The long-awaited final season of HBO’s television series Game of Thrones, a reimagining of the books by George R.R. Martin, premiered to a record 17.4 million viewers. The premiere episode of the eighth and final season was the most-watched one-day event in the history of the cable network that launched in 1978, exceeding the previous viewership record for the season finale of season 7. Along with the shocking deaths, power shifts and plot twist, the high production value of the show has kept viewers coming back for more season after season.
The settings of Game of Thrones continue to be as impressive as ever as new kingdoms and worlds have been introduced and unsurprisingly, the show is shot all over the world. Here’s where each of the worlds are filmed (with some CGI magic added in of course):
Belfast in the Northern Ireland is the heart of production for Game of Thrones, where the show has transformed the local economy over the years, bringing both jobs to the region and throngs of tourists. Interior sets are created in Titanic Studios, while many other outdoors scenes are filmed around the country.
The external scenes of Winterfell are filmed at the farmyard of Castle Ward in Stangford. As the National Trust reports, this estate was also the set for “the Whispering Wood and key scenes including Robb Stark’s Camp, the Baelor battle and when Brienne confronts the Stark men.” Doune Castle was also used in the first season as Winterfell. Those who recall shots of Winterfell from a distance, with its many turrets and towers may be disappointed that those were mostly CGI, similar to the rare aerial shot of Winterfell that was shown in the first episode of season 8.
2. Kings Landing
Much of the exterior of Kings Landing starting in Season two is shot in Dubrovnik, a walled stone city and UNESCO World Heritage site along the Adriatic Sea. Though Dubrovnik has long been a tourist destination regionally, Game of Thrones truly put the city on the world map.
You can see from the comparison of the image above and below, taken from almost the exact same angle and location, Kings Landing is extended onto the island of Otok Lokrum, and various other CGI effects are in place, including the addition of the Great Sept of Baelor which is destroyed by Cersei in season six.
3. Battle of Blackwater
The Battle of Blackwater, when Stannis Baratheon attacks Kings Landing, is filmed at Fort Lovrijenac (also known as the St. Lawrence Fortress), a fort and theater just outside the western wall of Dubrovnik. It’s also the place where The Hound brings Sansa back inside after he rescues her from the marauding mob in the streets. Earlier, King Joffrey’s Name Day Tournament is filmed here.
In the cove, Cercei also says goodbye to Myrcella, who gets shipped off to Dorne. Cercei and the Lannisters will learn later of course, that she will never return to her home.
4. Battle Arena: Oberyn Martell v. The Mountain
The shocking season four finale, where The Mountain kills Oberyn Martell, the Dorne prince fighting to defend Tyrion’s honor, is filmed just outside Dubrovnik at the abandoned Hotel Belvedere, destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence. The crest in the “arena” was added by the Game of Thrones set designers and remained after filming (as seen above). See more photographs of the Hotel Belvedere here on our previous explorations of this abandoned site.
5. The Walls and Streets of Kings Landing
Two kilometers of stone walls surround Dubrovnik, situated atop rocky crags. The medieval turrets and towers easily lend themselves as the defenses of Kings Landing, seen in the Battle of the Blackwater. Meanwhile, although there is a wide main avenue in the Old City, most of Dubrovnik consists of narrow, winding streets. On the hillside, you an easily imagine Arya Stark scampering past in her escape from Kings Landing following the beheading of her father, Ned Stark.
But in season six, parts of Kings Landing, including the steps leading up to the Great Sept of Baelor were filmed in the Catalan city of Girona in Spain, leading up to the cathedral. The city of Caceres in Spain is also used for Kings Landing. Dubrovnik appears to not be a filming location for Game of Thrones in the final season.
Gaztelugatxe in the Spanish Basque country, north of Bilbao, played host to Dragonstone with its notable narrow stone wall bridge, where Jon Snow meets Daenerys for the first time in season 7 of Game of Thrones. The meeting was brokered by Tyrion Lannister, with Davos taking the journey with Jon Snow. Itzurun beach, about two hours away, is the filming locations for where Jon Snow and Davos landed.
The Basque country, known for its independence in a variety of European and world conflicts, is split between the Spanish Basque and the French Basque, though much is shared including a common language.
7. The Gardens of the Red Keep
The gardens of the Red Keep enter the scene when the Tyrells come to Kings Landing. Margaery Tyrell, her brother and their grandmother, the Queen of Thorns, are often shown entertaining and walking through the gardens. These scenes are filmed at Trsteno Arboretum, about 18 kilometers north of Dubrovnik, a former Renaissance estate and garden complex.
