Dubrovnik- The Game of Thrones Tour blog
Dubrovnik is an old city on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia, but in Game of Thrones terms, it represents the city of Kings Landing., home of the reigning monarchs. While Kings Landing was based in Malta for series one, Logistical and cultural differences mean't the production needed to look elsewhere for an old medieval city to represent Kings Landing for Season 2.
The location scouts struck gold when they found Dubrovnik, an old walled city which, upon visiting, you can envision is something straight out of one of George R.R. Martin's novels. It backs onto the sea, has stunning bays, narrow streets, old forts and everything else needed to make a strong medieval fortification. Despite this, Dubrovnik and the surrounding area doubles for so much more than just Kings Landing, with many elements of Danaerys Targaryen's storyline's filmed locally.
When planning the trip, it had become obvious that in Game of Thrones terms, there literally dozens of filming locations either inside the city walls, or nearby. The traditional tours normally take in just a few locations around the Centre of Dubrovnik, but as we had a whole week inside the city walls we decided to dedicate a couple of days to exploring the locations from the show.
For our first night in Dubrovnik, we had a meal in one of the many excellent fish restraunts, then went on a stroll around the city at night. Dubrovnik at night is a beautiful place, with just the right mix of vibrancy and intimacy that makes you feel right at home straight away.
It was here we got the first taste of the Game of Thrones Dubrovnik experience, stumbling across the location where Myrcella leaves for Dorne in Season 2. This is also where they filmed a deleted Scene between Tywin and Pycelle It overlooks a small cove, which was supposed to represent the Blackwater Bay on the TV show( even though the actual battle scene was filmed in Northern Ireland)
That's the beauty of locations in Dubrovnik, many are very easily accessible and visible from the street. However to fully experience and immerse yourself in the culture and the history of the city, it helps to have a local influence, and thus we booked a Game of Thrones tour with a local guide.
Our guide was Tom (http://www.tourthegameofthrones.com) , a Dubrovnik local and history teacher who was also a fan of the show and very fluent in English. As the tour progressed , he would interchange between talking about Game of Thrones and real-life Dubrovnik and it's landmarks. This was an excellent way to understand the history of the city, which is varied to say the least. As we had booked a day trip, we also managed to get out into the wider area around Dubrovnik.
The first location we visited on the tour was the main entrance to Dubrovnik Old Town, the Pile Gate. This area has been used a number of times in Game of Thrones, namely when Jamie and Brienne return to Kings Landing and also for the Kings Landing Riot. Dubrovnik old town has a number of entrances to the old town, but I found this to be the most interesting and impressive.
Following this, we went to the beach we visited the previous night and then visited the Pier where Littlefinger and Sansa discuss leaving Kings Landing. There was certainly very little CGI required here, as its a naturally beautiful location, but of course they had to move the local fishing boats and Kayaks!
Next to the pier, is the location where they filmed the drowning of Robert Baratheon's bastard children back in Season 2.
After this , we visited Fort Lovrijenac (Fort of St. Lawrence) whjich is located on a high cliff above the main city. This has some of the best views in Dubrovnik of the Adriatic, and you can certainly see why this was a key defensive position for defending the city in the past. This location was used for a number of scenes in Season 2, but namely for Joffrey's nameday celebrations in the first episode that season
The fort was certainly one of the most impressive locations of the day, but I was eager to get to the next location which was the location of the Purple Wedding, and Joffrey's demise. This is the sort of location where a guide comes in handy, as its simply a park a few minutes outside the city. The area was decorated lavishly for the filming of the scenes, which hold infamy for having the most main cast members on screen in the same place. I like to obtain props and other screen used items when travelling where possible, and here we were able to obtain some of the red gravel that was used on the canvas of the floor during the wedding reception.
Next up we walked the city walls, which is a task in itself, battling the sheer number of tourists and the midday sun. We visited the Minceta Tower , which is represents the exterior of the House of the Undying in Season 2, where Danerys goes to retreive her dragons from the Warlocks. Other locations on the wall include Fort Bokar, where Varys and Tyrion discuss the defence of Kings Landing in Season 2. This tower, dating organisally from the 1300's, is the highest point on the walls and thus offers fantastic views of both the city and the ocean.
After this we visited the location where we first meet Oberyn Martell in season 4. On -screen, Oberyn visits a local brothel and upon leaving has a confrontation with Tyrion Lannister. In real-life the exterior of the brothel is actually the entrance to a local museum, something I found slightly ironic due to their respective contents on and off screen.
After lunch, we then left Dubrovnik for the second half our tour away from the old town. We took the 15 mile trip to Tresteno, which houses an Arboretum where the main garden scenes for Kings Landing are filmed. This is where having a guide compares particularly useful, as there were dozens of filming locations around the Gardens which we would never have found without local specialist knowledge.
Tom certainly earned his money here, as I'd asked him via email to help find me a location spot from an episode the previous week where Jamie and Bronn meet for the first time and have their first sword lesson . Tom accordingly obliged and took us to the filming spot, which again is right on the coast and has amazing views across to the nearby islands.
There are too many filming locations around Tresteno to write about in depth here, but I have included my favourites below:
After this, we returned to Dubrovnik to visit my most anticipated filming location, the Hotel Belvedere which on the show would represent the area where Oberyn and the Mountain have their fight to the death. The hotel is currently abandoned and is used a local bathing spot and skating park. In a lesser known fact, the top end of the car park has also been Game of Thrones production base where they are in Dubrovnik. Even in its derelict state there is a certain charm to it. It was a defensive location during the War in the early 90's,as our Taxi Driver explained when he noted that he had fought from there in the conflict
As the area is a hangout for the local youth, I was hoping the main auditorum area would be empty in order to get some good photos. We certainly had luck on our side, as the area was completly empty as we arrived in the early evening. We managed to obtain some fantastic photos of the location as the sun was starting to set:
With that, our 12 Hour Game of Thrones tour with Tom was over. But our Game of Thrones experience was by no means over!
The next day we visited Lokrum, which is one of the dozens of Island off the Dalmation coast. This Island is accessible by boat from Dubrovnik, although you are not allowed to spend the night on the island due to a local by-law. The island is a nature reserve and frequented by a large number of peacocks!
One of The main features of the island is an old monastery which was used for filming in Season 2 of Danerys Targaryen's Qarth storyline. Here, Danerys meet's the people of Qarth, and starts her journey to the house of the undying to find her dragons.
The island was a refreshing change from the busy Dubrovnik streets, we walked up to the highest point of the island which is called Fort Royal Castle, built by the French in the 1800's. During the mile or so walk, we barely saw a soul. Here, right at the top of the island, we found a filming location ( where Danerys, her bloodrider and Jorah walk towards the house of the undying) but could not fathom, given the inhospitable terrain, just how much effort must have gone in to getting the production equipment up there for the sake of a 20 second clip.
After this, we returned to the centre of Dubrovnik to visit the Rektor's Palace, which represents the Spice Kings Palace in Season 2.
This concluded the Game of Thrones section of our Trip. Dubrovnik was a fantastic host, great views, a wide variety of activities and some of the finest seafood in the world! If you're a Game of Thrones fan, Dubrovnik is a must visit, but even if you're not , there is enough history and culture here to make it a fascinating place to visit.
Without Game of Thrones, I doubt I would have ever visited Dubrovnik. That, in essense, is why I am so grateful to the show, for being able to show case these locations to the fans and giving us the opportunity to explore the real life places showcased on screen.
If you enjoyed this, please visit my other reviews of Northern Ireland and Spanish filming locations.