It would be no underestimation to say I’m something of a Game of Thrones nut. So after touching down in Dubrovnik, aka King’s Landing, earlier this year, the fangirl in me made a beeline for the locations used to film HBO’s bloodier, sexier and more Lannister-filled fictional counterpart.
Originally Malta was chosen to portray the Westerosi capital, but in series two, Dubrovnik, that glittering jewel of the Adriatic, was chosen to replace it. Thus becoming the stinking, hot mess depicted in George R R Martin’s wildly popular A Song of Fire and Ice novels. With its carpet of terracotta roofs, ancient walls and winding alleyways, it’s hard to imagine anywhere else being King’s Landing.
And trust me, reading the sweet, sweet chapter about that bastard Joffrey ‘Baratheon’ choking to death, while you’re sipping Croatia’s finest red wine in front of the Red Keep, (It’s Matusko Vina Dingac FYI – make Tyrion proud) or lazing on Lombok Island surrounded by strutting peacocks, is a pretty excellent way to spend an afternoon in the Balkans.
To save you the trouble of looking up every filming location on IMDB, I’ve rounded up the places that are really worth seeing in the heart of the Seven Kingdoms. So continue on if you want to find out where the show was filmed. Fortunately, while King’s Landing is known for its dangerous streets, bloody killings and political conspiracies, Dubrovnik is very safe – there aren’t so many public beheadings of Northerners in the main square for one. While the show obviously uses CGI to enhance the views, and to add in certain buildings, the city is remarkably similar to the end-product shown on the TV series.
First, grab a map of the city from the tourist office, which is next to the extravagant water fountain in front of Pile Gate, fill up your water bottle – Dubrovnik can get uncomfortably hot – the water pumping out is completely safe to drink. Then slaver on some suncream and head for the entrance to the city walls to get started. Admittance costs 100 HRK, and also includes entrance to the Fortress of St Lawrence, so don’t chuck away your ticket. I’d recommend starting the walk either very early in the morning, or late in the evening to avoid the crowds and heat.
1) The Old City of Dubrovnik
Home to the Red Keep, Flea Bottom and of course, the Iron Throne itself, is the old City of Dubrovnik. In my opinion there is nowhere better as a stand-in for the capital of Westeros; its drawbridges, fortresses, impenetrable walls and ancient gates make for an extremely believable replica of a medieval city. Dubrovnik was once one of the richest republics in medieval Europe, surrounded by miles of thick walls to protect it from invaders, The areas within the walls are entirely pedestrianised, adding to the feeling of going back in time, and to enter the city itself you must cross over a moat via a drawbridge – pretty authentic.
Pile Gate is where Ned Stark was set on by the then two-handed Jaime Lannister, and Shae once looked out over the red-tiled roofs, before declaring her love for the cesspit of a city and shagging Tyrion. Because Dubrovnik makes you horny for drunken dwarves I guess.
Filming locations you can find in the well-preserved UNESCO site include the Mud Gate (Pile Gate), The Red Keep (Fort Lovrijenac) and Blackwater Bay – where the epic battle of Blackwater took place (outside the city walls). The doors hewn into the rocks below are where the Gold Cloaks murdered King Robert’s (RIP) bastard children.
Sadly I visited when there was no filming going on, but maybe one day I’ll head back and fulfill my geeky dream of being an extra in the show. I’m pretty sure George would have a gruesome way of killing me. Still, walking around a fantasy series come to life was good enough for me.
2) Lombok Island
This little island was used to film the beautiful and extravagant city of Qarth. A fifteen-minute ferry ride from the Old City’s harbour will find you on this small, lush piece of land. Return tickets cost 70HRK. .
The uninhabited island is supposedly cursed – no one stays on it overnight, bar the colony of vividly-coloured peacocks. You can walk among the fragrant cypress and pine trees or in its botanical gardens, or if you’re feeling fit, tackle the climb up to to the abandoned fort on the island’s highest point. It’s a bloody tough walk, but has some seriously incredible views.
3) The House of the Undying
Walking the city walls of Dubrovnik is an absolute must. Not only are the views over the Adriatic and the city’s red rooftops breathtaking, but at the end of walk you’ll be rewarded with a view of Minčeta tower – or as Daenerys knows it, The House of the Undying. The Tower was used as the creepy, warlock-ridden building where Dany searches for her stolen dragons. It’s possible to circle around and climb up inside the tower – but pretending to be Jorah Mormont shouting ‘Khaleesi’ may get you some weird looks.
For those with money to burn there are organised Game of Thrones tours, but I thought they seemed a tad expensive when you can easily scout the locations out yourself with a bit of research (watching the show counts!). All of the destinations I’ve included are free, or relatively cheap to visit, and you can easily view them all in a day.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Have you been to any of its filming locations in Croatia or anywhere else?