One of the most popular TV shows of our time is Game of Thrones. Its unpredictable and scandalous storyline, outrageous characters, and stunning scenery have captivated audiences the world over. Considering the effect Lord of the Rings has had on New Zealand, it should come as no surprise that fans are now flocking to famous Game of Thrones film sites across Europe. If you’re a fan, here’s the low down on the must visit destinations.
The majority of the show is filmed in Northern Ireland, and you’ll instantly notice the landscape of Westeros and the Seven Kingdoms. Belfast is the main city in Northern Ireland and Game of Thrones aside for a moment, it has some great attractions such as the new Titanic Belfast where you can learn all about the Titanic (which was built here) and her notorious maiden sailing across the Atlantic.
But back to Game of Thrones now. Just south of Belfast is Strangford Lough and Castle Ward which were used in many of the scenes of Winterfell. A little further down the road is Inch Abbey where Hoster Tully’s funeral was filmed, and Tollymore Forest Park, the site of the famous scene where the three Night’s Watchmen encountered the White Walker.
North of Belfast you’ll drive through Shillanavogy Valley, aka the Dothraki Grasslands, and onto the famous Dark Hedges where ancient crooked trees enclose Kings Road, the setting of many ambush scenes. The coastal road between here and the city of Derry is home to many scenes including Dragonstone, the Iron Islands, Cushendun Caves (where the Shadow Baby was born) and Murlough Bay where a certain scene involving Theon, Yara and a horse took place. Of course, while you’re up here, a visit to the World Heritage listed Giant’s Causeway is a must, as well as many other sights along the way.
Kings Landing is the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms and home to the Lannisters. For the infrastructure required, the city scenes were filmed in the historic cities of Mdina, Malta and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Only the first season was filmed in Mdina, so Dubrovnik will be the more recognisable of the two.
The beautiful World Heritage listed city of Dubrovnik has long been a destination in itself, but now Game of Thrones fans can explore the historic buildings, walk the cobbled alleyways and climb the city walls on dedicated day tours. A highlight is a visit to Lovrijenac Fortress, home of the notorious King Joffrey. North of the city is Trsteno Arboretum which was used as the palace gardens, complete with stunning views over the Adriatic. And south of the city is Marken Island, the setting of Qarth.
It’s not hard to guess which scenes were filmed in Iceland, they are of course, the scenes ‘behind the wall’. Most of the scenes here were filmed in Vatnajökull National Park, a huge park which covers approximately 13% of Iceland. Here you’ll witness the battle between fire and ice as active volcanoes and massive glaciers carve up the landscape.
Another site was Lake Mývatn, a crater studded lake in the north of the country. The scenes in Iceland were shot in winter, but much of the snow covered mountains and all glaciers are able to be seen in summer, the preferable season to visit.