Hit series Game of Thrones features many spectacular sights in the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos; centuries old towns, tall mountains, rivers and seas – to mention just some. But have you ever wondered where these shots were actually filmed? You may not be surprised to hear that many were filmed in Croatia, a country with locations so beautiful and diverse that helped bring fantasy into life. When Game of Thrones film crews come to Croatia, it’s for one of the following locations.
The second largest city in Croatia and the center of the region of Dalmatia is a Mediterranean paradise visited by tens of thousands of tourist each year, but in Game of Thrones it serves as the once-slaver city of Meeren, now conquered by the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen. Its marble streets, the Roman Diocletian’s Palace, and a large number of antique buildings made it a logical choice for the seat of queen Daenerys. But Meereen is actually portrayed by several real-world locations, which brings us to our next topic – Klis.
Fortress Eastwards of Split lies the village of Klis, and looming on the hill above the village is the Klis Fortress. It was a medieval castle and a seat of several Croatian kings, and it was further expanded (and renovated so many times no one knows how it originally looked like) during the Ottoman conquests of Europe. In those times it witnessed many battles between Croats and Turks, being conquered by the one side, and then reclaimed by the other several times. It is only fitting that place of such a rich history be given a role in this epic fantasy saga.
The pearl of the Adriatic is an important Game of Thrones filming location ever since the first season. It is primarily used to depict the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, King’s Landing; Dubrovnik’s iconic walls, stone architecture and proximity to the sea obviously charmed the showrunners. Several other famous scenes were also filmed there, such as Danaerys’ visit to the House of the Undying. In fact, the wider area of Dubrovnik has many locations which appear in the show, and tourist routes exploring those have become pretty popular. Since most of these locations can be reached by boat, people often rent a yacht or a similar vessel and embark on a little Adriatic sailing adventure, visiting all GoT filming locations in the process. The practice has actually become so popular that the map with locations can be found on the website of the Dubrovnik Tourist Board!
Dubrovnik This awe-inspiring fortress portrays the infamous Red Keep. Nicknamed “the Gibraltar of Dubrovnik” it’s a symbol of freedom for the people of Dubrovnik in their historical struggle against Venetian rule; in the 11th century, the Venetians tried to build a fortress of their own on the same site where the Lovrijenac is today. Had they managed to do so, Dubrovnik would have remained under their power. But the city’s inhabitants were faster and built a fortress of their own in just three months. Its impressive walls and cannons thus perfectly depict the castle of Red Keep, the seat of the king of the Seven Kingdoms.
Ston is a small town with no more than three thousand inhabitants; its past is closely tied to the past of Dubrovnik, as Ston was once under Dubrovnik rule. The town was (and still is) known for its salt pans, and, as salt was once a valuable commodity, as series of defensive stone walls were built around Ston to protect it from invaders. These were more than seven kilometers long, which makes them the longest walls in Europe and the second largest in the world – behind the Great Wall of China, of course. That’s why the walls of Ston are sometimes jokingly referred to as the “European Chinese Wall). Ston was used for numerous outdoor locations, most notably for King’s Landing scenes, but for some of the Eyrie as well.
Only a few hundred meters south of Dubrovnik lies Lokrum, once an island of Dubrovnik nobility who used to spend their summers enjoying its nature and beaches. It also has an 11th century Benedictine Monastery, which was used to film a lot of indoor scenes, but Lokrum primarily served as the city of Qarth. The island was once a place of peace and quiet (no cars are allowed), but that changed after the series aired and it gained international fame. Now, the previously mentioned yacht tourists often sail the waters of the island or explore the monastery.
Šibenik is one of the oldest towns in Croatia. In Game of Thrones, it depicts the ancient city of Braavos, a powerful coastal city and home of the Faceless Men. The St. James Cathedral, the town’s main sight, is four hundred years old and is built entirely of limestone; it even found its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In the show, it’s the headquarters of the influential Iron Bank. The famous naked walk Cersei took in season six was mostly filmed in Šibenik, in a scene which attracted an unparalleled amount of attention by locals and the press alike.
Krka National Park
The River Krka is known for its natural beauties, clear water, and a large number of animal and plant species. It was a popular destination years before the show even aired, but being in Game of Thrones did it no harm. The river and its surroundings were used to portray the various landscapes of Westeros for all six seasons of the show. Although the locations for season 7 have not yet been confirmed, it’s pretty clear that Croatia is going to be a vital part of Game of Thrones in the next year as well; it’s hard to imagine George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world without its famous locations such as King’s Landing or the Red Keep, so beautifully portrayed by the cities, towns and historical landmarks of Croatia.