“The World of Ice and Fire” George R. R. Martin called it, his most recent encyclopedia from 2014 serving to illustrate the extensive and amazing history behind this work of fiction – and what a world it is, with unique cities spread across several continents and regions, a vast extension of landmasses and islands so large that we won’t even get to see emblematic areas (such as Naath or Asshai, the Land of the Shadow) before the TV series and books are over.
However, what we have seen is fascinating. From the cold North to the sticky heat of Dorne; enigmatic and inhospitable Beyond the Wall to the hostile cities of Slaver’s Bay (now Bay of Dragons, thanks to Daenerys). The locations in Game of Thrones are beautiful and one-of-a-kind in terms of TV series, and the series will leave an immense mountain to climb to whoever wants to provide us with better scenery and architecture.
But where are all these Game of Thrones filming locations located in real life? How do you travel to these castles and walk the corridors, climb the ramparts and stroll through the forests? What can you find in Croatia, and why is Northern Ireland such a popular place for GoT enthusiasts?
It’s time to begin our Complete Guide to Game of Thrones Filming Locations!
Basically the place where most of the story happens for the first few seasons, King’s Landing is an imposing city crowned by the Red Keep, the tall fortification where the Lannisters, Baratheons and Targaryens before them have sat and ruled the Seven Kingdoms.
Funnily enough, there are several different filming locations for King’s Landing, so keep an eye out for all of them!
The Westerosi capital is based on the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, a stunning beachside city with a population of 42,615 that became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Dubrovnik has also been featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (the city of Canto Blight), but anybody who takes a single look at this place will recognize it as King’s Landing.
In this wonderful settlement, you will find the oldest arboretum in the world (Arboretum Trsteno), and Copacabana Beach, which is named thus after the Rio de Janeiro attraction of the same name.
Going to have to give this one its own section – the Red Keep itself, Fort Lovrijenac! From these walls, we watched the Hound send a man to his death, Tyrion and Varys watch Blackwater Bay and plan their defense against Stannis Baratheon (who us book readers will never forgive the series writers for – he was butchered in the show!), and where Cersei has made many gruesome plans for her enemies. Don’t leave Dubrovnik without walking along Fort Lovrijenac’s walls!
Second-largest city of Croatia (200,000 people call this place their home), Split was used to film certain exterior areas of King’s Landing. It is a popular Digital Nomad destination (woo, go DN’s!) and boasts a lovely warm temperature that will make any traveler, tourist or remote worker consider a visit during the summer.
Did it hit you hard when Ned Stark was beheaded? Most people remember that precise moment as the instant when they realized George R. R. Martin and the series writers, D. B. Weiss and David Benioff, were not playing around: they were actually going to kill any character they needed to.
Fort Manoel is the setting where Lord Stark met his untimely end at the hands of Ilyn Payne (screw you, Joffrey!), also known as Baelor’s Square. The real-life location is a fort which has been restored since it was almost destroyed in World War II.
Another interesting Malta location, this particular site was host to one small – but immensely instrumental – scene in which Ned Stark ordered Cersei to take her children and leave the city before he arrested and executed her. We all know how that ended, but the small garden in St. Dominic’s Convent is a curious place to visit if you like the more obscure travels.
Remember the place where Jaime and Ned fought in front of Littlefinger’s brothel? You can find this place in Malta, more specifically in Mdina, which is just a stone’s throw away from aforementioned Rabat. You will have to more to see than just the small square, however, as this small city is quite curious with its medieval structure and tall walls.
Malta was a popular place for Season 1 of the show, wasn’t it? Boasting an imposing structure and an impressive history, Fort Saint Angelo looks like it was built specifically for Game of Thrones.
You may remember this site as the Red Keep’s dungeons, and the underground chambers where the dragon skulls are kept hidden.
Famous for being the place where literally every single character traveled along at once time or another during their lives (whether before or during the main storyline we’ve come to know and love), the Kingsroad is famous for its canopy of trees hugging the eerie, narrow path that runs from North to South.
The name of this site? Kind of creepy, if you ask me… The Dark Hedges, it is called, an avenue found in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Transformers: The Last Knight also used this scenery in 2017, but I’m guessing it became more well-known thanks to GoT.
