After almost a decade of captivating audiences, Game of Thrones has finally come to an end for TV viewers. But if you still want your GoT fix, visiting one of the show’s filming locations may be the next best thing.
Bursting onto the small screen in 2011, Game of Thrones was quick to garner critical acclaim and be catapulted into cult-like TV status. As well as launching its actors into the public eye, Game of Thrones also helped propel its filming locations into the travel hotspot stratosphere. With shot locations as diverse as Croatia, Iceland, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Northern Ireland and Scotland, travellers have the opportunity to enter the world of fire and ice as envisioned by George R.R. Martin. With the show’s final season now ended, you can begin your own pilgrimage to one (or all) of these majestic destinations and set out on your own quest for the Iron Throne.
King’s Landing’s real-world location can be found within the mediaeval walls of Dubrovnik, a coastal city in the south of Croatia. The city’s 16th-century Old Town is used for all King’s Landing exterior shots, and is encircled by a three-kilometre ring of defensive limestone walls. Croatia has been used as the King’s Landing filming location since the second season and provides the setting for some of the show’s biggest plot points.
Lovrijenac Fortress is the backdrop for The Red Keep, the palace of King’s Landing occupied by the Lannisters. This limestone fortress is located just outside the western wall of Dubrovnik and stands 37 metres above sea level. The fort overshadows the two entrances to the city, by sea and by land, and sets the scene for the spectacular Battle of Blackwater Bay. The inner streets of Old Town have also played a part in bringing some major scenes from the books to life.
Head to the famous Jesuit Staircase to see where Cersei took her ‘walk of shame’ along St Dominic Street. This same street is also used in many of the series’ market scenes, and was the spot where the gold cloaks killed one of Robert Baratheon’s biological children.
Be sure to visit Pile Bay on your trip to Dubrovnik. Pile Bay most notably hosts the disturbing scene of the slaying of Robert Baratheon’s bastards from season two. Moving outwards from Pile sits the Bokar Fortress. The Bokar Fortress is one of the most recognisable structures in both Dubrovnik and Game of Thrones, in which this beautiful mediaeval construction features heavily in seasons two and three. The fortress hosts the scene where Varys discusses Tyrion’s work as the Hand of the King, as well as the deliberation of key battle strategies in the defeat of Stanis Baratheon’s army.
Moving out of the city of Dubrovnik, be sure to visit Trsteno Arboretum. This luscious garden which is positioned only 20 minutes’ drive outside of the city was built in the late 15th century, offering visitors panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea. The majority of the palace garden scenes that take place in the show are filmed in Trsteno Arboretum.
Another filming location worth noting is Diocletian’s Palace in the Croatian seaside city of Split. The palace was constructed in the 4th century by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. This UNESCO World Heritage Site received modern fame for being the setting for where Daenerys trained her dragons and where the ‘kill the masters’ scene in season four took place. While in the region be sure to visit the grand mediaeval Fortress of Klis which is only a 30-minute drive north of Split. This dominant structure features heavily in season four and is the location in which Daenerys overthrows the Meereen, the greatest of the three great city-states of Slaver’s Bay. The Fortress of Klis was built in the 3rd century into and on top of an isolated body of rock. The fortress is completely inaccessible from three sides and offers visitors panoramic views of Split and the Adriatic Sea.
A trip to Iceland on a Game of Thrones filming expedition wouldn’t be complete without visiting Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Skogafoss. This breathtaking cascade of water is a national icon, a representation of just how picturesque and powerful the Icelandic landscape can be. As dramatic as the series, Skogafoss spews an enormous amount of water into the depths below. The waterfall features in the first episode of season eight where Daenerys and Jon Snow ride the dragons and perch next to a series of ice-covered waterfalls.
What other location in the world could play the part of The Wall as perfectly as Iceland? Large glaciers in Snæfellsjökull, Svinafellsjökull and the hills of Höfðabrekkuheiði have been used to depict the Fist of the First Men and the Frostfang Mountains. Visit Dimmuborgir, a lava field with interestingly shaped rocks and great significance in Icelandic folklore, and find yourself in the spot where Jon Snow and the Wildlings set up camp. Thingvellir National Park was also used for many of the exterior scenes beyond The Wall, and, during the warmer months, for Arya and The Hound’s travels in season four.
