Game of Thrones changed television forever. First airing in 2011 and concluding in 2019, the series brought millions of fans to the world of A Song of Ice and Fire and watched with rapt attention as noble families vied for control of the Iron Throne, whether by cunning political scheming or all out combat. Though fans can continue the story with the House of the Dragon spin-off, the original series will forever stay with them.
A way that some fans have mitigated that feeling is by visiting the locations that were used during the filming of the series. The cast and crew travelled throughout much of Europe to get the right settings for Game of Thrones, from the snow-covered land of Iceland in the north to the island nation of Malta for season one. We have talked about a few of them here at Live The World, but there are a couple of countries that need to be mentioned: Spain and Morocco.
Surprisingly, while the likes of Croatia, Northern Ireland and Iceland are well known for the part the played in the making of Game of Thrones, Spain also made a fair contribution to filming locations used in the series. While Malta has its reputation for being used in the first season of the show, Spain is known to appear in the later seasons of the show, with some of the locations first appearing in season five.
Already a popular tourists destination, these attractions will add on extra reasons to try out or re-visit this country. Additionally, if you have the time and the funds to do so, travelling from Croatia to Spain by train would make for a fun way to see much of the Mediterranean.
Know Before You Go
One of the best ways to get to Spian is by airplane, as there are a couple of dozen different airports in the country. The top three most frequented international ones are Madrid, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, and budget airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair frequent these airports. You can also travel to Spain overland, as it shares a land border with France, and you can travel by Ferry from the UK, France and Morocco.
Buses are the way to get about in Spain, with most coastal towns and rural spots only being the only way to reach them by public transport. Typically, the buses will run from 6 am to 11 pm or midnight with some variation in the schedule. Some cities offer a night bus service.
Trams used to be popular in Spain, but only a few cities have them now, such as Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao, with plans to possibly reintroduce them to Malaga and Zaragossa. Similar thing with Metro services, as they can be used in these cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao, Malaga, Seville and Valencia. Spain also has a train network, and these are usually the quickest way to get between major cities.
Unlike other destinations on this itinerary, getting or not getting a car is a bit more disputable. You could use a small car to nip around the cities while using a larger car to travel through the countryside. To rent a car in Spain, you must be at least 21 years old, some suppliers may want you to be be 23 or older. Drivers under the age of 25 can usually expect to pay an additional young driver surcharge, and a credit card is mandatory for renting a car here. You also drive on the right hand side here.
Spain sees over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, with temperatures rising the further south you go. It can get cold in the winter, but rarely below freezing, and the southern half of the country will usually be slightly hotter than the north. You can expect warm, dry summers and wet winters, though more mild than the rest of Europe. The best times to visit are March to May or September to November when it’s not too hot.
As a part of the European Union, Spain uses the Euro. Though you can get away with just using your card here, it’s a good idea to carry cash on you just in case.
Roman Bridge of Córdoba
Our first attraction is the Roman Bridge of Córdoba. Found in the city of Córdoba, just northeast of Seville, this bridge was originally built back in 1st century BC to act as a crossing point across the Guadalquivir River. Guess who first built it. It still continues to stand but has obviously been restored several times throughout the centuries. It is one of the bridges that connects the southern part of the city with the larger half in the north.
In the show, this bridge was used as the Long Bridge of Volantis, and just like the bridge of Córdoba, it connects two halves of the city across the Rhoyne river. However, when you visit the real-life location, it isn’t quite as long as it is depicted in the show. The magic of post-production editing extended it to be twice as long. First mentioned in season two, it appears on camera in seasons five and six.
Playa De Muriola
While there are many beaches used as locations for the filming of Game of Thrones, this tiny, unassuming one still has a decent role to play in the story. Just about 15 minutes North of Bilbao is the Playa De Muriola. It’s not the most picturesque of beaches, and certainly isn't one that tourists are very likely to frequent relative to others in the country.
However, I think it was it’s unassumedness that was what caught the attention of the filming crew, as this features the Hidden Beach in King's Landing. In one scene, Davos lands here with Tyrion so they can sneak into the city and eventually come back with Gendry.
The town of Cáceres has a couple of locations from season seven of Game of Thrones. Though Dubrovnik was the main location for King’s Landing, Cáceres was used, like when Euron Greyjoy is leading his prisoners to the Red Keep and when Sam and Gilly leave the Citadel after Sam has stolen some books.
Among the locations that were used here, the nearby Castillo de Trujillo is perhaps the most notable. During the filming, it featured as the setting for Casterly Rock. It’s €1.50 for entrance and offers lovely views of its surroundings.