Oh, Winterfell. Where the story begins, and probably where the story ends. The home of House Stark, and a place we all know and love. Winterfell has been represented by two different sites in its GoT lifetime, both of them in Britain. Its crypts, meanwhile (*shudder*), were filmed at a third location.
This one has a sad story to it, considering that it is an imposing sight to behold – Doune Castle was used as a Game of Thrones filming location back when the pilot was being filmed and the final sites were being chosen… but it never made it to the finished series. Still, it does look like a castle right out of Westeros, doesn’t it?
An odd inclusion because, in spite of being one of the main Game of Thrones filming locations, many of the photos you’ll find online don’t look like Winterfell at all. Nevertheless, Castle Ward was certainly used as the site for Winterfell in Game of Thrones, and even most Westerosi army camp scenes used the surrounding areas as inspiration. You can find this place in County Down, where you will also encounter several other sites, such as the Godswood (Rowallane Garden).
Well, apparently, a previous owner named Shane MacBrien O’Neill didn’t like the original name (Eden-duff-carrick, which sounds fine to me!), and decided to change it to this particular title, deciding that its cellar was going to look so epic it’d be used for an award-winning series many centuries later. Nah, not really, but its builders certainly created an extensive, creepy-looking cellar that were chosen to represent Winterfell’s crypts. If you’re interested in looking at dead Starks in your next Game of Thrones tour, book a trip to Shane’s Castle.
The city built by the slaves of Valyria and now headquarters to both the Iron Bank and the House of Black and White, Braavos is a fascinating location in both the series and the books, and it is greatly influential to the events of Westeros in all seasons. Several filming locations are used for this Free City.
Used after Season 5 for all Braavosi locations, Girona, a Catalonian city of over 100,000 inhabitants, was selected to represent this fascinating city of temples. It was probably chosen by producers due to the rivers that traverse it, and the fact that its architecture is perfect for its role as a Game of Thrones filming location.
Among the places within Girona that featured in the series were its Sant Pere de Galligants, a church where – in the series - Arya was stabbed by The Waif and left for dead; the streets of Ferran el Catòlic, which served as the markets where merchants sold their wares, and the Plaça dels Jurats, which was turned into the theater where Lady Crane and her fellow actors reenacted the War of the Five Kings.
In season 5, when Arya was still selling "Oysters, clams and cockles!", Braavos hadn’t yet featured heavily, and the city of Šibenik was used instead. This city is regarded for its historic nature and has plenty of architecture to see if you’re going on a Croatia Game of Thrones tour.
Featuring again as a Game of Thrones filming location due to its beauty and mixed architecture, parts of Dubrovnik were used for the settings of Qarth, “The Greatest City that Ever Was or Will Be”, according to its inhabitants. Minceta Tower, for example, was used to represent the House of the Undying, where Daenerys almost lost her freedom for good. Lokrum Island, meanwhile, which is an island just fifteen minutes off the coast of Dubrovnik, became the location for the mansion of Xaro Xhaon Daxos, who is probably still rotting away inside his safe with Dany’s treacherous handmaiden.
A final location is set in the Dubac Quarry, just outside Dubrovnik itself. Here, the production team built the massive Gates of Qarth, which Daenerys furiously requested to be opened before she, her dragons and her people died of starvation. Thankfully it ended well for her!
This castle wasn’t very important until the 6th season of the show, when Edmure was forced to betray his name and family in exchange for his life and that of his newborn son… curse the Freys! Riverrun is the home of House Tully, where Catelyn and Lysa grew up and the biggest allies of Robb Stark when he is crowned King in the North.
The Riverrun filming locations are based in Northern Ireland, and are the following:
This picturesque river found in County Down was used for a single scene – the dock scene in which Edmure continually fails to shoot a burning arrow into his father’s funeral boat before the Blackfish does it in one try. River Quoile was probably chosen by the production team more for its location (proximity with other sites) than because of anything else. After all, it isn’t the most spectacular place.