On your trip north of The Wall be sure to visit Hengilssvæðið to truly experience the rugged and confronting terrain that Iceland provided in the making of the series. Located a 30-minute drive from the capital (Reykjavik), the Hengill area was the filming location for the face-off between Brienne of Tarr and the Hound in season four, episode 10.
Moving further east of Reykjavik, the Þjórsárdalur Valley is a must see on every Game of Thrones diehard wishlist. It is here where the ransacking and destruction of Olly’s village in season four episode three takes place. Olly is left as the lone survivor, leaving everyone and everything in his village dead and destroyed behind.
From Oldtown to Vaes Dothrak, Spain has hosted more than its fair share of Game of Thrones filming locations. The mediaeval city of Girona in Catalonia was transformed into Braavos and more recently, Oldtown. Situated around an hour’s drive from Barcelona, Girona acted as the backdrop for Arya’s stand-off with The Waif. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona was transformed into the Sept of Baelor for earlier seasons of the show.
Many fans were pleased to see the eagerly awaited Tower of Joy flashback scenes in season six, where the Castillo de Zafra in Guadalajara stood tall as the mysterious Dornish tower.
A visit to what many Game of Thrones fans consider the most dramatic of settings, Gaztelugatxe Islet, is a must when visiting Spain. Located in the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s Basque Country, the island is connected to the mainland by a seriously impressive winding footbridge. In the series, Gaztelugatxe is recognised as the Dragonstone Island, and is the location in which Daenerys Targaryen plots her war. The islet is heavily featured in the first episode of season seven.
Moving south on your Game of Thrones expedition, the Spanish city of Seville was chosen as a host for multiple filming locations. Most notably was Seville’s Royal Alcazar, a highly ornate and stunning palace which was utilised in the series as the location of the Water Gardens, Sunspear and doubled for Dorne Palace from season five onwards. Alcazaba de Almeria is the main location used to portray Dorne.
The coastal city of Almeria and the barren area which surrounds the city were heavily used as filming locations for Game of Thrones. Almeria hosts parts of the Dothraki Sea, filmed during the making of season six. Moving just outside of Almeria, the municipality of Pechina is depicted as the Dothraki capita, Vaes Dothrak.
Not too far outside of Seville sits the sleepy country town of Osuna. The Game of Thrones crew took advantage of the Osuna’s Plaza de Toros. It was in this arena that the great pit fight of Daznak took place in season five. This was one of the largest and most intense moments in the entire season, which ended in Daenerys flying away on her dragon, leaving a scene of chaos and destruction behind.
From Osuna, take an hour’s drive north to Córdoba and marvel at the beauty of the 1st century Roman bridge of Córdoba. In the series, the bridge was recognised as the Long Bridge of Volantis. Be mindful when visiting the Roman bridge of Córdoba as the Game of Thrones graphics team made the bridge significantly larger in the show compared to reality.
The 4,000-year-old capital of Malta, Mdina, is sometimes known as the Silent City and is responsible for bringing The Red Keep to life, starting with the towering Mdina Gate. The gate is seen in season one as the Starks first ride into King’s Landing. Fort Ricasoli plays the part of the Red Keep Gate, and the 16th-century San Anton Palace plays the part of The Red Keep. The San Anton Palace is actually located in the Maltese town of Balzan and was a major filming location for the Red Keep.
In the town of Birgu, the underground tunnels of the walled fortress of Fort St Angelo are used for scenes set within the Red Keep dungeons. Birgu is only a small distance from Fort Ricasoli, and is widely celebrated for its colonial architecture. The fort is home to where Ned Stark spent his last days alive before his beheading in the Sept of Baelor.
Malta was also home to the beautiful ocean rock formation, The Azure Window, where Daenerys was married to Khal Drogo. An iconic setting and landmark, this natural arch sat along the sea cliffs on the western coast of Gozo. The Azure Window was one of the main tourist attractions in Malta. Unfortunately, the formation was lost to the sea in early 2017, after heavy winds and tides eroded the formation. The Azure Window can no longer be seen, yet the location remains an idyllic and fascinating place to visit.
