Game of Thrones (2011) is one of the most elaborate productions ever conceived for television. Filming takes its team all over the world, operating multiple units (aptly dubbed names like Dragon, Wolf, and Raven) which shoot in tandem using over 1,000 total cast and crew members. While the series is no stranger to using CGI to enhance its sets and locations, the series’ scouts have found a tremendous number of beautiful real-world places to stand in as the rich locales of George Martin’s sprawling universe of Westeros.
King’s Landing has been represented by the walled city of Dubrovnik since the show’s second season (season one utilized Malta, but King’s Landing needed to be located to a coastal city for the Blackwater battle in season two). Located on the Adriatic sea in Croatia, Dubrovnik is actually one of the Mediterranean’s most popular tourist destinations, and not just because of the series. Covered in walls and castle-like stone architecture, and full of lush natural surroundings, the city fits perfectly with the image of King’s Landing. Dubrovnik, as well as nearby island Lokrum (10 minutes off Dubrovnik’s coast by boat) also stood as the primary filming location the series’ scenes in Qarth.
Minceta Tower, Dubrovnik
Minceta Tower, a construct along Dubrovnik’s walls, became the House of the Undying. (It seems Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys has been to King’s Landing after all).
Lovrijenac Fortress, Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik has one additional contribution – Lovrijenac Fortress, a small castle perched atop a high rock on the shore outside the city’s walls. This is the location of The Red Keep, the pulse of King’s Landing, and has been used as such since production shifted from Malta in season two.
Doune Castle, Scotland
Winterfell scenes were filmed at Doune Castle in Stirling, Scotland, largely in the show’s first season. The real castle is quite a bit smaller than Winterfell is imagined on-screen, but the magic of cinematography gives it greater expanse. Doune Castle was also recently used as Leoch Castle in the Outlander (2014) series, as well as many iconic scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), including those involving the Trojan Rabbit.
Castle Ward, Ireland
Castle Ward, an 18th-century National Trust property in Strangford, Ireland, served as the exterior courtyard of Winterfell. The castle boasts 820 acres of land and features Gothic architecture and woodlands that aptly feel like the North, especially after a little green-sceen enhancement.
The city of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Morocco is an ancient, mostly abandoned fortification noted for its clay architecture. In addition to being used by Game of Thrones as a stand-in for Yunkai and Pentos, the town has seen the filming of Prince of Persia (2010), Babel (2006), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Gladiator (2000), The Mummy (1999), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and many notable titles.
The Alcázar of Seville
The palatial home of the Martells of Dorne is The Alcázar of Seville, a royal palace in Seville, Spain, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. Its immense gardens and stunning Spanish architecture are perfectly suited to the elaborate descriptions of Dorne and its inhabitants.
As iconic as they are on the series, Castle Black and Hardhome are both artificial sets and are not filmed at real castles. Bits of each have been filmed at Magheramorne Quarry in Ireland, but the majority of the locations’ filming is set-based.
Beyond the architecture, Game of Thrones uses many areas of great natural scenic beauty, including Dimmuborgir, an Icelandic lava field which native folk legend tells is home to homicidal trolls, and Grjótagjá, a lava cave and natural spring in Iceland where John Snow (Kit Harrington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) first break John’s oath to the Night’s Watch.
The Vatnajökull Mountains, Iceland
The Vatnajökull mountains in southeast Iceland make for a perfect “north of the wall” home to the White Walkers, and the 50-meter high limestone rock arch called The Azure Window, located in the Maltese Island of Gozo, was the site of Daenerys and Drogo’s (Jason Momoa) wedding.
The Azure Window, Gozo
Clearly, not only do the cast and crew of Game of Thrones get the opportunity to work on one of television’s biggest shows, but they get to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world.