(potential spoilers ahead if you’re behind a season or six)
Just because Delta isn’t offering international flights to Westeros doesn’t mean you can’t experience the scenic and fantastic world of Game of Thrones for yourself. The world is HBO’s soundstage when it comes to bringing the fantasy of this show to life, filming in multiple countries including Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Morocco, Malta, Scotland, and Croatia.
While I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, I didn’t purposefully go chasing the show’s filming locations over the past few years. But as fate would have it, I’ve found myself in Dorne, Winterfell, sitting on the iron throne in King’s Landing, and even north of the wall. Each and every one of them are destinations worth a visit out of context of the show. They have their own medieval histories, their own anachronistic architecture. But you can still feel like a Khaleesi for a day.
In honor of the premiere of Game of Thrones’ seventh season tonight, here are some destinations used to create Westeros and Essos that you can visit in real life.
Most notably, Ireland is home to Winterfell and much of northern Westeros. The grounds of Castle Ward in County Down are used for the Winterfell estate, home to House Stark. Here visitors can take tours that allow them to dress in attire authentic to the show, practice archery where the Stark boys did in episode one, and even meet some of the direwolves from the show. Carncastle is also used. The Haunted Forest is actually just Tollymore Forest Park. The Iron Islands can be found in Ballintoy Harbor (stop at Giant’s Causeway while you’re here), as well as Murlough Bay, which also doubles as Slavers’ Bay and the Crownlands. Castle Black is Magheramorne Quarry in County Antrim (although the giant ice wall may or may not be digitally added).
The Dark Hedges, a row of narrow beech trees along the road in County Antrim, lines the King’s Road. You may recognize it as where Arya made her grand escape from King’s Landing. Glenariff is the scenic Vale of Arryn, with the surrounding areas utilized as well. Here, Pollnagollum Cave housed the Brotherhood without Banners, and the Quoile River in County Down represents Riverrun of House Tully. Audley’s Field and Castle on the banks of Strangford Lough serve as Walder Frey’s The Twins.
Cushendun Caves, situated along Antrim’s beautiful Causeway Coast, was notably used as the location where Melisandre birthed an evil shadow baby (tbh still scarred). The sand dune beaches of Dorne where Jaime and Bronn washed up can be found at Portsteward Strand in County Derry. Mussenden Temple in County Antrim is Dragonstone. While most of the Dothraki scenes were filmed in warmer climates, Binevenagh Mountain and Shillanavogy Valley make up parts of the Dothraki Sea.
Needless to say, if you want the most for you destination in terms of Game of Thrones sites, book a flight to Ireland ASAP.
You may recognize Dubrovnik’s dramatic orange-tiled roofs by the sea as King’s Landing. You can see the steps where Cersei began her infamous walk of shame, or walk the walls around the city and see where Tyrion looked out over the Battle of the Blackwater before using wildfire against Stannis Baratheon’s army. Fort Lovrijenac doubles as the Red Keep. The House of the Undying in Qarth is actually just the base of Minčeta Tower. Abandoned Hotel Belvedere was where Oberyn met his gruesome end to the Mountain, and you can almost picture Olenna Tyrell talking to Margaery in the gardens of Trsteno Arboretum just north of the city. Joffrey also meets his end here in Gradac Park. There are many a Game of Thrones-themed tour you can take through the city, and if you’re lucky, you might just find the Iron Throne itself.
Venture out of Dubrovnik and you’ll find many more locations. Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Baska Voda, and the Fortress of Klis were all used to create Mereen. Trogir and the island of Lokrum are also Qarth, and Kastel Gomilica and Sibenik created Braavos.
One of the most famous sites in Malta recently collapsed into the sea, but visitors can still visit the area where the Azure Window once stood as the backdrop to Dany and Khal Drogo’s wedding. Manikata turns into Lhazareen village, once raided by the Dothraki. The Verdala Palace is another location for Pentos. And Mthaleb Valley transforms into the area near Vaes Dothraki. You know, the one where Dany walks into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre and hatches three dragons. Nbd.
The Real Alacazar de Sevilla palace doubles as the elaborate and tranquil water gardens of Dorne, the estate of House Martell. The second story of this UNESCO World Heritage site is still currently in use by the royal family of Spain. Visitors can wander through the rooms and gardens daily.
Scattered throughout Spain, there are several more locations. The Castle of Zafra doubles as the Tower of Joy in Dorne. Bardenas Reales creates more of the Dothraki Sea, whereas Almeria is Vaes Dothrak. Pensicola is Mereen, and Girona is Oldtown and Braavos. Castell de Santa Fiorentina becomes Horn Hill, Cordoba turns into the free town of Volantis. You can also visit Mereen’s fighting pit in Osuna, where the old bullright still stands tall.
Essaouira in Morocco turns into Essos’ Astador, where Dany first meets her army of Unsullied. Ait-Benhaddou is a location for Pentos and Yunkai, recognizable for the Battle with the Second Sons. Ouarzazate is yet another location for Pentos.
Iceland serves as the frozen wasteland known as ‘north of the wall’ to Westeros. Beyond Castle Black, these unchartered areas introduced viewers to Wildlings as well as White Walkers. HBO filmed at locations including Vik, Thingvellir National Park and Svinafellsjokull and Vatnajokull glaciers, as well as Lake Myvatn. Grjotagja cave near the lake is most recognizably where Jon and Ygritte get it on. #YouKnowNothing
That being said, nothing can quite transport you into the world of Westeros like watching the show itself. Who else is excited for the new season tonight, and who do you want to see the most? Cersei? Dany? Jon? Ed Sheeran? I’m hoping Gendry comes back tbh.