Marble hidden bay in old city centre of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The World of Ice and Fire: 10 Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Europe

Winter is over. As the worldwide television sensation Game of Thrones comes to an end, its popularity has never been higher. And in addition to the dragons, ice zombies, and castle sieges that the show brought us, it also delivered exquisite views of some of Europe’s loveliest locations. To commemorate the show’s finale, we’re showcasing some of the filming locations over the course of eight seasons. If you’re a fan of the show, a visit to these historical sites will make a European vacation all the sweeter. (If you haven’t watched the show, beware, as minor spoilers lie ahead.)

Where is Game of Thrones filmed?

Game of Thrones recreates a fictional version of medieval Europe. As such, it’s mostly filmed in European countries, such as Spain, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Malta, Scotland, and Croatia. There are also a small number of scenes that were shot in Morocco, but these were relatively few, so we’ve focused on the main filming locations of Croatia, Northern Ireland, Spain, and Iceland.

Where is the real King’s Landing from Game of Thrones located?

Dubrovnik is King’s Landing

The beautiful medieval walled town of Dubrovnik is already the most popular tourist site in Croatia, and its popularity has only increased since HBO chose it as the primary shooting location for King’s Landing, the capital of the fictional realm of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. You won’t find the Iron Throne room or the bedrooms of the Red Keep on a trip to Dubrovnik, as those were built sets in Northern Ireland, but the City Walls of Dubrovnik, the Rector’s Palace, and the narrow avenues of St. Dominic Street are all featured prominently in Season 2 and beyond.

Architectural details of old town Dubrovnik, Croatia
Architectural details of old town Dubrovnik, Croatia

Lokrum Island is the Gardens of Qarth

Few fans of Game of Thrones would ever consider the Season 2 plotline that saw Daenerys Targaryen jockeying for power with the elites of the free city of Qarth among the show’s best, but at least it was an excuse to showcase some lovely Croatian spots, particularly Lokrum Island, a small island and tourist attraction off the coast of Dubrovnik. You can easily take a ferry to visit Lokrum Island and the gardens that were featured on the show. Fun fact: back in the 19th century, the Austrian rules of Dubrovnik used the gardens to entertain foreign guests, so Game of Thrones using the gardens as the spot where the Qartheen rulers entertain Daenerys is very on brand.

How can I visit the Game of Thrones locations in Croatia?

Most trips to Croatia take you to Dubrovnik, often as part of an itinerary that heads to Split and the Dalmatian Coast. There are several city tours in Dubrovnik that focus on Game of Thrones and tailor their itinerary to fans of the show.

Aerial view of the Island of Lokrum, near Dubrovnik, Croatia
Aerial view of the Island of Lokrum, near Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where does the filming of Game of Thrones take place in Northern Ireland?

Downhill Strand is Dragonstone Beach

Northern Ireland is the main shooting location for Game of Thrones. In addition to housing the soundstages that are home to the main interior sets, Northern Ireland has also subbed in for all parts of Westeros. The stark beach of Downhill Strand, to the northwest of Coleraine, stood in for Dragonstone Beach in the premiere of Season 2. If you remember, this is where Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre burn the wicker idols of the Seven to prove Stannis’ loyalty to the red god, R’hllor. The same beach is also used later in Season 3 when Ser Davos Seaworth rescues Gendry and sends him out in a rowboat in order to foil Melisandre’s plot to sacrifice him to R’hllor.

Castle Ward is Winterfell

Although several locations have stood in for Winterfell over the course of the series, including Doune Castle in Scotland, none have been as important as Castle Ward, which has been used throughout the seasons to depict the courtyards and battlements of Winterfell. In addition to scenes set in the North, the area has also been used for generic army camp scenes over the course of the series, including Robb Stark’s camp outside The Twins and the Lannister army camp. If you visit the castle while on a European vacation, you can even book a Game of Thrones experience that recreates life in Westeros and lets you dress up in costume and try out archery among other medieval activities.

Entrance to the Castle Ward in Northern Ireland
Entrance to the Castle Ward in Northern Ireland

The Dark Hedges of Armoy is the Kingsroad

Although it only plays a small part in the show, the beech tree avenue known as the Dark Hedges outside Armoy is a striking location from the end of the Season 2 premiere. It stands in for the Kingsroad as Arya leaves King’s Landing along with Yoren and the other recruits of the Night’s Watch, including Gendry. The large beech trees with their smooth bark and barren branches create an ominous atmosphere perfect for what’s to befall Arya and company on the Kingsroad.

How to see Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland?

