Last night, Game of Thrones aired in over 170 countries, making it safe to say that HBO’s epic fantasy series is currently one of the most popular TV shows in the world. And while the storylines are intriguing, travel fanatics are also hooked by the incredibly eerie backdrops, courtesy of filming locations like Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Spain.
In season two, when the show’s production team first arrived in Croatia and saw Dubrovnik’s medieval fortifications and relationship to the sea, they were amazed by how similar it was to the description of King’s Landing in George R.R. Martin’s book. Because of this, not only is the historical maritime republic a UNESCO world heritage site, it is also the setting for much of seasons two through five of the popular series.
Enter into the Game of Thrones yourself with this guide to our six favorite GOT spots in Kings Landing … er … Dubrovnik. And when you are on the ground in the city known as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” book an informative tour with ToursbyLocals. Ask for their top guide, Tomislav Matana, who will share his behind-the-scenes knowledge about the show and its filming locations.
Dubrovnik’s Old Town, the set for King’s Landing, is contained within beautifully preserved medieval walls (pictured above) dating back to the 13th century. Over time, the walls were continually reinforced, with the addition of least a dozen forts, towers and bastions, plus some 120 canons. The walls reach 82 feet high and between 5 feet to 20 feet thick, creating an impenetrable defense system. Be sure to walk the full 1.4-mile circuit around the ramparts for amazing views over the terracotta rooftops and out across the deep blue Adriatic.
Walk along the walls on St. Dominika Street to follow in the footsteps of King Richard’s biological sons. Actually, don’t follow too closely in their footsteps, as they were murdered right here on this Old Town path. You may not recognize the somewhat vacant cobblestoned street because in the series it is packed with goats, peasants and fresh food for the market scenes.
In the series, parts of the walls are modified using computer-generated imagery so what you have here is a little different from what you see on screen. But as you explore, note the cylindrical Bokar Fort, where Joffrey prepared the seaward-facing canons ready for battle, and at the highest point of the walls, the 15th-century Min?eta Tower, where Daenerys entered the House of the Undying.
Immediately west and a five-minute walk out of the Town Walls, Pile Gate serves as the main entrance into Old Town. The area, which offers vast views of Lovrijenac and Bokar Forts, has been used in many episodes of Game of Thrones, the most entertaining of which may have been the peasants’ dung-flinging revolt against the evil king Joffrey.
Photo by Jane Foster
From Dubrovnik’s Old Harbour, regular taxi-boats run to the pine-scented island of Lokrum, the set of “the greatest city that ever was and ever will be,” Qarth. The ruins of the 11th-century Benedictine Monastery and the botanical gardens on this island were used on the show. This is where Daenerys Targaryen met the Spice King and asked for his assistance in taking the Iron Throne, and where Xaro Xhoan Daxos hosted a welcome party for Daenerys and her dragons at his lavish mansion.
4. Lovrijenac Fort
Towering above Pile is the 13th-century Lovrijenac Fort, which is the Red Keep in Game of Thrones. To reach it, climb up 175 stone steps to the top of a rocky mound 120 feet above the sea affording fine views over the water to the Old Town. The Red Keep is home to the Iron Throne, and also where Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) announced, “Knowledge is Power,” to which Cersei Lannister famously retorted, “Power is Power.”
5. Trsteno Arboretum
A 20-minute drive north along the coast brings you to Trsteno Arboretum. Home to an aristocratic 15th-century villa, Trsteno Arboretum is set in terraced grounds filled with lush exotic shrubs, marble statues, fountains, woodland and a belvedere pavilion overlooking the sea toward the Elaphiti Islands. This is where many of the King’s Landing garden scenes were shot, and where Tyrion and Varys can often be found conniving.
6. Rector’s Palace
The internal courtyard of Rector’s Palace housed the Spice King’s mansion in the city of Qarth. During the years when Dubrovnik was a wealthy independent republic, the Rector’s Palace was the seat of government, where the Rector was obliged to reside during his one-month term in office. A Gothic-Renaissance building with an elegant portico, it now houses the Cultural History Museum.
Jane Foster is a British freelance travel writer, with a background in architecture, specializing in Greece, Croatia and Montenegro.