Based on the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R. R. Martin, the fantasy series Game of Thrones was a worldwide sensation, drawing in millions of viewers each season. It is one of HBO’s most-watched titles, only to be surpassed by its prequel series House of the Dragon. Game of Thrones lasted for eight seasons, and according to a Forbes article, during that time, the viewer count went from 9.3 million in season one to 46 million during the final season. And that is only through official channels, that doesn’t account for the people who illegally streamed it online.
When the creators of the show were filming, though there were a lot of the scenes that were done on a set, there was also a significant amount that was filmed on location and no expense was spared, as the crew went globetrotting across the world to make sure they had the perfect location to use. During the first season, in addition to Northern Ireland, Malta was frequently used as a shooting location. Afterwards, though, other countries started appearing more frequently. One of them would go on to become the mecca of Game of Thrones fans. The next destination in our Game of Thrones locations series is probably the one best associated with the show: Croatia. Also, spoilers for the show, so if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones yet, you should watch it first.
This is the next entry for our Game of Thrones locations tour. Feel free to have a look at the other ones in Northern Ireland, Spain and Morocco, Malta and Greece, and Iceland to explore this world of Fire and Ice.
Out of all the countries made famous by Game of Thrones, none have felt it more than Croatia. Located in the northwest of the Balkan peninsula, this relatively small European country has been frequently used for filming ever since season two, usually depicting the Westeros capital of King’s Landing. Most of the locations were either in the Southern city of Dubrovnik or Croatia’s largest coastal city of Split. If there are two locations that any Game of Thrones fan has to visit, it is both Northern Ireland and Croatia for just how frequently they were used throughout filming.
It’s not just the fact that it featured in the hit TV show that makes Croatia such an ideal destination to visit. If you’re coming here straight from Iceland, you can ditch the thick layers as its location means it gets pretty warm. From crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and sailing to learning about the different history that has been influenced by Roman, Greek, Slavic, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian cultures, there are many reasons why you should make this country your next travel destination - especially if you’re a Game of Thrones fan.
Know Before You Go
The best way to get to Croatia is by airplane. There are five main international airports which take in flights - The Croatian capital of Zagreb, Pula, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik, with Split being the busiest airport in the country.
Another way you can get to Croatia is by ferry, thanks to its long coastline on the eastern border. The main international ferry ports are Pula, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. You can also take the train through mainland Europe.
Due to many of the attractions being in cities, a good option for a Game of Thrones fan to travel is the bus. Buses are fairly reliable and affordable in Croatia. However, keep an eye on the different bus companies that operate here, as there are national ones like Croatia Bus and local ones like Promet Split in the Split region. They also operate seasonally, with it being a good idea to book in advance between July and August while things quiet down more during November and March. You can travel by train, but they aren’t as far reaching as buses are. The Visit Croatia website have some tips on how to travel by bus here.
Driving in Croatia is the most comfortable way to get around. Many places are only within a couple of hours from each other, with exception of the the road to Dubrovnik, but this is also one of the most beautiful drives in the country. To rent a car in Croatia, you need to be at least 21 years old and have held a driving license for two years. You also drive on the right hand side.
As previously mentioned, Croatia can get hot. Its position along the mediterranean mans that the summers are sunny and warm, while the winters are mild and cold. The best time to visit is during the summer between July and August. However, spring can also be pleasantly warm and a bit more quiet starting Apirl. Winters can get chilly, with temperatures in January occasionally going below freezing.
As of 2023, the currency of Croatia is the Euro. Larger towns have establishments that will accept cards. However, if you plan to do a bit of island hopping during your trip, some places here don’t accept card so it’s a good idea to carry money on you.
The first place to visit is the city of Dubrovnik. Since the second season, this city was used as the set for King’s Landing. Game of Thrones filming here has such an impact on tourism here that there is even a King’s Landing Dubrovnik website, compiled by enthusiasts of the show. You don’t need me to tell you all the scenes that were filmed here - you can see for yourself via this link. While most of it was shot in Dubrovnik Old Town - which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 - particular locations here include:
- The Jesuit Staircase - the Baroque-styled staircase featured during Cersei Lannister’s walk of shame in season five.
