The battle for the Iron Throne started on the 24th April with the sixth season! To celebrate the occasion I think it’s about time we took a closer look at the locations where Game of Thrones was actually shot. The Seven Kingdoms couldn’t be any more different – from snow-decked mountains looming over icy-cold fields, rough seas and Mediterranean coasts to hot, dry deserts, there really is everything you could ever imagine. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise you when I say this really has been filmed all over the place. Oh, and one more thing: spoiler alert!
Game of Thrones filming locations
Iceland – the land north of the wall | Northern Ireland – from Winterfell to Riverrun
Malta & Croatia – King’s Landing and the Iron Throne
Malta, Croatia & Morocco – the land of dragons
Spain – royal Dorne & secretive Braavos
Game of Thrones filming locations: Iceland – north of the wall, in the land of eternal winter
Things north of the wall are cold, snowy and desolate – but in reality it’s Iceland we’re talking about here! There are several scenes that were shot here in Þingvellir National Park, located in south-western region of Suðurland.
When Jon Snow makes his way towards the wall in third series, we’re able to see plenty of Iceland’s raw beauty. His intimate moments with the Wildling, Ygritte, were filmed in the Grjótagjá Cave, an underground thermal spring close to Mývatn in the north-east of the country. The location where the Wildlings set up their camp as they travelled south is actually Dimmuborgir, a lava field that’s home to strange rock formations and bursting a mystical character.
Scenes that took place in wide, open spaces where nature and storms hit hard were filmed at Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. Several locations were used for the Frostfang Mountains: the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the towns of Höfðabrekka and Vík í Mýrdalu all provided the perfect snow-capped peaks! Many Night Watch expeditions took place here, and even hordes of White Walkers were lead through here by their leader at the end of series 2.
Game of Thrones filming locations: Northern Ireland
The midlands of Westeros are characterised by broad, green plains, rivers and windy, rocky coasts that are battered by rough seas. Luckily Northern Ireland had the perfect landscapes for this! For Winterfell, which was originally meant to be filmed at Doun Castle in Scotland, the producers settled for Northern Ireland’s most impressive castle. With awesome views of Strangford Lough and the surrounding forests, Castle Ward was simply made for Winterfell with its mix of Gothic and Classical architecture.
Scenes that played out in the forests near Winterfell were mostly filmed in Tollymore National Park. You’ll recognise the place as the one where the Stark family found their direwolves at the beginning of the first series, or the forest where Ramsey was hunting after Theon. Everyone who rides along King’s Road towards the North will pass the Dark Hedges, but the impressive tree trunks that loom over the road are no accident! They were planted in the 18th Century by the Stuart family and line the driveway to the stately Gracehill House.
Two brothers fighting for the throne
South-west of Winterfell are the Stormlands, where the house of Baratheon originated from, and it’s here where the two remaining brothers Stannis and Renly both pursue their claim to the throne. The field where Renly set up camp is located in Larrybane Park along the Northern Irish coast – take a look around and you’ll recognise the scenes where Stannis and Renly met, or the clashes between Brienne of Tarth and Ser Loras Tyrell. The impressive Mussenden Temple, perched on top of the cliffs, served as the setting of Dragonstone in series 2.
The Cushendun Caves are equally as impressive – they’ve existed for over 400 million years and it was here where Melisandre gave birth to the Shadow. The place where Robb Start set up his camp during his campaign to King’s Landing will be instantly recognisable when you go to Audley’s Field. Wounded were cared for here and it was also where Jaime Lannister was captured (and later released).
Game of Thrones filming locations: The raw Iron Islands
For the Iron Islands the producers needed rough and wild seas with cliffs that were equally dramatic. Murlough Bay offers all of this – it was here where Theon Greyjoy and his sister rode along the coast to visit their father. The harbour of Peik plays a large role in series 2, which was all filmed in the port of Ballintoy, just half an hour west of Murlough Bay.
Game of Thrones filming locations: Malta and Croatia – The Iron Throne in King’s Landing
Have you ever wondered where on Earth the beautiful structures of King’s Landing are hidden? The historic walls, the Mediterranean climate and the blue sea all around – well, here’s your answer! It’s located in both Malta and Croatia. In the first season King’s Landing was shot in Malta, and the Gate of Mdina actually belongs to the island’s ancient capital that’s existed for over 4,000 years – Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrik Cassel rode through here as they arrived in King’s Landing. The city’s fortress is one of the most important buildings in the Seven Kingdoms, but luckily Fort Ricasoli in Malta was the perfect location for it with its stone walls towering above the sea. Other landscape shots were filmed in Croatia’s Krka National Park.
