National Museum of Qatar and Flag Plaza left from the World Cup.
It’s also really easy to get around Doha as many of the best places to visit in Doha are connected by metro and taxi’s are cheap and easy to find too. Here’s my post on how to get around Doha using public transport!
Long Layover in Doha Tips
Whether you are on an official Qatar Airways layover with a hotel booked through them as detailed above, or you are on a long layover in Doha booked by yourself by booking 2 separate flight tickets and giving yourself a night or two between flights, here are some tips for your layover in Doha followed by my full guide on what to do in doha for a day!
If you are booking 2 separate flights yourself, or you want to compare prices of different flights in and out of Doha, I recommend looking on Skyscanner here or using the below search bar where you can easily compare different dates and options to find the best price and route for you!
Book a Hotel in Downtown Doha
When looking at a map of Doha, you’ll see that Hamad International Airport is very close to the South of of Doha city.
The south of Doha is where many of the top Doha tourist attractions are like Souq Waqif, the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Corniche and the Cruise Ship Terminal.
It is just a 20 minute drive to Souq Waqif from Hamad International Airport.
Other Doha attractions are in the North of the city such as The Pearl and Lusail, these are only a 40 minute journey in good traffic but if you only have 1 day in Doha or a short layover in Doha, I always think having a shorter commute to the airport not only saves time but stress and worry too!
Souq Waqif Doha Hotels
Here are some highly rated 4* and 5* Hotels around Downtown Doha and Souq Waqif that are included in the Qatar Airways Stopover Program and are great to book independently yourself:
Book a Day Tour of Doha
With limited time in Doha, you may decide that seeing the city with a guide and private transport is the option for you.
Most of the tours of Doha are 4 hours long, perfect for fitting into your Doha layover and they run at different times of the day. There are night tours like this which are great to avoid the hot summer days, food tours like this to experience local food, and daytime tours like this visiting the Souk’s, Mosques and getting out on a traditional boat like this.
Doha Hop-On Hop-Off bus
A really great option for getting around Doha in 1 day is to book this Doha Hop-On Hop-Off Bus because this is cheaper than getting a private guide and private transport but it is still easier and quicker to use than public transport, it takes you to all the top places to see in Doha with a 24 hour pass and you’ll get an audio guide.
This bus definitely ideal if you think jet lag might hit you in the middle of the day… see some of Doha in the morning, relax at your hotel in the afternoon and avoid the heat, and head back out in the evening!
Desert Tours from Doha
If you have been to Doha before or you don’t fancy spending time in the city.
There are many great Qatar half day tours which will pick you up from your Doha hotel and take you into the desert for dune bashing and camel riding fun! These typically leave in the afternoon and bring you back early evening.
Now this sounds like a great way to spend your Qatar Stopover doesn’t it! Much better than spending a long layover in Doha Airport!
AND, if you’ve done these types of desert tours in Dubai or Abu Dhabi before, in Qatar they are unique because they also visit the inland sea, so be sure to book one that goes there to see something different like this tour does!
Below I have detailed my suggested 1 day in Doha itinerary which doesn’t include paying for a tour or guide so keep reading and scrolling down if this is your preferred option as Doha is an easy city to get around as a tourist thanks to it’s brilliant, and cheap, metro system.
Get Familiar with a Map of Doha
The city of Doha is not huge which is why a layover in Doha city is such a great option but as mentioned above in where to stay in Doha on a stopover, the city of Doha is still fairly spread out.
Doha Airport is in the South of the city near Downtown Doha with the Souq, museums and Corniche close-by. The North of the city offers popular places like Lusail, Katara and the Pearl.
As with spending 1 day, or just a few hours, in any city, I recommend you don’t spread yourself too thin in Doha and get familiar with a map of Doha (here’s a great interactive tourist map of Doha) so you can plan in things to do in Doha in 1 day that are in similar parts of the city so you are not crossing back and forth across the city.
Be Aware of the Temperature of Doha
Doha is an extremely hot city in the summer months, it cools down in winter but it’s still pretty warm for those of us who are not used to the Middle Eastern Desert heat.
The best time to do a stopover in Doha along with the best time to visit Doha is during the winter months of November to February because of the cooler and more comfortable weather.
If you are visiting in late Spring, Summer or early Autumn, be sure to set realistic expectations of your things to do in Doha on a stopover based on the heat and how used to the heat you are.
If you are travelling from a hot Asian or African country, you will likely deal with the heat better than if you are travelling from Europe for example.
To help you dress modest which is suggested for a stopover in Qatar but still stay cool, read my post on what to wear in Qatar as a tourist!
Bank Card over Cash in Doha
I used my UK bank card to pay for almost everything in Doha. Only some of the shops in the Souq did not take card, so I just went to the ATM nearby and took out the right cash for how much the item was and went back to buy it. If you are getting taxi’s, before you jump in, just double check they will take card.
Getting cash out on a layover is annoying as you don’t know how much you’ll need and you don’t want to end up with spare cash.
So on your Doha stopover, make sure you have a bank card you can use internationally (ideally one that doesn’t charge for international transactions like Starling, Monzo or Revolut) and use that instead of getting cash out.
What to do in Doha for a Day
I recently spent 3 days in Doha visiting all of the top places to see as a tourist in Doha.
Based on my experience, here is how I suggest you spend just 1 day in Doha seeing a lot but not packing in too much! And what you add to your Doha layover things to do list.
Doha Layover Things To Do
To start your day, I recommend exploring the Southern parts of the city around Souq Waqif in the morning as I think this is the most impressive, historic and iconic part of the city to see and if you end up seeing just 1 part of Doha on your Doha stopover, it should be this part!
Later on, depending on how you feel from jet lag or tiredness you can go North in the city to either Lusail, Katara or West Bay in the afternoon or early evening and have dinner here.
