The most popular holiday season is right around the corner, the #vacaymodeon time of the year. As some of you must be planning to trade the cold winds for snow, many others are flying their families and friends over to Qatar instead. With the government announcing on-arrival visas for tourists from several countries, it’s only the most obvious choice to make.

While you can focus on getting an air ticket in this season (good luck), we decided to put together a list of places that is a must-visit for every “first-time in Qatar” person. Mind you, these places might not tweak the interest of a resident who has probably visited each one of these spots multiple times, but from a tourist point of you, a fresh perspective, it’s as good as the first time you ever visited these locations.

So here are our top picks (in no particular order):

  1. Villagio Mall:

Villagio is like a mini Venice in Qatar. The interiors which include the blue day-sky painted on the ceiling to the water canal flowing through the mall, your guests are sure to be awestruck. It’s a beautiful sight and quite honestly it’s hard to get over all of these overwhelming efforts put in the decorations even as someone who has been there several times. The food court area surrounds the ice-skating rink and faces the indoor amusement park called Gondolania Theme Park which will soon become the kids favourite space in the mall. Also don’t forget to take your guests on the boat ride. Who knew you could do window shopping while on a boat!

  1. Mall of Qatar

It has only been a year since the Mall of Qatar has opened and even the residents haven’t had enough of it yet. This place is unique for its large area and the interesting standing garden interior at the heart of the mall. It is also the first ever mall in the world to have an in-house theatre crew that performs 360 degree Live entertainment acts. The stage also hosts concerts and other live activities. If this isn’t impressive, then we don’t know what else is.

  1. City center mall

Ok we know this is the third mall to be in the list as if Qatar is only about shopping malls, but we promise a visit to City Center will be worth it especially for this reason – the Ice Rink. Again, as mentioned earlier, even Villagio mall has its own ice rink so what’s special about City Center mall you ask? It is the first ever mall in Qatar to have an ice skating rink indoors. Also the view is different because each floor is itself a gallery to watch the kids in the ice rink and enjoy them learning how to keep balance, slipping and somehow managing to stay upright on those skates. It is a simple pleasure but also totally worth the visit.

  1. Souq waqif

The Souq Waqif is everybody’s go-to spot when you need a good walk coupled with ambience and amazing food options. This place is straight out of ancient Qatar, the building structures are maintained as they used to be years ago and even the new ones were built to complement their ancestors. There is a spice market, flee market and even an entire street full of different types of animals for you to buy as pets. Plus there are plenty of restaurants that offer foods and sweets that suit a wide variety of people and wallets.

  1. MIA

The Museum of Islamic Art is special as it is surrounded by the Gulf sea. Apart from the interesting architecture, the interiors of the museum are also breath taking. It will interest your guests even if they are not into the diverse historical and antique items that this museum hosts.  And presently there is also a weekend bazaar happening at the adjoining park called the MIA Park Bazaar which will host local vendors of clothes, accessories, food and art collectables.

  1. Aspire Park

The park is located in the Aspire zone and is home to the only lake in Qatar. If you need more reasons to check this place out then do so for the koi fishes, ducks and the very exciting over the bridge fountain. Yes, you can walk through the bridge as the jets projects water right above you to the other side (you will get wet as you walk through and you will still do it all over again). There is also a community play gym located at the top of a hill in this park and also a couple of spots for you to grab a coffee or a snack.

  1. Katara

Qatar as a nation has made immense efforts to preserve its culture while accepting the modern world with extended arms. Katara is one such successful attempt. It is located at a prime spot in between the Pearl and the West bay and hosts a variety of restaurants, an amphitheatre, a private beach, art exhibitions and theatre acts, all of this while embodying the ancient Qatari Al Fereej ambience. There is just so much to see here that you might just have to go twice or more.

  1. Al Khor Family Park

If your guests include kids and or adults who love going to the zoo, then this park is for you. For a very small entry fee (QAR 5/-) you can enjoy an entire day of fun and amusement. There are animals like zebras, deers, ponies to tortoises, snakes and even hamsters. There is even a bird sanctuary and the peacocks are the highlight. If you get lucky you can see a full flare of its feathers and maybe get a picture as well. *fingers crossed*

  1. Sealine beach

Qatar is a peninsula and of course it has plenty of beaches.  However, Sealine beach is the most  popular as it is located near the luxurious Sealine Resort. The entry is free and visitors are allowed into the beach to swim and enjoy it to the fullest. Many also try their hands at kite flying and other fun activities. Hitting the beach during winter seems like a crazy idea, but some beaches in Qatar allow barbeques and buggy rides! Changed your mind yet?

  1. Desert Safari

Your guests must have already asked you several times “Isn’t Qatar a desert? Where is the desert?” The spectacularly built city side of this country can make you forget all about this fact but the sand dunes and the vast desert is still waiting for you at the end of all these lights and concrete roads. Sign up for a desert safari and pack up some courage along with other things because these professional drivers can really give you a run for your money. When you are done exploring every edge of the sand dunes, a beautiful barbeque awaits you on the lakeside.  Sounds fun?

  1. Pearl Qatar

The island city, The Pearl is a luxury residence area built over man-made islands. Plural, yes. The aesthetics and the simple yet sophisticated structures will make you reach for your phones the whole time. Empty your memory cards because this place is such a beauty that you will want to capture every corner. Also, lot of posh restaurants too.

  1. Banana Island

Banana Island has been on the bucket list for everyone ever since it first opened its gates. The ticket allows you an entire day at the island which begins with the ferry ride from the cornice to the island. A buffet on the sea and a beach waiting for you beside a luxurious resort. Luxury is always an offer to the people visiting Qatar, it is everywhere you go if that’s what you long for in a vacation.

We truly hope that you were able to gather few ideas and plan your trip better with these ideas.

Written by Adithya Nair