Morocco has been a popular filming location for Game of Thrones, ideal for depicting the eastern cities of Slaver’s Bay. Ait-Ben-Haddou, situated between Marrakesh and the Sahara, was the location of Yunkai and Pentos during season three. Recognised as the ‘yellow-city’ due to its amber complexion, Ait-Ben-Haddou provides the perfect city backdrop needed to realistically recreate George R.R. Martin’s idea of Yunkai.
The village of Ait-Ben-Haddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a place of raw beauty with its desert-like image. For those eager to visit this isolated Moroccan village, a day trip from Marrakesh is recommended as it does take a few hours to drive there.
The town of Ouarzazate should be considered mandatory for both Game of Thrones fans and movie buffs alike on any visit to Morocco. Ouarzazate is home to the largest film studio in the world, Atlas Studios. The studio hosts a range of sets from the series, including main shots of Pentos. Ouarzazate is located only a short distance from Ait-Ben-Haddou making the pilgrimage to these Game of Thrones destinations a little easier.
The city of Essaouira, located around 100 kilometres west of Marrakesh, was also chosen to represent the slave city of Astapor. Astapor was a significant win for the Queen of Dragons as an army of Unsullied warriors joined her in her fight for the Iron Throne.
Northern Ireland is the main base for the production of Game of Thrones. A lot of the CGI scenes and larger interior sets are filmed in studios around Belfast. Although these live sets are closed to the public, there are still many filming locations across the country. Northern Ireland is used as a location for most countryside scenes in the Seven Kingdoms, including Winterfell and the Eyrie.
Many of the show’s most recognisable filming locations can be found in the north-east of Northern Ireland, in County Antrim. Visit the ancient Castle Ward to experience the Stark home of Winterfell. The 1,000-acre castle grounds are a part of a National Trust property and used as the Winterfell exterior and occasionally as the Frey residence – The Twins.
The Castle Ward farmyard is the primary location for Winterfell, heavily featured throughout season one of the show. Other key scenes that took place at Castle Ward include the Baelor battle, Robb Stark’s Camp and the confrontation between Brienne and the Stark men. The National Trust runs an interactive Game of Thrones tour of the site, where visitors can try their luck at archery in the same location where Jon Snow taught Bran to shoot in season one.
Head to Tollymore Forest Park to wander through the Haunted Forest where the first White Walker was found by the men of the Night’s Watch, and the home of the Stark’s direwolf pups. Tollymore forest is just over an hour’s drive from the capital, Belfast. Tollymore forest features heavily in the first season of the show, recognised as the forest that surrounds Winterfell. From here you can then take a trip to Stanocum to wonder at The Dark Hedges, the haunting avenue of beech trees that are used as the ominous road that heads out of King’s Landing.
Northern Ireland is also home to a number of other Game of Thrones locations. The countryside town of Corbett was the backdrop for the battle for Riverrun in season six, while the Mussenden Temple and Downhill Beach, near Castlerock, is instantly identifiable as the original seat of the Targaryen house, Dragonstone. Here, the Red Woman and Stannis plotted to win the throne, Gendry was left to row into the night by Davos, and Daenerys has found her way home. Theon’s birthplace, The Iron Islands, is also found here, on the remote shores of Murlough Bay.
The Glens of Antrim (The Glens) is home to a large portion of scenes throughout the series. Be sure to visit Sallagh Brae, located in The Glens. Sallagh Brae is a heavenly eden packed full of picturesque landscapes, natural formations and rolling valleys. Take the Ulster Way footpath to access Sallagh Brae. It is here where the Hound lives in harmony in the Riverlands after being left for dead by Arya Stark. All of this takes place in season six, episode seven.
Other Northern Ireland Game of Thrones filming locations include Ballintoy, a small town utilised as the village in which Varys was born, and Downhill Strand beach where Melisandre burned the old gods on Dragonstone.
Scotland plays only a small role in the filming of Game of Thrones. The mediaeval stronghold of Doune Castle near Stirling in central Scotland was used as the location for Winterfell in the first few episodes of the show. Most notably, the scene in which Jaime Lannister famously pushes Bran Stark out of a tower window takes place at Doune Castle. The castle was built in the 13th century and is home to a plethora of history and beauty. Doune Castle is also famous for appearing in Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
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