Game of Thrones is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. The best-selling novels by George R. R. Martin have spawned an incredible following and award-winning television adaption by HBO. Bringing the characters, locations, and stories to life was a massive undertaking. Fortunately, the screenwriters and production team were up to the task. They scoured the globe looking for the best places to incorporate into their visual storytelling. In this travel guide, we explore some of these real-world localities. Often surprising, these accessible destinations would rank high on anyone’s travel list. Come along as we explore the most incredible Game of Thrones film locations to visit in 2019.
Deciding where to travel for your Game of Thrones adventure is a combination of selecting your favorite film scene and matching it with your desired real-world experiences. For example, did you love the episodes featuring King’s Landing and have you always wanted to take a European vacation? If so, Dubrovnik is for you. Maybe you were captivated by the White Walkers or scenes from Beyond the Wall? Better book your ticket to Iceland. How about the enchantment of Prince Doran’s water gardens? You’re in for a treat because they’re on list too. There’s no shortage of truly spectacular GoT related destinations. For this list we’ve selected a wide range that should appeal to everyone. Ready to get started? (Fair warning, some mild spoilers ahead)
1. Dubrovnik, Croatia (King’s Landing)
The ancient city of Dubrovnik is a prominent tourist destination that attracts countless Game of Thrones fans. Filming locations are scattered around the city and include Lovrijenac Fort, Dubrovnik West Pier, and the Jesuit Staircase by Saint Ignatius Church. Each of these are gorgeous in their own right; however, fans will find them all the more thrilling as they walk in the footsteps of their favorite characters. Game of Thrones tours are ubiquitous and you will have no trouble finding one. As one of Croatia’s most well-known cities, Dubrovnik has seen its tourist economy boom in recent years. This has led to a substantial investment in infrastructure and accommodations. Traveling to and moving around in Croatia is straightforward. Dubrovnik has a smallish airport so you might consider booking tickets into other cities along the coast such as Split (which itself boasts some GoT locations). Once you arrive in Dubrovnik start your tour in the historic walled city, this is where you will truly get a feeling for King’s Landing. Imagine the terror residents would have felt as you navigate the narrow streets picturing Daenarys circling overhead with her dragons raining down fire. Thankfully such a fate will not befall you. While you’re in the old town, be sure to visit Dubrovnik Cathedral, which has a magnificent alter display and murals.
2. Šibenik, Croatia (Braavos)
Dubrovnik isn’t Croatia’s only Game of Thrones claim to fame. If you spend any time here, you’ll quickly realize why the Dalmatian Coast is such a favored location among cinematographers. Like Dubrovnik, Šibenik doesn’t disappoint. In fact, GoT fans hoping avoid the crowds while still scratching their fandom itch would do well to head for Šibenik. Though not as prominent a filming location, the city nevertheless has plenty to offer. As the principle location for the scenes set in Braavos, Šibenik made its appearance well into the show’s run. Start northwest of the train station where you can wander the town streets and narrow alleyways. Navigate the maze to reach the Cathedral of Saint James. Completed in 1536, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Fans will recognize it as the setting for The Iron Bank, the most powerful financial institution in the Nine Free Cities. Imagine venturing here to meet with Tycho Nestoris as you look to secure some relief from the crown’s enormous debt burden. Šibenik is also home to St. Nicholas Fortress, another UNESCO World Heritage Site that formed part of the historic Venetian Works of Defense. This is a great place to visit before you travel to the nearby Kornati Islands or Krka National Park.
3. Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, UK (Road from King’s Landing)
Long an ethereal location, the ominous and foreboding Dark Hedges lie in the middle of the magnificent Northern Irish countryside. It is here you will find the solitary Bregagh Road, which cuts through emerald green farmland to either side. Lining the road are enormous 18th century beech trees, densely packed so that over the years they’ve grown intertwined into a thick mass of tangled branches. Add a little fog and some mood lighting and you’ve got yourself a location! Walk in the footsteps of Arya Stark as she escaped from King's Landing through this thicket. To arrive here your best bet is to venture up from Belfast. It’s about 45 minutes from Belfast International Airport, or a tad longer if you’re coming from the city center. The countryside is well worth seeing and filled with charming Irish villages. Spend some time on the roads getting to know the rolling hills and fertile soils. Rail links are available to Coleraine, which is only about 20 minutes by car. Partisans for Theon Greyjoy and the House of Greyjoy can also head north on Ballinlea Road to Ballintoy Harbour where you will find filming locations for the Iron Islands. Make it a Game of Thrones weekend in Northern Ireland!