Intrigue and the secret fight for the throne
The neighbouring Fort St. Angelo houses some impressive dungeons that you can admire in Game of Thrones – for example there’s one scene where Ayra follows a cat into the dungeons and stumbles upon an important conversation between Lord Varys and Illyrio Mopatis. San Anton Palace, the residence of the Maltese head of state, was also used for shots inside the Red Keep thanks to its gorgeous gardens. You’ll be able to see some of this beauty when Lord Varys and Smallfinger stride through the passages with Ned Stark as they discuss his power of the Kingsguard.
Game of Thrones filming locations: A beheading in medieval surroundings
I’m sure you all remember the Great Sept of Baelor – probably better known as Ned Stark’s place of execution and the first real “what on earth just happened?!” moment of the series. This impressive building is actually known as Fort Manoel in real life. However, since more and more shots of King’s Landing were needed for the second series, they actually moved filming to another location – namely the breathtaking old town of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Lovrijenac Fortress, perched on top of the cliffs above the sea, can be admired during the Battle of the Blackwater, while the stunning gardens of King’s Landing were filmed in the Trsteno Aboretum.
Game of Thrones filming locations: Croatia, Malta and Morocco – the world of Essos
At the start of the first series Daenerys Targaryens begins her journey across the enormous, unforgiving continent of Essos. In Aït-Ben-Haddou, Morocco, scenes of Danaerys’ and Khal Drogo’s wedding were filmed, and it was also where Illyrio Mopatis gave shelter to the banished Targaryen siblings. However the place where Daenerys and Khal actually first met were actually filmed in Malta! The gardens of Verdala Palace set the scenes perfectly. Their wedding ceremonies were also filmed in Malta – the incredible Azure Window, a limestone arch which towers 50 metres over the sea, was another perfect backdrop.
I’m sure you’ll also remember the House of the Undying too, where Daenerys went inside to save her dragons and had those important visions. In reality it’s actually the Minceta Tower, which used to be part of Dubrovnik’s defences.
Game of Thrones filming locations: The freeing of the slaves in Essos’ cities
At the beginning of the third series Daenerys is on the move to Astapor. We soon learn that it’s one of the three cities of Slaver’s Bay – and she quickly outwits the slave traders to free the slaves before burning the city to the ground. Essaouira is the name of the city which lent its appearance to Astapor – it’s located in Morocco not far from Marrakech. After Yunkai, which was also filmed in Aït-Ben-Haddou, we find ourselves in Meereen, the most northerly of the three (former) slaver cities. The Diocletian’s Palace in the Croatian city of Split was chosen as the location, as was Klis Fortress. The Diocletian’s Palace is around 1,700 years old and it’s the perfect location with its historic and venerable appearance.
Game of Thrones filming locations: Braavos, the city of assassins
Arya Stark, who makes her way to Braavos at the end of the fourth series, begins the fifth one with some ‘training’ the Temple of the Many-Faced God. Even if the temple and the exact machinations going on in there remain unclear, at least we can recognise the place where it was filmed: the ancient city of Sibenik in Croatia. A real feast for the eyes!
Game of Thrones filming locations: Cersei’s walk of shame
One of the most memorable scenes from the season 5 finale is Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame. To atone for her sins her hair was cut short and she was forced to walk naked through the city as the population jeered at her. This scene was filmed in Dubrovnik – the route she took is actually the famous street, Stradun. Some fans on Instagram have even recreated the scene.
Game of Thrones filming locations: Spain – Mediterranean Dorne & Meereen
Many scenes in the fifth series were filmed in Spain. In the Andalusian city of Seville, the royal palace of Alcázar de Sevilla served as the water gardens of Dorne through which Myrcella Baratheon (or Lannister, rather) liked to walk. In the palace the King of Spain himself even stays here from time to time. Seville’s bullring was also chosen as the place to film Meereen’s arena. The scene where Daenerys escapes on the back of her dragon, Drogon, was filmed in Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza.
A preview of series 6
Wow, the list of these spectacular Game of Thrones filming locations is just getting longer and longer! We’ve got more shooting locations in Spain to look forward to now that season 6 is just starting – Girona, for example, will be transformed into the city of Braavos. Other medieval towns and fortresses will be the setting of important events. If you have any tips about new filming locations, then just let me know!