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Game of Thrones is one of the greatest TV series of all time, and a huge part of the show’s long-lasting success is its use of real-life locations within the fantasy setting created by George RR Martin. Culture Trip takes a closer look at the places you can visit to continue your journey to claim the Iron Throne.
The world of Westeros, the land where the majority of the action of Game of Thrones is set, takes its cues from the Medieval era. For the screen adaptation, producers of the show chose spectacular locations that inspire a sense of the otherworldly atmosphere depicted in the book, as well as places that ground the action in reality.
One of the most popular travel destinations in the world, Iceland has seen a recent boom in visitors thanks in no small part to Game of Thrones. Given the varied terrain of the island nation, from the harsh black sands of the south – where the infamous Wall is digitally erected every season – to the chilling ice enclaves in the north, visitors will feel as if they are taking a mini tour of Westeros whenever they venture out of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavík. The spectacular Thorufoss saw dragons swooping in, and Grjótagjá Cave was privy to the famous ‘intimate’ moment between Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and wildling Ygritte (Rose Leslie). With shooting locations all over the country, Iceland is a dream destination for diehard fans.
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The vast sets for Game of Thrones are in purpose-built studios in Belfast. Some of the most recognisable interiors seen on the show, such as Winterfell and Castle Black, are housed in huge buildings in the city, but their exteriors are dotted around the country. HBO, the network responsible for the TV phenomenon, has announced plans to keep the sets in place and turn them into tourist attractions in 2020. There are also a number of locations seen on screen that capture the natural beauty of Northern Ireland, most of which you can explore here.
Doune Castle in Scotland was the original location for the Stark family home Winterfell. The unaired pilot, which also featured a number of cast members who didn’t make it through to the first broadcast episode of the series, featured the famous Scottish location, but logistical issues and a lack of studio space saw production move to Northern Ireland soon afterwards. Rival series Outlander has subsequently used numerous Scottish locations, which does make obvious sense, but the prequel to Game of Thrones is set to return to the Isle of Skye in the northwest of Scotland.
Game of Thrones is actually just the title of the first book in the epic A Song of Fire and Ice collection. We’ve already discussed some of the colder locations, but there are also lands that are covered in red sands and suffocating heat. The south of Spain is where you will find over a dozen filming locations, especially in later seasons. A real-life bullfighting ring in Seville was used as a Meereen fighting pit, and other locations include Córdoba, Girona and Cáceres.
Atlas Studios, the world’s biggest film and TV dedicated studio, is situated in Ourzazate, in southern Morocco. The Atlas Mountains lie on one side, with nothing but miles of desert on the other. Movies such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Living Daylights (1987), The Mummy (1999) and Gladiator (2000) were shot here before Game of Thrones rolled into town. We’ve seen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) free the Unsullied here as well as her dragons unleashing their fiery fury for the first time. The towns of Essaouira and Aït Benhaddou also feature in the series as parts of the journey undertaken by Daenerys as she grows her army in the south of Westeros.
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Malta played a big role in the first series of Game of Thrones but hasn’t been featured since the inaugural episodes. Even so, Malta’s gorgeous vistas have become ingrained in the minds of fans, and themed tours still take place on the main island and Gozo in the north. The fortified city of Mdina was the location that was first used to depict the Lannister stronghold of King’s Landing.
Sadly, tourists will no longer be able to see the famed Azure Window, which was the backdrop to Daenerys and Drogo’s (Jason Momoa) wedding ceremony. The spectacular rock formation collapsed into the sea in 2017.
From season two onwards, King’s Landing has played a much bigger part in Game of Thrones. The producers found a permanent home in Dubrovnik on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The Medieval walls of the city appealed to producers as they match many of the descriptions in the original text. One of the most famous scenes in TV history, the unforgettable “walk of shame,” was shot from the top of the Spanish steps in the Old Town. The lush greenery of Lokrum, an island a short boat ride away from the old Dubrovnik harbour, was used for filming too.
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