‘Game of Thrones’ Returns: 17 Real-Life Filming Locations
The much-anticipated sixth season of the Emmy-award-winning HBO show Game of Thrones premieres on Sunday. While most people will be on the edge of their seats wondering what really happened to Jon Snow, we find ourselves watching and wondering how to visit the fantastical, real-life filming locations that serve as part of the Seven Kingdoms. Here are 17 of our favorites.
1. Dark Hedges (Road from King’s Landing)
The Dark Hedges are probably one of the most recognized “Game of Thrones” locations in Ireland and one of the most beautiful beech-covered roads in the world. They were featured predominantly in the first two seasons as the Kingsroad, north of King’s Landing, and are located along Bregagh Road, near the village of Armoy.
2. Castle Warn, County Down (Winterfell)
Castle Ward, featuring Gothic and Classical architecture, exotic sunken gardens, paths and woodlands represents Winterfell, the home House Stark. Overlooking Strangford Lough, near the village of Strangford, the castle has been the home of the Ward family since the 1570s, and it was at this courtyard that the Starks welcomed King Robert Baratheon when he arrived in Winterfell.
3. Magheramorne Quarry, County Antrim, (Castle Black/The Wall/Hardhome)
The abandoned Maghearamorne Quarry doubles as several show locations. It stands in for both Castle Black and Hardhome, a Free Folk fishing village. Jon Snow and Tormund visit the village in season five to convince the Free Folk to come to Castle Black with them. The village is later invaded and destroyed by the Night Walkers and wights.
4. Dubrovnik (King’s Landing)
Dubrovnik, Croatia’s most southern city, is the setting for King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. The “Old City,” enclosed in medieval walls, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been a staple on the show since season two. Fort Lovrijenac (Fort of St. Lawrence) is where King Joffrey held his name day tournament and Gradac park is the setting of his untimely death at the Purple Wedding.
5. Trsteno Arboretum (King’s Landing Gardens)
The Arboretum is just outside of Dubrovnik and represents the gardens of Red Keep, the home of the Andals and the First Men (House Baratheon) in King’s Landing. The lush gardens, which span over 70 acres, are worth seeing for the beautiful collection of exotic plants and trees (there is said to be over 450 species of plant life here) but GoT buffs will also recognize the garden as the backdrop for many strolls by the likes of Margaery, Olenna and Lancel Tyrell, Sansa, Tyrion and others.
6. Sibenik (Braavos)
Sibenik is known as the King’s City and is surrounded by four fortresses and Renaissance and Gothic architecture from the 15th century. The Cathedral of St. James doubles as the House of Black and White or the temple of the God of Many Faces, Arya Stark’s new home.
7. Vatnajokull (North of the Wall)
Flickr photo by Costeggiando il Vatnajokull
Vatnajokull, in southeast Iceland, is Europe’s largest glacier with seemingly endless ice plains, snowy mountain peaks and glacial lagoons, the ideal backdrop for what lies Beyond the Wall.
8. Lake Myvatn (North of the Wall)
Lake Myvatn, in northeast Iceland, was created by a large basaltic lava eruption more than 2300 years ago. It is famous for the spectacular Godafoss waterfall, also known as the Waterfall of the Gods. It’s here that the Night’s Watch men are attacked by the White Walkers in season two. Jon Snow and Ygrette also walk along the lake’s shore to the nearby Grjótagjá lava cave, where Jon Snow breaks his Night’s Watch vows.
9. Alcazar de Sevilla, Seville (Royal Palace of Dorne)
In season five, the Alcazar de Sevilla in Seville represented the Royal Palace of Dorne or private residences of House Martell. Scenes for season six were also shot in the elaborate gardens of this UNESCO World Heritage site. It is here that Ellaria Sand tries to convince Prince Martell to take revenge of the Lannisters and where Jaime tries to rescue Myrcella from an attack by the Sand Snakes.
10. Peniscola, Valencia (Dorne or Meereen)
Peniscola is a new location that will be introduced in season six, though the show writers have yet to confirm its “Game of Thrones” locale. Sources suggest it will likely represent the Daenery’s slave city of Meereen, which was formerly recreated in locations across Croatia.
11. Plaza de toros de Osuna, Seville (Meereen Arena/Daznak’s Pit)
The Plaza de toros de Osuna, a bullring built in 1904, represents the preeminent fighting Pit in Meereen where Daenery’s marriage to Hizdahr zo Loraq is interrupted by the attack of the Sons of the Harpy. Over 500 of the town’s residents were used as extras for what is said to be one of the most expensive television scenes ever.
12. Girona, Catalonia (Oldtown, Braavos)
Girona, an hour north of Barcelona, is set to play a main role as the Oldtown of Braavos in season six. Look for shots of the Girona Cathedral, the old Jewish Quarter and the Arab Baths. The 16th-century citadel will also feature a site where the maesters of the Seven Kingdoms receive their training.
13. San Anton Palace (The Red Keep)
San Anton Palace in Attard is the official residence of the President of Malta. The palace and its lush private and public gardens stand in for the Red Keep in the Game of Thrones, the home of the Iron Throne and the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.
14. Mdina (King’s Landing Gate)
The walled city of Mdina is one of Malta’s top tourist destinations. It was the country’s first capital city, although settlements here date back to before 4000 B.C. The narrow limestone streets and squares are featured prominently in season one as the King’s Landing Gate and Littlefinger’s House of Pleasure.
15. Fort Manoel (Great Sept of Baelor)
Fort Manoel, a star-shaped fortification on Manoel Island, was built in 1726. It’s said to be haunted by the Black Knight of the Order of St. John. It’s also the backdrop for the Great Sept of Baelor — and Ned Stark’s execution.
16. Ait-Ben-Haddou (Yunkai and Pentos)
Yunkai, the Yellow City, lies on the eastern coast of Slaver’s Bay, or in Ait-Ben-Haddoum, Morocco. Daenerys arrives here in the third season with the army of Unsullied and overthrows the rulers, called the Wise Masters, to abolish slavery in the city.
17. Essaouira Morocco (Astapor)
Astapor, the infamous Red City of Slaver’s Bay, is real-life Essaouira, two hours west of Marrakesh, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast. In season three, Daenerys visits the well-known slave-trading post, buys her army of “Unsullied” warriors and sacks the city, killing the slave masters in the process.
If you’re one of the few who hasn’t seen “Game of Thrones,” or are behind a few seasons, you can definitely get caught up quickly — if you’re up for a few solid binge sessions! HBO’s “Game of Thrones” Season 5 just released on Blu-ray on March 15, and all the previous four seasons are also available at retail or you can buy digital HD copies from iTunes or Google Play. Each comes packed with special features and enhanced content.