I’ve got to be honest with you – I am still absolutely buzzing after that episode. You know the one I’m talking about! Season 7 has arrived in a big way, bringing with it plenty of new and incredible destinations to serve as the backdrop for cities and kingdoms of all shapes and sizes. Granted, we’re early days yet when it comes to season 7! But we’ve already seen some fabulous places already.
The creative team at Game of Thrones are absolutely amazing at scouting locations. Pretty much every single one of them has some sort of defining feature that makes them so iconic. Whether it’s an unusual geographic feature or beautiful architecture that manages to whisk you away to times gone by, I’ve gone and picked out some of my absolute favourite Game of Thrones filming locations of all time! Be warned: massive spoiler alert!
Winter is here – my top Game of Thrones shooting locations!
Let’s start with one of the new shooting locations to recently feature in season 7! This is the beautiful cobblestone footbridge at Gaztelugatxe, a beautiful coastal location on the Biscay coast in the Basque Country, Northern Spain. They featured as the steps that lead up to the top of Dragonstone, the ancestral home of Targaryens.
Itzurun Beach, Zumaia, Basque Country
Another location that featured in one of the more recent episodes of season 7, you’ll instantly recognise the distinctive parallel strata of rock that seem to rise out of the earth at strange angles. The rocks also hide plenty of caves and coves as well – as we saw when Jon Snow showed Daenerys the ancient cave paintings. The rock strata themselveseven served as the inspiration for Daenerys’ new throne at Dragonstone.
Medieval Quarter, Girona, Catalonia
The medieval winding streets and the Moorish baths of Girona’s old town served as the backdrop to Braavos, one of the Free Cities. It was heavily featured in season 6 – we saw a bedraggled Arya Stark begging out on the narrow, labyrinthine streets, and the city’s cathedral even stood in for King’s Landing as Jaime Lannister had his little tiff with the High Sparrow.
Castillo de Almodóvar del Rio, Cordoba
Another new shooting location to feature in season 7, the picture-perfect castle of Almodóvar del Rio perched up on the hill served as the seat of House Tyrell, Highgarden. The castle, with is distinctively pointy crenellations and square towers can actually trace its origins to Moorish times.
Alcazar, Seville, Andalusia
The Alcazar of Seville is one of the most beautiful structures in Europe. Its ornate Moorish architecture, intricately landscaped gardens and hidden pools and fountains couldn’t have been a better choice to represent Dorne and the residence of House Martell, the Water Gardens.
Peñiscola, Valencian Community
On the eastern coast, just a short drive from the city of Valencia, is the wonderful seaside town of Peñiscola, with a gorgeous peninsula crowned with a castle, walls and tightly-packed houses. Many of the city’s fortifications were the sites of scenes set in Meereen, one of the major city states in Essos.
Las Bardenas Reales, Navarre
Probably one of the most otherworldly places in all of Spain would go one to serve as the perfect setting for the Dothraki Sea in season 6. Looking at this region of badlands, you’d almost think you were somewhere like Nevada! The constant erosion provided by the desert winds and water have resulted in surreal geographical shapes and features.
One of the Mediterranean Sea’s most popular and famous destinations, the venerable city of Dubrovnik features one of the best-preserved Old Towns in the whole world. The white, roughly-hewed sandstone walls, the orange terracotta roofs and the lovely sunshine made it an obvious choice to serve as King’s Landing, the greatest city in the Seven Kingdoms.
Dubrovnik isn’t the only coastal city in Croatia to be blessed with a wealth of historic sights. The iconic arches and spires of the Diocletian’s Palace date back to the Roman times and its extensive network of underground chambers, rooms and tunnels are very well preserved. You’ll recognise them as the place where the dragons received their training.
The Dalmatian city of Sibenik also lent itself as a shooting location for the Free City of Braavos – you’ll recognise the view from Banj Beach quite easily as the scene where Arya Stark is slowly rowed into the harbour.
Krka National Park, Dalmatia
While it is more of a ‘general’ shooting location, this place has to make the list purely because it’s easily one of the most beautiful places in Croatia – not to be missed, in other words! The intricate networks of waterfalls, crystal clear ponds and lush forests were featured in many generic countryside shots.
Aït Ben-Haddou, Drâa-Tafilalet Region
This ancient fortress village – or ksar – looks like it’s been plucked straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights. It’s already featured in a ridiculous amount of films and was used as the location for the slaver city of Yunkai that Daenerys razed to the ground. Fun fact: 4 families still live in the ancient ksar of Aït Ben-Haddou to this day!
Essaouira, Marrakech-Safi Region
The infamous red city of Astapor, one of the major city states of Slaver’s Bay and the home of the Unsullied, is actually a lot more chill in real life! Essaouria, perched on the rocky beaches of the Atlantic Coast, is famous for being a hippy hang-out. Even Jimi Hendrix visited in the 60s – he’s a bit of a local icon!
Þingvellir National Park, Southern Region
Þingvellir National Park is one of Iceland’s most famous regions – the sheer abundance of incredible volcanic landscapes so close to Reykjavík makes it a perfect choice for travellers looking to get a fist taste of the land of ice and fire. The cold, windswept landscapes were a perfect way of conveying the Eyrie.
Höfðabrekka, Southern Region
Not wanting to resort to CGI to create the jagged, hostile peaks of the northern landscapes of Westeros, the filming crews directed their attention to Iceland, where they chose Höfðabrekka to represent the unforgiving peaks of the Frostfang Mountains.
When picking a location to stand in for what lies north of the Wall, you want somewhere that looks harsh, majestic – and almost a bit otherworldly. The filming crews found their answer in Vatnajökull National Park, the largest glacier in Europe whose sprawling ice sheets and bare rock faces immediately transport you to the hostile lands beyond the Wall…
Northern Ireland & Scotland
Mussenden Temple, Co. Derry
You don’t need to travel far to see some of the most iconic and frequently-used shooting locations in Game of Thrones! One of my absolute favourites is the beautiful Mussenden Temple, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Downhill Strand. Such a romantic place… And you can actually have weddings there too – the temple got a licence to host civil wedding ceremonies a few years back. Could be a good idea! ;)
Doune Castle, Stirlingshire
Another great location is just a short hop away in Scotland. Doune Castle, nestled away in the forests close to Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, was one of several castles that stood in for Winterfell – and you might even recognise Doune from other programmes like Outlander!
Dark Hedges, Co. Antrim
This is by far one of the most famous and most visited shooting locations in Northern Ireland. The spindly trunks and intertwined branches are instantly recognisable from the scenes of Arya Stark’s escape along the Kingsroad. Of the 150 original beech trees planted in 1775, around 90 remain.
Murlough Bay, Co. Antrim
Antrim is absolutely spoilt when it comes to beautiful coastlines! The cliffs of Murlough Bay and the surrounding area were often used as the backdrop to the Iron Islands – you’ll more than likely recognise the bay from when Theon and Yara Greyjoy ride to Pyke.
This is by no means all of the locations, but it’s pretty incredible to see how the location scouts for Game of Thrones have really outdone themselves! And to have so many of them pretty close to home… Not bad if you ask me! ;)
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