- St. Dominic Street - This was usually where the market scenes of King’s Landing were fimed, starting from the Gold Cloaks killing the illegitimate children of Robert Baratheon in season two.
- Ethnographic Museum Rupe - This replaced the mesquita square as the exterior of Littlefinger’s brothel, first showing in season four when Tyrion and Oberyn have a discussion.
- Ploče Gate - Built in the Romanesque style during the late 14th century, this gate and stone bridge scts as a gate to the red keep.
- Rector’s Palace - Built in the 15th century for the elected rector of Dubrovnik, it served as the home of the Spice King in Qarth.
Whatever you decide to do in Croatia, Dubrovnik should definitely be on your list.
Fort Bokar and Dubrovnik’s Walls
Among the other locations that were used for the filming of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik’s Walls and Fort Bokar were used to recreate the walls of King’s Landing. Originally designed as a defensive structure in the mid-15th century, Fort Bakar is the oldest of its kind and appears in the show during season two when Varys and Tyrion plan out the defences of King's Landing. walls. While the scene has the Red Keep superimposed over the actual fort through post-production editing, it’s still worth a visit.
Other sections of the wall used during the filming are the West Walls - this is used as the practice yard where Hafþór Björnsson takes on the role of the mountain and is seen splitting prisoners apart before Cersei asks him to be her champion in season four. Another is one of the most prominent features of the wall is Minčeta Tower. Completed in 1464, this tower offers spectacular views of Old Town, but it’s actually the base of it that fans will be looking for - this was filmed as the House of the Undying, when Daenerys goes to look for her stolen dragons. Last but not least is the Pile Gate, which acts as the western entrance to Old Town. Designed in 1471, this gate was used several times, usually whenever the cast watch a ship sail away from King’s Landing.
Outside of the western walls of Dubrovnik is another fortress that was used for filming purposes. Fort Lovrijenac - also known as St. Lawrence Fort in English - was built for the purpose of guarding the port into Dubrovnik. Perched on a 37 metre high rock, this structure was used a lot from season two onwards - the first time it appears on camera is when King Joffery hosts a tournament for his name day, and regularly appears throughout, notably during the Battle of the Blackwater..
Before you go into the fort, take a look above the door. You’ll find an inscription carved in the stone, “"Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro." This is a latin motto which translates to “Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold of the world.” other than just stong standing words, this is an echo back to the time when this area of Croatia was part of the Republic of Ragusa, which was centred around Dubrovnik and existed from the mid 14th century until the early 19th century.
This location is technically just outside of Dubrovnik, on Lokrum Island, to be exact. The island itself is a nature reserve, but you can visit and even go for a swim in the Mrtvo More lake. For fans visiting, they will want to go to the old Benedictine monastery. This was originally built in 1023, abandoned in 1798, and then had another building built over it by Austrian archduke Maximillian Ferdinand in 1859. It was in the gardens of this monastery that Daenerys attends a garden party in season two.
But that’s not all this island has to offer. Inside the monastery is a full exhibit dedicated to Game of Thrones, which includes clips of the cast and crew talking about their experience filming in Dubrovnik, an interactive map of other filming locations in Croatia, and a replica Iron Throne if you want a little photo opportunity. Entry is free, but you’ll need to get a ferry to the island from Dubrovnik, which will take you about 15 minutes.
Everybody who is a fan of Game of Thrones will distinctly remember the purple wedding, where the delightful King Joffrey gets his just desserts. Well, that scene was filmed at Gradac Park. Just a stone’s throw away from Dubrovnik Old Town, this park sits on the cliffs above Danče beach and offers a lovely view of the surrounding seaside. Breathless, even.