Though the Tyrells seem to be adept at holding their power in earlier seasons, as we know on Game of Thrones, nobody’s reign can last forever.
In the fifth season, we are introduced to Water Palaces of Dorne, home of the Martells, the Sand Snakes, and Myrcella Baratheon. The lush scenes are filmed in the Alcázar de Sevilla, a Royal Palace in Seville, Spain. The palace was originally built for King Peter of Castille in the Moorish style of architecture, but the upper level loggias on the wall (known as the Galeria de Grutesco) as seen in the photo above were added in the 16th century to provide a view onto the gardens.
The Alcázar is where the Infanta Maria Antoinetta of Spain was born in 1729. The complex is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Alcázar was also a filming location for Ridley Scott’s 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven.
8. House of Black and White
The House of Black and White in Braavos where Arya Stark goes in season 5 to learn how to change her face is shot on an outdoor set outside of Split in Dubrovnik. Split is a three hour drive north of Dubrovnik along the coastline.
9. Streets and Port of Braavos
The street scenes in Braavos, where Arya is out selling oysters and observing, are shot in Kastel Gomilica in Croatia, and other city scenes are filmed in Sibenik, also in Croatia.
The Magheramorne Quarry in Northern Ireland has served as the backdrop and set for both Hardhome, the scene of the epic white walker attack on the Free Folk in season 5 (though it’s not a battle that takes place in the books). Side note: The Iron Islands, where Theon Greyjoy/Reek comes from, is set in Ballintoy Harbour and Murlough Bay in Northern Ireland.
11. The Kings Road
The Dark Hedges in County Amtrin in Ireland is a stretch of road planted with over 150 beech trees by the Stuart family in the 18th century, once the entrance to their estate. Now, it is part of Bregagh Road and served as a picturesque filming location for the “King’s Road.” It appeared in the second season, as Arya escapes Kings Landing with Gendry, Yoren and Hot Pie as a little boy. Game of Thrones tourism has been so prevalent that vehicular traffic was banned in 2017 on this road, after it was overrun with visitors.
In 2016, a storm hit the Dark Hedges. Two fallen trees were transformed into pub doors, carved with scenes from Game of Thrones.
12. The Wall and Castle Black
Magheramorne Quarry is also the set for The Wall (including Castle Black). The set includes just the opening of the Wall, the rest of the sheer ice drop is done in CGI.
13. Beyond the Wall
Scenes from beyond The Wall are often filmed in Iceland. The Grjótagjá lava lake is where Jon Snow and Ygritte get together. Other scenes are filmed on glaciers and in national parks, like Svínafellsjökull Glacier, Vatnajökull (Europe’s largest glacier), the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, the Dimmuborgir lava field (wildling camp) and more.
The scenes in Qarth, where Daenerys Targaryen encounters the Thirteen and the House of the Undying are also filmed in and outside of Dubrovnik.
14. House of the Undying
On the walls of Dubrovnik, the Minceta Fortress serves as the House of the Undying, where Daenerys enters to get back her dragons. Inside, she sees visions of the future (and past). Her dragon Drogon saves her when the Undying attempt to kill her. The Sponza Palace and Rector’s Palace in Dubrovnik serve as the settings for the palace of the Spice King of Qarth. The home of Xaro Xhoan Daxos, where Daenerys’ dragons are stolen is filmed in the botanical gardens on the islands of Lokrum, south of Dubrovnik.
The UNESCO site of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco stands in for Yunkai, the slaver city, and parts of Pentos. Astapor is where Daenerys buys her Unsullied army, filmed in Essaouira, Morocco.
Meereen is a combination of real-life locations and sets, as Daenerys is often pictured in the pyramid listening to petitioners. Exterior scenes have been shot in Croatia, outside Seville, Spain. At the end of the fifth season (episode not yet shown), a pivotal scene in the series is filmed in the Plaza de toros de Osuna, an arena that seats 5,000 for bullfights. The real life location has one ringed level of seats with CGI adding two more rings.
After Tyrion gets kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, they go on an epic journey to get back to Daenerys in Meereen. They go through Valyria, the abandoned capital of the Valyrian Freehold where the all-important Valyrian Steel comes from. The scene where Tyrion and Jorah get attacked by the stone men is filmed in Northern Ireland, on a river in Toome in County Antrim.
Next, look in detail at the abandoned Hotel Dubrovnik, a Game of Thrones film location.