'Game of Thrones' Filming Sites
Dubrovnik is the crown jewel of Croatia, a stunning and mystical peninsula with a medieval Old Town that is entirely walled. The city once rivaled Venice as an advanced republic of the Adriatic Sea, is largely responsible for the birth of the Croatian language, and serves as the home of King’s Landing.
That last bit might stand out the most, if only because it’s entirely fictional. King’s Landing is, of course, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books. And those novels, of course, were made into HBO’s wildly popular series, “Game of Thrones.”
To create the vast world of Westeros, the show’s producers have relied on a dizzying array of extraordinary locales. Many of these filming sites, like Dubrovnik, look more like something born in one’s creative imagination than a real destination shaped by the hands of time, human or natural. But while the interior world of “Game of Thrones” is largely set pieces housed in a Northern Ireland studio, most exterior shots come from cities and regions throughout Europe and Africa (with a little CGI magic thrown in). And a few spectacular historic attractions have been used for interior shots, too.
As the show wraps up its eight-year run in 2019, we’re taking a look at some of the places where the show has filmed, all of which you can visit yourself. Because of “Game of Thrones,” none of these destinations are the same — for better or worse.
Rest assured, this story will have no spoilers.
Filming site for: King's Landing
King's Landing is the most iconic city in Westeros, serving as the home base for the ruling family of House Lannister. So it makes sense that Durbovnik, the real city that stands in for the fantastical one, possesses an otherworldly beauty.
The metropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has long lured travelers to step back in time while taking in breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea. Add in the allure of visiting the most prominent "Game of Thrones" filming site, and you have a recipe for a tourism boom — and dysfunction.
“Game of Thrones” alone is estimated to be responsible for half of Dubrovnik’s 10 percent tourism growth in recent years, according to Quartz. So when Mato Frankovic became mayor in 2017, he immediately set out to stagger the schedules of cruise ships entering the city’s port.
The Telegraph reported that the mayor’s office also reduced souvenir stands inside the walled Old Town by 80 percent and restaurant seating by 30 percent to ease crowding. Despite revenue losses, locals are happy with the changes.
As for tourists? They may want to wait on visiting Dubrovnik until GoT fever dies down.
Dubrovnik in 'Game of Thrones'
Diocletian's Palace, Croatia
Filming site for: King’s Landing, Meereen
Like Dubrovnik, its neighbor to the south, the city of Split has stood in for parts of King’s Landing, as well as Meereen, the largest of the Slaver Cities.
Split’s impeccably kept 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage site, has been featured in some of the show’s most iconic scenes — like the season 4 episode when the slaves debate an uprising against their masters, and the season 5 episode when dragons make their first appearance.
Tourism impacts are less dramatic here than in Dubrovnik, but the show’s influence can certainly be felt. Sightings of actors regularly make gossip headlines whenever filming takes place in Split, and many different GoT-themed tours are offered, with Diocletian’s Palace as the crown jewel.
Just north of Split, the city of Sibenik has stood in for the “Game of Thrones” city of Braavos. And Krka National Park, also north of Split, has been used in background and landscape shots of Westeros. TripAdvisor reported a staggering 46 percent increase in searches for Krka National Park due to the show’s popularity.
Diocletian's Palace in 'Game of Thrones'
Klis Fortress, Crotia
Filming site for: Meereen
Also in Croatia, the town of Klis boasts ancient beauty and a lovely collection of vineyards and olive trees. But its standout feature is the medieval Kliss Fortress that it’s built around, which has also been featured in shots of Meereen.
The fortress is so fantastical in its beauty that — apart from the addition of the Grand Pyramid — it required hardly any CGI doctoring to make it TV-ready.
No surprise here: You can book a GoT-themed tour to visit the fortress. Even if you're not a diehard fan of the show, there's much to recommend this ancient attraction, which has housed many Croatian kings and was once used in defense against invading Ottomans.
According to TripAdvisor, online searches for Klis spiked 579 percent (yes, you read that right) in the wake of the show.
Klis Fortress in 'Game of Thrones'
Doune Castle, Scotland
Filming site for: Winterfell
This 14th century castle about 40 miles north of both Edinburgh and Glasgow made a brief appearance in “Game of Thrones” when, in the pilot episode only, it served as the exterior for Winterfell.