A small village of less than 100 inhabitants, Corbet was chosen as a Game of Thrones filming location for Riverrun’s exterior riverside. Another not-so-spectacular site in the show.
Used for the exterior scenes at Riverrun. Gosford Castle was bought in a very desperate state of disrepair in 2006 for £1,000 and was partially restored by new developers.
An interesting site for the Game of Thrones series as a whole – Banbridge is home to Linen Mills Studio, a secondary filming location that has been used for many different scenes. Here, the Harrenhal exterior sets – those huge towers you see in Season 2, and where Jaqen H’ghar becomes the GoAT – were built.
A small village with less than 500 inhabitants, Strangford contains not only the Dreadfort’s filming location, Myra Castle, but also the aforementioned Castle Ward used for Winterfell. Strange coincidence when you think of the two settlements where the Boltons sat…
Three locations were used for Dragonstone, an instrumental island where both Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen sat before planning their attack on the Seven Kingdoms. Curiously, the first Aegon Targaryen himself once named Dragonstone his home and began a new era from its walls.
A small island on the coast of Bermeo, Basque Country in Spain, Gaztelugatxe is a perfect Dragonstone site due to its rocky, hostile nature, and the immense stairway that leads up to its top. The huge, dragon-decorated castle that is shown in the series was actually digitally-created, but everything else about this islet is real.
This rocky beach represents where Daenerys landed on Westeros, and was used briefly during Season 7. Here, the dragonglass was mined by Jon Snow and Daenerys' men to prepare for the mighty (one-episode) war against the Night King.
This extensive stretch of beach on the northern coast of Northern Ireland served to represent the filming location where Melisandre burned the statues of the Seven in Stannis Baratheon’s first scene. Downhill Strand was also the location where Davos helped Gendry escape the Red Witch, and where Theon Greyjoy fought with his own men after fleeing from his uncle Euron.
Meereen is an interesting city located in what was formerly known as Slaver’s Bay – the largest of the three cities in this area, Meereen is home to massive pyramids and a great fighting pit where the best fighters in the world get to demonstrate their abilities. Several filming locations were used to represent this city in the show.
Yet another Croatian Game of Thrones filming location, Klis Fortress is a medieval fortress just above the village of the same name, which was used to guard the frontier for over two thousand years until the present day; it has a very rich history and its imposing, mountainous appearance made it a perfect choice for Meereen’s exteriors.
A beautiful Roman palace built for Emperor Diocletian in the fourth century AD, this half-military, half-decorative structure was used in the fourth season of Game of Thrones to represent several places within Meereen. Diocletian’s Palace is a place worth taking a look at in real life.
Remember when Daenerys accepted to reopen the fighting pits and how that turned out? Yeah, well, that amazing scene was filmed in Sevilla, Spain, where there is a huge bull ring known as Plaza de Toros (bull ring) Osuna. A fascinating sight to behold, despite bullfighting being a cruel and often criticized sport.
Please don’t laugh at the name of this place, although it is slightly humorous. Peniscola is a popular tourist destination found in Valencia, where several scenes in Season 6 were filmed, most specifically the episodes in which Tyrion and Varys are left in charge of Meereen after Daenerys leaves on the back of Drogon.
I wasn’t thinking of adding this one due to it not being an actual real-life site, but you’re probably wondering where Daenerys’ throne room was located (if you weren’t, shame on you!). The famous steps leading to Daenerys and her advisors, the Unsullied soldiers posted on all corners… are located in Paint Hall, the studios in Northern Ireland that we probably won’t get to visit. Sad.
With a population of 981, Ballycarry probably never thought it would be world-famous…but here we are. Home to the most eventful inn within the world of Game of Thrones, this village in Northern Ireland served as a recurring Game of Thrones filming location.
The drab, plain islands of the Ironborn, the tiny village of Ballintoy was used as a Game of Thrones filming location. Great news for the 165 people (according to a 2001 census) who lived there – they were compensated by the production team for the bother of HBO using their land for filming.
This Game of Thrones filming location was focused more on a single bridge, which is the main attraction in the slaver city of Volantis. The Roman bridge of Cordoba was chosen for this particular role, and it fit perfectly in the architecture of this interesting Essosi city.
