Bursting onto the small screen with critical acclaim in 2011, HBO’s Game of Thrones has quickly attracted an active fan base in all corners of the globe. Filmed in locations as diverse as Northern Ireland, Morocco and Iceland, the series is both intriguing and visually captivating. Enter the world of fire and ice envisioned by George R.R. Martin, and set out on your own quest for the Iron Throne with a visit to these breathtaking locations.
If you’re yet to get up to date with the latest events to take place in Westeros and Essos, be warned that spoilers may lay ahead!
Home to the coveted Iron Throne, King’s Landing can be found within the medieval 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 3 km of defensive limestone walls. The mediterranean country has been used as the ruling city of Westeros since the second season and is at the centre of 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. The limestone fortress is located just outside the western wall of the city 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 for Blackwater Bay. The inner streets of Old Town have also played a part in bringing some major scenes from the books to life, including the famous Jesuit Staircase – the backdrop for Cersei’s ‘walk of shame’ through the heart of King’s Landing along St. Dominic Street. The street is also used a lot for market scenes, and was the spot where the gold cloaks killed one of Robert Baratheon’s biological children.
Dubrovnik is also the location used for Qarth in season two. The Minceta Tower became the House of the Undying, where Daenerys had to rescue her dragons from the eerie Undying Ones. The lush greenery of Lokrum Island was also used as the setting for Qarth, while the Croatian city of Split has been home to Dany and her dragons in Meereen since she took over the city in season 4. The old stone buildings and fascinating architecture have played host to Daenerys’s throne room, the underground crypts where her three dragons were kept, and more.
The 15th century stone architecture of the Croatian city of Sibenik has also been used, from season 5 onwards, as the location for Braavos, with the St. James Cathedral becoming the House of Black and White. The winding streets and alleyways of Sibenik and the docks of Kastel Gomilica have been the backdrop to Arya’s storyline since she sailed across the Narrow Sea at the end of season four.
Iceland is the location behind many of Game of Thrones’ icier scenes, most notably as the backdrop of Jon Snow’s scenes beyond The Wall. Large glaciers in Snæfellsjökull, Svinafellsjökull and the hills of Höfðabrekkuheiði were used to depict the Fist of the First Men (an ancient ring fort beyond The Wall created by 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. You can also visit the caves that became Jon Snow and Ygritte’s love nest with a visit to the stunning Grjótagjá Thermal Spring in northern Iceland. 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.
From Oldtown to Vaes Dothrak, Spain has also acted as more than its fair share of Game of Thrones locations. The medieval city of Girona in Catalonia was transformed into Braavos and more recently, Oldtown. Situated around an hour from Barcelona, the city was the backdrop for Arya’s stand off with The Waif. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona has also represented the Sept of Baelor in previous seasons.
Most fans were pleased to see the eagerly awaited Tower of Joy flashback scenes last season, where the Castillo de Zafra in Guadalajara stood tall as the mysterious Dornish tower. Alcazaba in Almeria is used for most scenes in Dorne, while the Alcazar of Seville in Seville is the location of the Water Gardens and Sunspear, the seat of House Martell. Dorne is now in the control of the devious Sand Snakes, so we are sure to see more scenes from this Spanish site.
Heading across the Narrow Sea, we saw the Roman bridge of Córdoba in the Southern Spanish city of Andalusia play the role of the Long Bridge of Volantis as Tyrion and Varys headed towards Meereen. We also saw El Chorrillo Sierra Alhamilla in Almeria as Vaes Dothrak in season six, while the Tabernas Desert in Castellon and Bardenas Reales in Navarre make up parts of the Dothraki Sea.
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 when the Starks ride to King’s Landing to find out what exactly happened to Bran. Fort Ricasoli plays the part of the Red Keep Gate, while the 16th century San Anton Palace plays the part of The Red Keep. In the town of Birgu, the underground tunnels of the walled fortress of Fort St Angelo is used for scenes set within the Red Keep dungeons.
Malta was also home to the beautiful ocean rock formation, The Azure Window, where Daenerys was married to Khal Drogo. The formation was lost to the sea in early 2017, after heavy winds and tides eroded the formation.
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, as Daenerys fought to free the slaves of the ancient cities. 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 in 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 used as the Winterfell exterior, and occasionally as the Frey residence – The Twins. 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. Take a trip to Stanocum to wonder at The Dark Hedges, the haunting avenue of beech trees which 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 Corbet 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 from recent trailers for season seven, Daenerys has found her way home. Theon’s birthplace, The Iron Islands is also found here, on the remote shores of Murlough Bay.
The medieval stronghold of Doune Castle near Stirling was used as the location for Winterfell in the pilot episode of the show. However, the team did not return to this location for future seasons. The castle is most famous in the film world for appearing in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.
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