4. Doune, Scotland, UK (Winterfell)
Ok confess, you may have secretly wanted Daenarys to claim the Iron Throne; but in the end you knew that wasn’t going to happen so you felt loyal to Jon Snow. No matter how you slice it, House Stark was a major player in Game of Thrones. One of the film locations and inspiration for the Stark stronghold at Winterfell is Doune Castle in Scotland. Located roughly an hour from central Edinburgh, Doune Castle has stood since at least the 15th century. Once you’ve arrived in Doune, make for the castle set along the River Teith. The castle grounds are great for photos and you might catch a cosplayer or two skulking around. If you happen to be of a particular generation, you’ll probably recognize Doune Castle from elsewhere. That’s because it was also the stand-in for nearly all the castle shots in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Once you’ve toured the castle and grounds, venture back into Doune. This quint Scottish village is a great place for a stroll. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into a Britain of yesteryear. Finally, a bit up river from Doune Castle is Deanston Distillery, which produces a well-regarded line of Scotch Whiskies. It’s a great way to end your visit to the cold lands of Winterfell.
5. Vik, Iceland (Fist of the First Men)
If you ask us, it’s a little too on the nose to have shot the lands beyond The Wall in Iceland; but then again, it’s easy to understand why the country captured the production team’s imagination. We’re not giving anything away to say the entire Game of Thrones basically revolves around the conflict with the White Walkers. Some of the most memorable moments involve the Night's Watch defense and those who protect Winterfell in the north. To capture these memorable landscapes, the GoT production team used the otherworldly scenery on display in Iceland. The country’s geothermal activity results in volcanoes and hot springs aplenty. Set against the backdrop of Arctic tundra, it’s a mesmerizingly beautiful place. The best way to get here is unsurprisingly via Reykjavik. Roughly two and a half hours by car, Vik is a tiny town on Iceland’s southern coast. The drive out is spectacular so snap some photos along the way. To get up to the hiking areas at Höfðabrekkuheiði and the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, you will do better with the help of a local tour operator. There are several adventure tour outfits in Vik so find one that works for you and link up with a group. After all, you don’t want to wander into the lands beyond the Wall on your own!
6. Skógafoss, Iceland (Daenarys and Jon Snow beyond the Wall)
When the eighth season opened after nearly two years away, fans were ecstatic to travel back to Westeros. In one of the opening episode’s more memorable sequences, Daenarys and Jon Snow catch a lift with the dragons. When they touch down north of the Wall after a bit of aerial reconnaissance, our heroes are framed by a massive waterfall. This is Skógafoss, located in Southern Iceland approximately two hours by car from Reykjavik. As one of Iceland’s most-visited waterfalls, it is not hard to find transportation to the area. Skógar, the town where the waterfall is located, is naught more than a dozen or so buildings; but these include a café and a museum so you’ll have a few things to see besides falling water. As one would expect, the designers and production teams digitally altered and enhanced Skógafoss, meaning the actual landscape isn’t a spitting image of what you see onscreen. Nevertheless, it’s well worth the journey from Reykjavik. Build in some time to do a little hiking or exploring. There is a small network of trails and this is a great place to stretch your legs if you’re venturing further towards Vik. Make Skógafoss another stop on your Icelandic Games of Thrones tour.
7. Þingvellir National Park, Iceland (The Bloody Gate)
Look, given the Game of Thrones novels are called A Song of Ice and Fire, is it any surprise Iceland, the real land of ice and fire, would feature prominently? For our final Iceland-based film location, we’re highlighting Þingvellir National Park. The park appeared in several places throughout the series, but is likely most recognizable as the location of the Bloody Gate. There’s a lot to explore in Þingvellir National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The canyon near Oxararfoss was used for scenes at the Bloody Gate, so make a point to visit this section of the park. The area is impressive on its own as it’s where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. The massive geological forces unleased by these moving chunks of Earth’s crust are what power Iceland’s geothermal activity. This is one of the few places where you can actually explore plate boundaries on land. Another fascinating attraction in the park is the Þingvellir Church. Known as the birthplace of Icelandic democracy, this is where the parliamentary general assembly met between 930 CE and 1798. The current church structure dates to 1859 and is one of those special places you don’t want to overlook.
