Best things to do in Doha to Optimize a 1 Night Layover

On our recent trip from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Lahore, Pakistan, we had an option to extend our layover in Doha overnight, and we decided to optimize the opportunity! Although it was brief, we are glad we could catch a glimpse into the country.

Why is Doha a Common Layover?

Doha has become an increasingly common layover for several reasons:

Geographical Location: Doha is the capital of Qatar, located in the Middle East, making it an ideal stopover point for long-haul flights between Europe, Asia, and Australia. Many airlines have established Doha as a hub for their connecting flights, which helps passengers to travel to various destinations worldwide. Qatar Airways is one of the largest and most respected airlines in the world. As the national carrier of Qatar, Qatar Airways has made Doha a hub for its operations, offering passengers numerous connecting flights to destinations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

State-of-the-Art Airport: Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha is one of the most modern and well-equipped airports in the world, with state-of-the-art facilities and services. Passengers can enjoy a range of amenities, including shops, restaurants, lounges, and a transit hotel, making it a comfortable and convenient layover destination. We loved the airport play area for our kids! There are multiple throughout the airport, so visit this site to find the nearest to your gate.

Transit Visa: Qatar has a visa-free transit policy that allows travelers with layovers of up to 24 hours to leave the airport and explore the city. This policy has made Doha an attractive layover destination for many passengers who want to experience the city’s culture, cuisine, and attractions. However, you must purchase health insurance to exit the airport. For more information on obtaining mandatory health insurance to enter Doha, visit this site.  You can do this upon arrival.

Qatar’s Rapid Development: Qatar has rapidly developed into a vibrant and prosperous country, attracting tourists, business travelers, and expatriates from around the world. Doha has become a major business and cultural hub, with a thriving economy and a rich history and heritage, making it an exciting destination for layover passengers to explore.

Play area in the HIA

Where to stay in Doha:

Doha is a modern and bustling city that offers a range of accommodation options in different areas. The best area to stay in Doha depends on your preferences and what you want to experience during your trip. Here are some of the most popular areas to stay in Doha:

Area Vibe Who will like it?
West Bay Modern and upscale with towering skyscrapers and luxury hotels and shopping malls For people who want a luxurious experience and easy access to main attractions
The Corniche Beautiful waterfront promenade For people who want to enjoy beautiful views of the sea and take leisurely walks or bike rides along the promenade.
Souq Waqif Traditional market area that has been restored into a popular tourist destination For people who want to experience the city’s culture and enjoy the traditional Arabian market atmosphere.
Al Sadd Bustling residential and commercial area in the heart of Doha For people who want easy access to the city’s main attractions, including shopping centers, restaurants, and museums.
The Pearl-Qatar Luxurious man-made island located off the coast of Doha For people who want a luxurious experience, with several high-end hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers.

When making our hotel decision, we decided to opt for a Marriottt Bonvoy hotel partner, as we wanted to use points. We ended up at the Westin Doha Hotel & Spa, which was absolutely beautiful! It is in the heart of Doha, Qatar just 20 minutes from the airport and minutes from the Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha and the Corniche. We easily called Ubers from there to our destinations. The bedrooms and bathrooms were spacious and modern.

The entrance of the Westin Doha

What to do & Where to eat in Doha:

As I have written about previously in “Key Lessons Learned when Traveling with Toddlers“, we generally plan for one big activity a day, with the rest of the day as more leisurely exploring. During this layover, we had time for about two outings. On the first evening, we visited the Souq Waqif and the second morning we visited Pearl Island.

Souq Waqif: The Souq Waqif is a popular traditional market in Doha and a must-visit attraction for tourists to experience Qatari culture and traditional Arabian market life. Here are some of the main things to do and see there:

  1. Shopping: The Souq Waqif is an excellent place to shop for traditional souvenirs, including carpets, textiles, spices, perfumes, gold, and handicrafts, as well as explore art galleries.
  2. Dining: The Souq Waqif has many restaurants and cafes serving traditional Qatari and Middle Eastern cuisine, such as  shawarma, kebabs, falafel, and other local delicacies while sitting on the outdoor terraces and soaking in the atmosphere. We ate dessert at a restaurant called Al Aker Sweets, where our family thoroughly enjoyed the Chocolate Knafeh.
  3. Enjoying Kids Activities and Cultural Performances: Outside the market, there is a children’s area to ride a small train or take camel or horse rides. The kids absolutely loved it, and although the train ride is simple, it was fun to see how excited the kids became. Additionally, you can often catch traditional performances, including music, dance, and theater at the dedicated open-air amphitheater.

Pearl Island: Pearl Island is a luxurious man-made island located off the coast of Doha, Qatar. There are a range of activities, from shopping and dining to water sports and cultural experiences. Here are some of the main things to do on Pearl Island:

  1. Shopping: The island has several high-end shopping centers that offer a range of luxury brands, including fashion, jewelry, and watches. The island’s retail spaces have been designed to emulate the style of traditional European towns, making it a unique shopping experience.
  2. Dining: Pearl Island is known for its fine dining scene, with several world-class restaurants and cafes offering a range of international and local cuisine. Many of the island’s eateries offer stunning views of the Arabian Gulf, making it an excellent place to enjoy a meal or a coffee. We loved eating at Boho Social, where I throughly enjoyed the aesthetic, views, and iced pistachio latte.
  3. Outdoor Activities: The island offers a range of water sports activities, including jet skiing, kayaking, and parasailing. Visitors can rent equipment and book lessons to learn these activities. Pearl Island’s clear blue waters make it an ideal location for water sports enthusiasts. Additionally, the island has several pedestrian and cycling paths that offer stunning views of the island’s marina, beaches, and lush greenery. It’s an excellent place to go for a leisurely walk or bike ride while taking in the island’s beautiful scenery.
  4. Cultural Experience: Pearl Island is home to several museums and cultural institutions that showcase Qatar’s history and heritage. Visitors can explore the island’s museums and learn about the country’s art, culture, and traditions.

Next time, we would love to stay at a beach front resort and take a dessert safari!

Would you consider extending your next layover in Doha to explore the city?

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