Two cities in one? It may seem odd that two cities were filmed in a single filming location, but it happened.
Imagine a place being so awe-inspiring to the production team that it was chosen to represent two different locations? Well, this is exactly what occurred when the Game of Thrones team set their eyes on Morocco’s Aït-Ben-Haddou. An UNESCO World Heritage Site and largely popular location for filming movies and series, this fortified village represented both Yunkai and Pentos in the series in the first few seasons.
An imposing city of almost 80,000 inhabitants, Essaouira was used to represent the cruelest of the cities on Slaver’s Bay, where the Unsullied were bred and trained to become the mindless slave soldiers that they were until Daenerys Targaryen came to liberate them through fire and blood. Heading to Morocco? Don’t miss out on Essaouira.
Warning – you may end up feeling really upset when you’re done reading this. Remember when Daenerys married Khal Drogo, in that elegant place near the sea where she was gifted her dragons by Illyrio Mopatis, and where men and women fought and f… well, other things in front of her? It was a truly nice filming location and was featured in other series and movies… but by now you’ll be wondering why I’m talking in a past tense.
The beautiful location, also used for Clash of the Titans, The Count of Monte Cristo and a Hugo Boss advertisement, collapsed in 2017 during a heavy storm that came to destroy what remained of the location after previous storms had weakened it in 2013. A sad end for a beautiful place.
In these pretty, mountainous and semi-desertic territories located in Navarra, Spain, you will find the location the capture of Daenerys Targaryen by a different khalasar took place right after she fled Meereen, which marked the start of her rule over the entire Dothraki nation.
I’m not being lazy here by saying that there were simply several locations in Northern Ireland used as the huge expanse of tall grass known as the Dothraki Sea – the exact places used as Game of Thrones filming locations are divided among Ballymoney, Glens of Antrim and Sandy Brae, with this latter location being home to the Mother of Mountains, which Khal Drogo swore upon when he promised to take Daenerys back to Westeros. That didn’t go well, did it?
The scenes filmed in this location were instrumental – here, Daenerys burned Khal Drogo’s body (along with a screaming Mirri Maz Duur, so much for not hearing you scream!) and walked into the pyre as the flames grew, emerging from it as the Mother of Dragons, with Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion climbing up her naked, unburned body. Incredible scene, and an incredible place as well. The Mtahleb Cliffs are where Daenerys’ story truly begins.
“And now it begins” – Ser Arthur Dayne
“No, now it ends.” – Lord Eddard Stark
The greatest revelation of our favorite series takes place here, which is when we learn the true identity of the boy known as ‘Jon Snow’, truly a Targaryen and heir to the Iron Throne. The Tower of Joy is a tall castle located in the Red Mountains of Dorne, but in real life is represented as Castillo de Zafra in Guadalajara, Spain. You can visit this place if you ask for permission from its owners first, so why waste the opportunity?
The city which is famous for housing the mighty Citadel, Oldtown is a place which was briefly touched upon in the series during Samwell Tarly’s mission to become a Maester of the Night’s Watch. Thankfully, this (somewhat boring) arc was soon cut short and we were able to continue seeing the important stuff, but hopefully we will learn more about this incredible populace in a later book or spinoff series, with a storyline that is a bit more engaging.
Also used as a Game of Thrones filming location for other cities, Girona helped represent Oldtown from Season 6 onwards.
A medieval city with a population of around 96,000; Caceres was considered as a perfect fit for Oldtown due to its beautiful tall buildings that date back to the ages before Christ (25 BC, to be exact). Although we didn’t get to see much of Oldtown (I personally thought we’d get an interesting twist here, considering that big things happen here in the books), it was a pretty sight to behold.
Just remembering what happened in that cave under Storm’s End makes the hair on the back of my neck prick up. This particular Game of Thrones filming location was represented by the caves outside the small coastal village of Cushendun, which has a tiny population of 138 people who were probably unlucky enough to watch the horrific birth of a shadow from Melisandre’s loins.
