HomeExchange lets you live like a local wherever you stay. You can really get under the hood of a place. But sometimes other forms of inspiration can also guide your footsteps to local hotspots. For fans of a Game of Thrones, here’s some great inspiration.
What if I were to tell you that you could go on vacation to King’s Landing, Dorne or North of the Wall? That you could walk in the footsteps of the Mother of Dragons or the King in the North? Or that you could take a holiday break in some of your favourite spots in the Seven Kingdoms, Beyond the Wall or the Free Cities?
Who hasn’t dreamed of travelling to the beautiful sets of Game of Thrones, the TV series that films every season on location in multiple countries simultaneously? Let’s journey through some of those places in Northern Ireland, Malta, Croatia, Iceland and Spain.
Let’s start in Belfast, where the Game of Thrones production headquarters are located and where most of the interior sets have been shot, such as the Red Keep, the Iron Throne, the Great Sept of Baelor, the sky cells in the Eyrie and the Great Pyramid of Meereen. The name of the studio is Paint Hall, but it’s not open to the public.
A few minutes’ drive from Belfast, however, we find Castle Black, which was built in an abandoned quarry. Northern Ireland has also been used to shoot an army camp and some woods in Westeros. While in Northern Ireland, you can even travel to Craster’s Keep or the Dothraki Sea.
A bit further from Belfast – a little more than one hour by car – there are limestone cliffs, a great variety of vegetation, and many natural and wild spaces that have made it perfect for different scenes in the series.
It’s time to explore a warmer place: an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta was only used in the first season as King’s Landing and the Free City of Pentos. This warm Mediterranean location was chosen to show the contrast between the cold of the North (Winterfell) and the warmth of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
You may not have noticed, but in the second season of Game of Thrones, King’s Landing had moved to Croatia and the Old Town of Dubrovnik.
I had a chance to see Croatia’s King’s Landing first hand. I assure you that if you go to Dubrovnik you will feel like Cersei Lannister in the harbour watching a ship sail, the city on the left and the fortress in the right. You could even do as Shae did and visit the city walls, which have a great view over the old port city. Or you could conspire on the same walls as Tyrion Lannister and Varys did, watching the comings and goings of the city.
Walking through the Old Town really makes you feel like you’re part of the cast of Game of Thrones. With its stone houses and red roofs, medieval walls right on the coast, narrow streets and good weather, Dubrovnik is a perfect stand-in for the warm capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
Pull back away from the good weather and head to the cold lands of Iceland. As you can imagine, when the men of the Night’s Watch went on an expedition beyond the Wall, they were on actual glaciers in the national parks of this country.
But travelling to Iceland doesn’t mean you will only find the cold lands Beyond the Wall. The scenes with Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane travelling through the Riverlands or the high mountains of the Vale of Arryn were also filmed in Iceland. In the most recent seasons, Iceland was used primarily for landscape shoots.
When winter is coming, head south to where there the sun is still shining. Spain became part of the series when Dorne was introduced. Most of the filming took place in Seville and used historic medieval Islamic backdrops for places like Sunspear, the capital of Dorne. Cordoba was also used for the Long Bridge of Volantis.
Back in the north – the Basque Country, where I am from – some of the characters (Jon Snow, Daenerys, Tyrion, Varys…) have been seen in places like the beach of Zumaia or the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. But how will these places figure in the TV series?
As the TV series requires, the places described above are completely different from each other, though they retain their own charm. Some are small cities with narrow streets but broad blue sky and wide-open sea; others are the frozen lands and amazing landscapes. Now go discover them yourselves!
Cover photo: TaylorHerring
Maialen Landa lives in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Baque Country (Spain), and has been doing HomeExchange all around the world with her family since she was six years old. She is fan of Game of Thrones and recently discovered Eastern Europe through an Erasmus program in Slovakia. Visit her blog (in English) at wanderingwhaleblog.wordpress.com. Take a look of her beautifully architectural home in Vitoria-Gasteiz.