Nevertheless, it’s part of the UK travel tour of the show and its appearance in GoT — as well as the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and TV drama “Outlander” — have helped to make it one of the most visited sites in Scotland.
There are plans to add food vendors to the site in response to the crowds, an idea locals are reportedly none too happy about.
Doune Castle in 'Game of Thrones'
Filming site for: Pentos and Yunkai
A four-hour drive southeast from Marrakesh, Ouarzazate serves as the gateway to the Saharan Desert and is filled with extraordinary ancient sites. It’s also home to Atlas Studios, which Hollywood directors have partnered with to film the area’s desert landscapes in movies including “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Cleopatra.”
But it’s “Game of Thrones” that in recent years has really driven interest in the area.
In Ouarzazate, the Fint Oasis, a lush palm grove in the heart of the desert, stood in for Pentos, one of Westeros’ free cities and the place where Daenerys and Khal Drogo get married.
Just outside Ouarzazate, the ancient village of Ait Benhaddou looks as if it rose out of the sandstone upon which it lies. It’s been used as a shooting site for the GoT city of Yunkai, and is the show’s second-most Instagrammed site.
Ouarzazate's prominence in filmmaking is poised to continue well into the future. Local film producer Khadija Alami is planning to build what she’s calling the Skywalker Ranch of Morocco after the famous George Lucas production facility near San Francisco.
Ouarzazate in 'Game of Thrones'
Filming site for: King’s Landing
Malta was only used by “Game of Thrones” producers in Season 1, so it holds a special place in the hearts of hardcore fans. During that season, the show featured eight different locations around the Mediterranean nation, with Mdina in the middle of the main island serving as the original King’s Landing.
Mdina is another fortified city with a long history; it goes back 4,000 years and served as Malta’s capital from the classical era to the Middle Ages. It’s also on the shortlist for UNESCO World Heritage status and is one of the nation’s top tourist destinations.
The city often tops the list of best trips for fans since it’s so beautiful, historical and remote. It’s also become less swarmed with tourists than Dubrovnik.
Mdina in 'Game of Thrones'
Azure Window, Malta
Filming site for: Wedding of Daenerys and Drogo
Azure Window, a limestone arch on the island of Gozo in Malta, was a relatively unknown destination before serving as the location of a famous wedding in “Game of Thrones.” Sadly, it is no longer around to explore, having fallen into the sea a few years ago after a particularly rough storm.
The loss was profound, but the Gozo island still has much more to offer visitors, including other natural coastal arches. There’s even an effort to install a monument of sorts where Azure Window once stood.
Despite the arch itself being lost to the sea, lucky “Game of Thrones” fans find this destination mesmerizing.
Azure Window in 'Game of Thrones'
Filming site for: Wildling camp, Jon and Ygritte’s love nest, North of the Wall
There may be no “Game of Thrones” filming site as exotic and breathtaking as Iceland.
When part of your show takes place in a frozen tundra, you need the most remote and frigid place you can find. The show’s actors have spoken often of the grueling shoots in Iceland, but that has only made it more special for super-fans. And because of the country’s isolation, visitors can be sure they won’t see huge crowds like in Croatia.
Three locations in the northern part of Iceland make for a stunning trip with plenty of “Game of Thrones” lore. Dimmuborgir is the camp where the wildlings live, Grjótagjá is the cave with a hot pool where main heartthrob Jon Snow and his early series girlfriend Ygritte consummate their relationship, and Lake Mývatn was used for North of the Wall locations.
One tour guide for these parts says he’s only had a single disappointed customer — a man who thought wildlings were actual people and was distraught to discover he was mistaken.
Iceland in 'Game of Thrones'
Real Alcazar, Spain
Filming site for: Royal Palace of Dorne
Southern Spain is already high on most adventurers’ list, but “Game of Thrones” makes it even more enticing. Despite using only a handful of locations in the picturesque country, the producers chose quite well.
The most romantic filming site is Real Alcazar, a royal palace in Seville that stands in for the lavish palace of Dorne — home to the finest wine and weather, and the site where the First Men entered Westeros.
