Ever wish you could live like the characters in Game of Thrones? I don’t know why you’d want to – given that there is death behind every door – but I do know the Seven Kingdoms are incredibly beautiful. Turns out, with a bit of money and a passport, you can tour all of the fabulous film locations without the risk of running into White Walkers!
Let’s start at King’s Landing…
Dubrovnik is the place the Baratheons call home. King’s Landing was seen in Malta in the pilot episode, but it was soon moved to Croatia. Starting in Malta, hit up Fort Manoel, which serves at the Sept of Baelor. The most famous, and desperately heart-wrenching, scene you may remember from this location is the beheading of Eddard Stark. That was Season 1, and I’m still not over it.
The city of Dubrovnik, which is used for many of the castle’s exterior shots, features a famed fortress that is also used for scenes involving the Red Keep.
The Croatian city is situated on the Adriatic Sea and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. A lot of the sneaky scenes in King’s Landing happen in the garden outside the castle, scenes that are filmed in Trsteno, Croatia at the Trsteno Arboretum.
This beautiful garden is the oldest arboretum in this area of the world. It was originally erected by the noble family Gozze, but is now the property of the Croatian Academy of Science and Arts. Oh, the gossip those statues must know.
Time to head north. Next stop: Winterfell.
The only way in and out of King’s Landing is through King’s Road, but to get where we’re going, it’s time to jump on a plane and head to Ireland.
Up in Northern Ireland, you’ll find King’s Road, AKA the Dark Hedges of Armoy. These famous beech trees line a path planted by the Stuart Family in the 18th Century. It is the only entrance to the family’s Georgian Mansion, known as the Gracehill House. I think I’d rather be headed to a beautiful home than beheaded up in King’s Landing. While we are still moving through Ireland, let’s hit Winterfell. To get there, we obviously have to brace the Winterfell Godswood. The real-life version is a small village and civil parish in County Down, Northern Ireland. It’s obviously famous for its Rowallane Garden, which is situated just outside of town.
The exotic garden was started over 100 years ago and is in the care of the Natural Trust. Keep a look out for Direwolves, maybe you’ll find your own set of puppies!
While we’re still in Ireland, let’s check out the Iron Islands:
Ruled by House Greyjoy of Pyke, the group of seven islands in Ironman’s Bay are filmed in a much calmer fishing town, known as Billintoy Harbour.
Ballintoy Harbour is situated in small village and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Instead of ships and relatively angry kings, you’ll find a small fishing harbor at the end of a very small, narrow, steep road.
Time to head to Castle Black. (You’d think Winterfell would be next, but since we’re already in Ireland, it just makes sense to go there first. We’re already way over budget on this trip.)
Magheramorne Quarry is up in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It’s not at all what it seems – this rundown limestone quarry is currently owned by LaFarge and looks just about as bleak as Castle Black. A regeneration plan is going to transfer the area into a nature conservation, leisure, and housing area. I guess it’s good that at the end of the fourth season the place was starting to fall apart because I don’t think a mall is the best fit for housing the Night’s Watch.
Journey onward to Winterfell (a skip to Scotland) to hit the Castle Ward. Even though Theon Greyjoy kind of killed the castle, the real Doune Castle is still standing strong.
The Doune Castle is a medieval stronghold that was built in the 13th century and was damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence. It was passed down between Dukes and Earls, but is currently maintained by Historic Scotland.
Time to go north to The Wall:
Grab your winter coat, it’s time to hit Svínafellsjökull in Iceland, which serves as the film sets for most of the icy tundra north of The Wall. This 700,000-year-old stratovolcano glacier is one of Iceland’s most famous sites.
If you happen to recognize this rando glacier, it’s probably because you’ve seen Batman Begins or read the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, because the passage starts here.
Time to get warmer!
Now that we’ve braved the cold up north, time to hit paradise again. The Khaleesi has it all right. Travel through paradise with dragons, kicking ass and taking names? Yes, please!
Let’s start where it all started, where Khaleesi married Khal Drogo: Vaes Dothrak.
Their wedding scene was filmed on the Island of Gozo in a beautiful natural arch known as the Azure Window.
The window is situated near Dwejra Bay on the Inland Sea. It was formed after two limestone sea caves collapsed, but I’d rather see it as a window to the Khaleesi’s undying love.
As Khaleesi storms her way through villages, setting slaves free, she gets to experience beautiful locations that Jon Snow can only dream about. She makes her way through Slaver’s Bay, in Astapor.
Its real setting is the City of Essaouira in the western region of Moroccan known as Marrakech-Tensift-Al Haouz on the Atlantic coast. We’ll end our tour in Aït Benhaddou a.k.a. Yunkai. Just southwest of Meereen and north of Astapor, The Yellow City also sits on Slaver’s Bay, and is where the Khaleesi has taken over and freed the slaves.
The real location is a fortified city along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in Morocco. The beautiful city is situated along the Ounila River, but, nowadays, most inhabitants live in a much more modern village across the river. Aside from in Game of Thrones, you may recognize this city from other movies like The Mummy, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, or Prince of Persia. While you’re there, make sure to check for dragons!
Last Stop: Dorne!
Seville and Osuna, Spain were the newest film locations added during season 5. If you recall, we were taken across the sea to Dorne with Jaime Lannister in an effort to find his niece – ahem, daughter – and save her from the Martells. I suggest going by plane instead of by boat.
The Gardens of Alcázar in Seville were used for the beautiful Castle of Sunspear of House Martell. It makes for a breathtaking scene as Prince Doran walks through the gardens with his soon-to-be wife, Myrcella Lannister. You, too, can take a romantic stroll through these gardens, just keep an eye out for scorpions and Tyrell’s daughters!