Oh, Highgarden and the Tyrells… They climbed too high for their own good, and the fire came for the petals and stems of their flowery house to consume them all. Nevertheless, they were an old, proud house and their home was no different. The town of Almodóvar del Río in Spain houses a wonderful castle that dates to 760, which served well to represent the main structure of the Tyrell home.
Funnily enough, parts of this castle were also used for Casterly Rock’s exteriors, which were finally shown in the first war between Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen in Season 7.
The Tarlys, another proud house that came to a sad end (this time thanks to Daenerys Targaryen), their home was a large, elegant castle which we saw in Season 6. Its heir is now a Fossoway, betrothed the only remaining Tarly, Talla (her older brother Samwell is a man of the Night’s Watch). The filming location used for this castle was the Castle of Santa Florentina, an 11th century structure found in Catalonia, Spain.
Inspired by medieval Spain, George R. R. Martin created Dorne to establish an exotic side to Westeros. Dornishmen are aggressive and dangerous, and Dornish women are brave and sensual. It really is an incredible place, though the series writers admittedly did very strange things with it.
Chosen as the perfect location to represent almost all the Dornish scenes, the Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace that is used by the Spanish royal family whenever they travel to this region of the country. The Water Gardens and Sunspear were both filmed here.
The final Game of Thrones filming locations in this article are the most impressive, the ones that blew us away from Season 2 onwards. Iceland’s glaciers brought something new not only to Game of Thrones, but to television in general – this type of thing had never been done before, and HBO really transformed the landscape of TV and movies by taking their team, their actors and us as viewers to this beautiful yet desolate land of pure snow, ice and rock.
A bit of a mouthful, as many other Nordic names are; this particular Game of Thrones filming location was used to represent the imposing Fist of the First Men, a hill used by the Night’s Watch as a defensive position against wildlings whenever they ranged north. Unfortunately, the height and width of the steep Höfðabrekkuheiði hills weren’t much help against the Army of the Dead when they decided to attack.
Time to blush – this scene was kind of sexy! The caves of Grjótagjá were used to film the scene where Jon and Ygritte walk away from their wildling friends and, well, teach each other a few things. It’s a cute scene, as well, because it marks the beginning of their relationship together.
An extremely wet area within Iceland, Mýrdalsjökull is a glacier in the south of Iceland that sits above an active volcano. This area was used to represent the lands beyond the wall, including Mance Rayder’s army and other scenes that put Jon to the test as a man of the Night’s Watch.
It is important to note that the volcano erupts every 40-80 years or so, and it has been just over 100 years since the last eruption… yikes!
Another filming location chosen to represent the north; Hverfjall Volcano also made its way into Game of Thrones during the scenes beyond the wall.
The final Game of Thrones filming location in this epic list, Kirkjufell was the site where an extremely instrumental event took place – the "Arrowhead Mountain" which The Hound saw in his vision, ending with the capture of a wight, the death of Viserion, and the most incredible medium-scale battle in the whole series (in my opinion). Kirkjufell Mountain is the most photographed mountain in the country, and you should look at it to see why.
Because I don’t want you to leave without one last addition to this list, we’ve got The Eyrie – filmed at Þingvellir, a national park that is immensely popular among tourists. Here, we can find the canyons and valleys which were used to represent the Eyrie, home to House Arryn, House Royce and other smaller families.
This article, as every great masterpiece, has reached its end, but I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Game of Thrones is a series like no other that has ever been created, and you may have realized with these filming locations that the ambition behind this work of art is something of epic dimensions.
Take a moment and consider what a journey it has been since Season 1, or before that, when HBO was still getting ready to pick these locations, the cast and the production team behind it all to provide us with the most incredible fantasy series the world has ever seen.
Anyway, take care, buy your tickets and get ready for the journey of a lifetime across all of these Game of Thrones Filming locations. Oh, and remember – Winter Has Come.
Along with hours of effort in writing this article and compiling the photos, I also made use of the following sources. Check them out when you can!
- Travel + Leisure’s "Ultimate Guide to Game of Thrones Filming Locations Around the World"
- BoredPanda’s Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Real Life
- Northbound.is and their Game of Thrones in Iceland article
- Finally, Wikimedia Commons for free images.
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