Because of the open border with Ireland, it’s easy to see Northern Ireland on a day trip from Dublin, or as part of a larger self-drive journey that takes you to popular filming locations. However, you can also base yourself out of Belfast if you wish, on your European vacation.

Dark Hedges in Armoy, Northern Ireland
Dark Hedges in Armoy, Northern Ireland

In Game of Thrones Season 5, Dorne is shot at which location?

Alcazar of Seville is the Water Gardens of Dorne

Like the Qarth plotline, the Dornish plot in Seasons 5 and 6 was among the most tedious over the show’s eight seasons, but it did allow the filmmakers the chance to highlight some of Spain’s many stunning locations. Chief among these is the Alcazar of Seville, the royal palace that’s the city’s most famous tourist attraction. In Game of Thrones, the palace serves as the Water Gardens of Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, in the Dornish capital of Sunspear. Don’t worry, a visit here on a European vacation is a lot more exciting than rewatching the Dorne scenes.

Gardens in Alcazar of Seville, Spain
Gardens in Alcazar of Seville, Spain

Plaza de Toros de Osuna is Daznak’s Pit in Meereen

An hour east of Seville, you’ll find the small town of Osuna, and its preserved bullring, the Plaza de Toros de Osuna. You’ll recognize the sandy pit and stone amphitheatre as the Meereenese fighting pit, Daznak’s Pit, from the fifth season of Game of Thrones. In addition to gladiatorial combat, the bullring was used for the climactic sequence in the second-last episode of Season 5 where the Sons of the Harpy attempt to assassinate Daenerys and her advisors. While you won’t see any dragons while here, the bullring and the lovely town that surrounds it are worth an afternoon visit.

The Castle of Zafra is the Tower of Joy

The Castle of Zafra is a stunning 12th-century castle jutting out of the red rock in Guadalajara, Spain. It’s also the location of pivotal flashback sequences in Season 6 that use it as the Tower of Joy, the infamous spot where Rhaegar Targaryen presumably held Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna captive during Robert’s Rebellion. In Season 6, you can see the tower looming over a young Ned Stark as he does battle against Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, and the fiercest soldier in the realm.

How do I visit the Game of Thrones filming locations in Southern Spain?

There are plenty of journeys to Spain that include Seville and other southern cities like Seville. Most journeys begin in either Barcelona or Madrid, but considering the size and travel infrastructure of Spain, it’s easy to drive throughout the country as well.

Castle of Zafra, Guadalajara, Spain
Castle of Zafra, Guadalajara, Spain

What are the places in Iceland shown in Game of Thrones?

Snaefellsjokull Glacier is the Fists of the First Men

Iceland is used for most of the scenes north of the Wall in Game of Thrones. In Season 2, the Night’s Watch marches north to the Frostfangs and the Fists of the First Men, frozen landscapes far to the north of Westerosi civilization. If you head to Snaefellsjokull Glacier on the peninsula northwest of Reykjavik, you’ll find the shooting location of the scenes as the Frostfangs and the Fists of the First Men. And don’t worry about how frigid the glacier looks in the show; Iceland is not nearly as cold as the show presents it. In fact, a visit to the area is downright lovely in summer.

Aerial view of an empty lake and Snaefellsjokull Volcano in background, Iceland
Aerial view of an empty lake and Snaefellsjokull Volcano in background, Iceland

Grjotagja near Lake Myvatn is Jon and Ygritte’s Cave

In Season 3, when Jon Snow is acting as a deserter of the Night’s Watch to get close to Mance Rayder, he and the wilding woman Ygritte bathe in the hot springs of a frozen cave north of the Wall and eventually hook up inside the cave. While it seems to be just any old cave in the show, it’s actually Grjotogja Cave, a popular tourist attraction just to the northeast of Lake Myvatan in North Iceland. The water here gets warmer than 37°C, so no wonder it looked so cozy on the show.

How to see the Game of Thrones filming locations in Iceland?

Iceland is an easy country to explore on a self-drive or as part of a guided tour. Many itineraries in Iceland include Snaefellsjokull Glacier and Lake Myvatn as part of their itinerary, including trips specifically designed to include shooting locations from Game of Thrones.

Grjotagja Cave, near Myvatn, Iceland
Grjotagja Cave, near Myvatn, North Iceland
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Aren Bergstrom
Aren Bergstrom

Globetrotting Editor - You might say that Aren was destined to become a Globetrotter after his family took him to Germany two times before he was four. If that wasn’t enough, a term spent in Sweden as a young teenager and a trek across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand confirmed that destiny. An independent writer, director, and film critic, Aren has travelled across Asia, Europe, and South America. His favourite travel experience was visiting the major cities of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, but his love for food, drink, and film will take him anywhere that boasts great art and culture.

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