National Museum of Qatar
Open from 9:00 – 19:00 (and from 13:30 on Fridays) the National Museum of Qatar is a great way to start your Doha layover if you are interested in the country of Qatar itself!
It has it’s own metro station so it’s really easy to get to and you will be impressed straight away by the architecture, the cleanliness and the amazing technology of this museum!
I spent 1.5 hours in here but I could have easily spent 2-3 hours in the museum. It is pretty big so keep an eye on the time if you are limited on time with just 1 day in Doha.
The heat in Doha is something to keep in mind, especially in the summer months. So being inside an air conditioned museum after a long flight is a good way to stretch your legs rather than in the Doha heat!
If you are on this Doha stopover with kids, they will LOVE this museum. There’s so many places to run about safely after a long flight, again in air con and there are so many interactive parts of the museum for children!
Souq Waqif has it’s own metro station too and it’s just one stop from the National Museum of Qatar so visiting these 2 places together is a great idea, or you can easily get a taxi between them.
Souk’s are one of the main reasons people love visiting Middle Eastern countries but these days I find, many Souks are too touristy, with sellers that are pressuring, or they are for locals and intimidating for tourists.
This is why Souq Waqif is so great! It’s a really good size, without being intimidating, locals go there but it’s very welcoming to tourists. The sellers are not pushy and do speak good English.
Take some time on day 1 of your Doha itinerary to wander the indoor and outdoor streets of the Souq.
To be honest, if you are on super limited time on your Doha stopover or are very tired and not interested in visiting too many places. Sitting down in one of the cafes or restaurants with outdoor seating in the Souq is a great way to soak up a buzzing Middle Eastern vibe eating and drinking great things without moving around too much.
You’ll really feel like you’ve been to Qatar after just a small amount of time in Souq Waqif.
The Corniche in Doha is pretty big but I loved the section which is just across the road from Souq Waqif where the Museum of Islamic Art is.
The city skyline looking over West Bay from here is so incredible, especially with the traditional Dhow boats in-front!
Head to ‘The Pearl Monument‘ on Google maps for some great photo opportunities.
If you want to see some of the post-world cup attractions on your Doha layover, search for ‘flag plaza’ on google maps and just up from the Museum of Islamic art you’ll see this!
Museum of Islamic Art
Across the road from Souq Waqif and along the Corniche nearby is the Museum of Islamic Art.
Unless you really like museums or you are trying to look for indoor activities in Doha to avoid the midday heat, I’d day with your things to do on a Doha layover you should only go to 1 museum, rather than 2 so you can pick between the Museum of Islamic Art and the National Museum of Qatar.
However, the Museum of Islamic Art is a very impressive building and it’s worth walking up to to see it properly even if you don’t enter.
Even though I found the National Museum of Qatar more interesting, the view of the city from the courtyard of the Museum of Islamic Art which you can only access by paying for museum entrance is so spectacular!
Traditional Dhow Boat Ride
The Dhow boats are the traditional sailing vessels in Qatar and as you walk along the Corniche you’ll see them all in the harbour.
A really great way to see the city of Doha on a long layover of Doha without using up too much energy is to jump on a boat and let the guide sail you around.
A boat trip will offer you spectacular view of the city skyline, especially at sunset.
I saw many guys offering Dhow Boat rides around the area of the Museum of Islamic Art so there’s no need to book one in advance, just go down here, negotiate a price and head out on one!
Note – I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure they will only accept cash.
Katara Cultural Village
Later on in the day, depending on how you feel, I’d suggest picking just 1 place from Katara, the Pearl or Lusail to visit and end your day in Doha.
If you’re looking for things to do in Doha that are more historic and you really enjoyed Souq Waqif, Katara Cultural Village is for you.
You can walk the streets here all day and there is a beach here too, it’s not a private beach for sunbathing but great for families to enjoy, especially as the daytime heat dies down.
If you want to see a fancy harbour and you’ve seen photos of colourful streets in Doha looking like Venice, be sure to head up to the Pearl.
The Pearl doesn’t have a metro stop so if you are getting around Doha using public transport you’ll need to go to metro station Legtaifiya and then get a bus or taxi 10 minutes from here onto the Pearl.
The Pearl Marina is cool to see, but Qanat Quartier Canals are so cool to see in Doha. This is where there are canals surrounded by colourful apartment blocks with lots of cafes and restaurants. It’s a really relaxing and ‘hip’ area of the city.
To end your day in Doha, I recommend heading up to Lusail if you want to see some cool architecture in the form of Lusail Katara Hotel, get food from street trucks at Lusail Night Market and have a walk around Lusail Marina.
Lusail is actually it’s own city rather than being part of Doha city, but it’s very close-by so it feels like it’s part of your Doha sightseeing. Lusail is a brand new city too so there’s a lot going on with a great vibe if you want to see this part of Doha!
For a great shopping mall, again, perfect for if you want to escape the heat to some air conditioning, head to Place Vendome Mall which is super fancy and has lots of hughstreet and designer shops!
I hope this has helped you plan your Qatar Stopover as well as help you with things to do on a stopover in Doha and how to spend 1 day in Doha!
- For more posts from Qatar and the region to help you plan your trip see:
- How to Get Around Doha as a Tourist Easily!
- Doha Itinerary & Guide | How To Spend 3 Days in Doha with TIPS!
- What To Wear in Qatar & Qatar Dress Code for Tourists!
- 40 AMAZING Things To Do in Abu Dhabi!
- 8 Things To Do In Al Ain | Day Trip From Abu Dhabi or Dubai!
- Guide To Al Balad Jeddah! Things To Do, How To Visit, Photo Locations!
- Riyadh Travel Guide For Tourists to Saudi Arabia!