There are pathways winding through the park, but there are grass and dirt patches where you can even set yourself up in the shade and enjoy a nice picnic… on second thought, this is the scene where Joffery gets poisoned, so maybe save that for somewhere. I don’t think anyone is going to stick a dose of the Strangler in your sandwich, but better to be safe.
While Dubrovnik is the most recognisable of all the Croatian locations, the city of Split was also used throughout the filming of Game of thrones. The largest city on the Croatian coast
- The nearby Fortress of Klis was used as a location when Daenerys liberated the city of Meereen and nailed the slave masters to crosses.
- The UNESCO world heritage site of Dioceltian’s palace was built as a Roman emperor’s retirement home and, a few centuries later, would be used as a location for where Daenerys trained her dragons.
- The small town of Zrnovnica, just outside of Split, was used in season four when Grey Worm spies on Missandei and the nearby quarry was used in the fight where Daario Naharis kills the champion of Meereen.
- Kaštel Gomilica is another small town 15km from Split and was used as one of the locations that depicted the city of Braavos.
- About an hour and a halves drive away from Split is Krka National Park. This served as a location for any of the on-the-road scenes, and is one of the top 10 most Instagrammed Game of Thrones locations. You can have a tour of the park while trying out some local food and wine.
Like Dubrovnik, Split has its own walking tour where you can learn about the locations used in the filming of Game of Thrones, as well as the history behind some of them, like Dioceltian’s Palace.
This location is about a 20-minute drive outside of Dubrovnik City, but is a must-see. You know all the scenes of the gardens of the Red Keep? Where most of the characters have a pleasant stroll while quietly scheming amongst themselves? Well, Trsteno Arboretum was used for this. Palace Gardens of King’s Landing. The arboretum was established in 1948, but its roots go back way further than that when Ivan Marinov Gucetic-Gozze constructed the garden and nearby villa in the late 15th century,
The entrance fee is approximately €10, and you should take cash with you. The Arboretum is open every day of the week between 7am and 7pm. You can have a look around yourself, or you can reserve a spot in one of the local Game of Thrones tours, where you can have a guide who worked on the set of the show showing you around. As well as the lovely gardens, fans will recognise the pavilion where the characters did more scheming.
To the northwest of Split is another city which had a minor role as a location. Šibenik appears several times throughout season five of the show, like:
- Part of the St James Cathedral was used for Iron Bank.
- St. John’s Fortress was used as a fighting pit in Meereen, where Jorah fights for his life while Daenerys watches on.
- Parts of the Old Town were used when Ayra first arrived in Braavos.
Should you wish to learn more about the city of Šibenik, their tourist office has a brochure which you can have a look at for yourself before you visit.
This location might break a few hearts. I’m still not over it. About two miles outside of Dubrovnik Old Town is the Hotel Belvedere, an abandoned five-star hotel. Originally built in the 80s, this hotel was destroyed in 1991 by Serbian forces during the Croatian War of Independence. Entry to the abandoned hotel is no longer possible due to safety reasons, but there is a route where you can walk around it.
But why would you want to visit this location? Well, it’s one of the most pivotal scenes of season four, where the Viper, Oberyn Martell, suffers a crushing defeat at the hands of the Mountain. Literally. Did you know they used no CGI for that scene? Just fake blood, fake teeth and two casts made of Perdo Pascal’s head with fake gore inside. Some of the practical effects team did an interview of how the scene was done which you can read here.
Where to Stay
Budget - Livo Disno 12, Split
While Split may not have as many GOT attractions as Dubrovnik, it is cheaper to stay here. This accommodation is in a central location in Split, close to the city’s attractions and also has a paid shuttle service to the airport.
Mid Range - Old Town Princess Apartments, Dubrovnik
Right in the middle of Old Town, these comfortable studio apartments are just the place to stay if you want to roll out bed and explore the city.
Luxury - Royal Neptun Hotel, Dubrovnik
If you’re staying in Dubrovnik, might as well make the most of your trip and live in the lap of luxury. This hotel offers rooms with a blony, many of them facing out to sea, a private beach, a cliff top pool and a paid shuttle service