8. Alcázar of Seville, Spain (Water Gardens of Dorne)
From the frozen north to the very south of Westeros we now travel. Early in Season 5 we get our first look at the Water Gardens of Dorne. Ruled by House Martell, the Water Gardens were a princely retreat along Westeros’ far southern coast. To achieve the Mediterranean look, the Game of Thrones production teams turned to the Alcázar of Seville. The former royal palace was built by Castilian Christians after the Christian conquest of Seville wrested control of the region from the Abbadid dynasty. Today the Alcázar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and celebrated as one of the finest examples of Mudéjar architecture in the world. You will recognize the Ambassadors’ Hall with its incredible colored plasterwork dating back to the 14th century. Mercury’s Pool and the Grotto Gallery are also sections you won’t want to miss. Given its history, there’s much to see in Seville. Don’t limit yourself just to the Alcázar. Wander through the narrow streets of the old town and venture past Seville Cathedral as well as the Plaza de España. See the famed Tower of Gold and pay a visit to the Flamenco Museum. Seville is a wonderful destination made all the more so by its connection to Game of Thrones.
9. Zumaia, Spain (Dragonstone)
When Daenerys finally returned to Westeros in Season 7, she came ashore at Dragonstone in Blackwater Bay. The slanted rock faces made impressive backdrops and are easy to reach. The northern Spanish town of Zumaia is located on the Bay of Biscay not far from the border with France. Traveling here is easiest from nearby Bilbao, the capital of Spain’s Basque region. Once you arrive, take a look around before heading to the beach. The seaside town is small and retains its local charm despite have garnered a fair bit of international fame. A few roads and walking paths lace the bluffs and make great vantage points for photos overlooking the water and coves below. It’s not hard to find locals relaxing on the beach so bring your beach blanket. Depending on your schedule, you can opt to day trip out from Bilbao or look for a place to stay in one of the many communities along the coast. There is a lot to enjoy in Basque Country so you won’t be short on things to do. Art lovers will want to make sure to visit the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. As the place where Daenerys return to Westeros was a watershed moment in the series, so Zumaia is definitely a place to add to your Game of Thrones travel bucket list.
10. Aït Benhaddou, Morocco (Slaver’s Bay)
Slaver’s Bay, as fans know, was the region on Essos conquered by Daenarys early in the series. The novels depicted the cities Astapor and Meereen as built from brick. When Daenarys succeeds in liberating the slaves held in service by the Wise Masters, she is venerated as a hero. Who can forget the imagines of her being carried aloft in front of the city gates? If these iconic scenes made you stir, you can visit the film location in Morocco’s Aït Benhaddou. A historic fortified city along ancient trading routes, the iconic mud brick structures found here have featured in numerous films including The Mummy, Gladiator, and Babel. With their distinctive appearance, the structures in Aït Benhaddou rank among the most Instagrammed Game of Thrones film locations. Your best travel plans are to venture from Marrakech. There are a smattering of hotels and other accommodations in Aït Benhaddou so you may find it easier to spend the night and enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace. The traders today selling souvenirs to tourists harken back to the days when caravans plied these routes ferrying goods from great African civilizations in the south up to the Mediterranean seaports. If you were one of the many Daenarys fans (and who wasn’t until she burned down King’s Landing?) you will get the thrill of a lifetime in Morocco. It’s as if her lands have come to life before your eyes.
The Games of Thrones TV adaption may have ended, but we’re all still anxiously awaiting George R. R. Martin to finish the final novel. As a worldwide sensation, the story has succeeded in cutting across boundaries and bridging divides. Diehard fans and travel aficionados will find the destinations we’ve compiled in this guide irresistible. You don’t have to wait for the director’s cut to hit store shelves to revisit your favorite moments from the series. Pack your bags and set out for Westeros yourself. These are the top-1o best Game of Thrones film locations to visit in 2019!