Real Alcazar, or Royal Alcazar, is a stunning feat of Christian and Moorish architecture that’s existed since the early 900s. It’s also still royal, having hosted the reception dinner of King Juan Carlos I’s daughter Infanta Elena after her marriage in 1995. “Game of Thrones” filmed in the gardens, Ambassadors’ Hall, Mercury’s Pool and Baths of Maria de Padilla.
Real Alcazar in 'Game of Thrones'
Plaza de Toros, Spain
Filming location for: Daznak’s Pit
One of the greatest fight scenes in “Game of Thrones” history — complete with a dragon and lots of bloodshed — was shot inside the Plaza de Toros bullring in Osuna just outside Seville. The show known for its amazing special effects used some serious CGI to make this ancient stadium look much larger than it is to stand in for the storied Daznak’s Pit.
The actual site is mobbed by fans of the show nowadays. But the town of Osuna has embraced its connection to the show, dedicating several rooms of Museo de Osuna to “Game of Thrones” memorabilia. A local restaurant has even created a menu with numerous nods to the series.
Plaza de Toros in 'Game of Thrones'
Almodovar Castle, Spain
Filming site for: High Garden and Casterly Rock
Almodovar Castle was originally a Roman fort, but its Muslim Berber transformation dates to the 8th century. Sitting atop a hill, it was the perfect setting for High Garden, the ancestral home of House Martell. It also served as the dungeon of the Casterly Rock fortress.
Its current purveyors are more than happy to fulfill visitors’ “Game of Thrones” obsessions, with displays and tours designed specifically around the show.
Almodovar Castle in 'Game of Thrones'
Roman Bridge, Spain
Filming site for: Long Bridge of Volantis
One of the oldest sites featured in “Game of Thrones,” the Roman Bridge was originally built in the 1st century BC and was rebuilt by the Moors in the 8th century.
Like many locations in the show, the ramshackle structure was given polish through CGI techniques to stand in for the mythical Long Bridge of Volantis.
Roman Bridge in 'Game of Thrones'
Linen Mill Studios, Ireland
Filming site for: Too many to list
When it comes to “Game of Thrones,” there is no location more important than Northern Ireland, where the bulk of production and filming takes place. And when it comes to Northern Ireland, there is nothing more crucial to the show’s existence than Linen Mill Studios. This is literally where the action takes place.
It’s so important to the show, in fact, that HBO is creating a comprehensive tour at the studio that’s scheduled to start in 2020. Fans will be able to peruse a 110,000-square-foot space stocked with costumes, props, weapons and interactive elements. They’ll also enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand on sets where some of the most important and iconic scenes took place.
The show has been a huge boon for tourism in Northern Ireland, generating tens of millions of dollars in spending, and the destination is fully embracing its role in the “Game of Thrones” universe with features like a medieval heritage tour.
Dunluce Castle, Ireland
Filming site for: House of Greyjoy
The County Antrim region on the northern coast of Ireland features prominently in “Game of Thrones,” as its close proximity to Linen Mill Studios and spectacular natural beauty make it ideal for filming.
One of the most iconic locations is Dunluce Castle, which sits directly atop a cliff on the coast and has been used as a filming site for the House of Greyjoy. This digital reconstruction shows just how grand it once was.
No official figures exist, but it’s estimated that tens of thousands of GoT fans visit the castle every year. Fun fact: CS Lewis reportedly also used the castle as inspiration for the towers of Cair Paravel.
Dunluce Castle in 'Game of Thrones'
Tollymore Forest Park, Ireland
Filming site for: Haunted Forest, Wolfswood, Kingsroad
It seems fitting for any serious “Game of Thrones” fan to visit the location of the show’s very first scene, when three rangers of the Night’s Watch go beyond the Wall to investigate reports of wildlings in the Haunted Forest.
Tollymore Forest is also home to a few other important GoT locations: Wolfswood near Winterfell and Kingsroad near Castle Black.
One tour of the area takes visitors to all three sites and offers them the comfort of black cloaks to wear during the walk — just like those donned by the Stark family of Winterfell. It’s frequently listed as one of the must-see “Game of Thrones” adventures in Northern Ireland.
Tollymore Forest Park in 'Game of Thrones'