Castell de Santa Florentina
Outside of Barcelona is the Castell de Santa Florentina. While castles were usually built as defensive structures, this one was built as a place to live in Originally, this was an ancient Roman villa which has been developed over the centuries. The final renovations still intended for the castle to be a residential summer palace, but inspired by medieval, modernist and neo-Gothic architectural style, with the final addition being completed in 1914.
During the filming process, this was used as the location for the castle of Hornhill, the home of House Tarly, where Sam brings Gilly and baby Sam in season six. Considering its proximity to Barcelona, exploring this castle could make for a nice day trip outside of the city.
Castillo de Zafra
One of the most iconic locations, Castillo de Zafra is a 12th-century castle in the region of Guadalajara. Built of sandstone and sat upon a large rock overlooking the nearby plains, hisotically Zafra was a strategic location in wars that were waged in the region. Its construction and placement meant it was near impregnable, and by the 16th century was considered one of the strongest castles in the country.
In the show, it features the Tower of Joy in season six, where The Three-Eyed Raven shows a young Ned Stark fighting Arthur Dayne to Bran. Maybe Arthur Dayne was just a stickler for the entrance policy of the castle, as no entry is allowed and you can only visit the outside of it. It is difficult to reach as well, as it takes a two and a half hour driver directly from Madrid Airport.
Many different city locations were transformed for the show's filming, and Girona is one great example. Near the city of Barcelona, this city acted as a location for the streets of Braavos, featuring a lot of Arya’s training under the faceless man.
It wasn’t just used as a location for Braavos, as this was also used for location Westeros - the Cathedral of Girona was another location used for the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor, though not for the iconic Walk of Shame. As with many other places that have felt the Game of Thrones effect, the city offers a full tour of all the locations that were used. Alternatively, you can vist this website and do your own tour.
In the city of Seville, you can find a couple of locations that were used throughout the filming of Game of Thrones. The Royal Alcázar of Seville is a registered UNESCO site, and is used as a residential palace, both in the show and real life. The upper stories is where the royal family stay whenever they are in Seville, while in the show it is one of the locations used to portray the water palace of Dorne. Entry is 12.5 euros per person. Another location for the water palace was Alcazaba of Almería.
Other areas include the Italica, which served as the Dragonpit in the show, but is actually the ruins of an old Roman colony, and the Las Atarazanas de Sevilla, is one of the world’s best-preserved medieval shipyards from the 13th century but served as one of the sets for the Red Keep dungeons. These are temporarily closed at the moment due to renovations. You can still take a tour of other locations used throughout the city of Seville.
About 90 kilometres from Seville is the Osuna Bullring. First opened in 1904, this was designed by Aníbal González. Capable of seating 6500 people, this bullring now houses the Bullfighting Museum, which was opened in 2019.
In Game of Thrones, the Osuna Bullring features as the Great Pit of Daznak in Slaver’s Bay, where Daenerys and her entourage fight the Sons of the Harpy, before being rescued by her dragon Drogon towards the end of season five. While the stands have been edited in to make the pit seem much larger, it is still impressive in size.
Located just about 16 km from the city of Cáceres. The name Los Barruecos comes from the enormous granitic rocks that cover this area. It’s also home to one of Europe’s biggest colonies of white stork and a quirky museum. Los Barruecos Natural Park is a great place for birdwatching aficionados and those who enjoy contemporary art.
For Game of Thrones fans, they might be reminded of a different kind of flying beast. Los Barruecos served as the location for the scenes where Daenerys’ army attack the Lannister forces, along with the help of her dragons.
Bardenas Reales Natural Park
While Northern Ireland was used for a lot of the on-the-road scenes in Essos during the first couple of seasons, the Bardenas Reales Natural Park was used as the backdrop for the Dothraki Sea in season six. In real life, it is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and is one of the few deserts in Europe, stretching out over 100,000 acres.
Most of the park is open and free to the public. There are plenty of hiking and bike trails to enjoy here. However, there is a section of the park used by the Spanish military, so mind that. It’s open from 8am to an hour before sunset every year.
To the north of Spain, in Baque Country past Bilbao, is the island of Gaztelugatxe. This is where the ancestral home of House Targaryen, Dragonstone, was filmed. You won’t find Daenerys’ castle though - after you cross the footbridge and climb the 241 steps, you’ll instead find a small church. Legend has it that St John the Baptist walked here, and there’s an ancient tradition around the bell granting wishes here. Entry is typically free, however, it can get busy during peak tourist season, so make reservations in advance to avoid disappointment.
You might think that they also used the island's beach to recreate Dragonstone beach. Actually, that was film at Itzurun Beach - about an hour and half’s drive west from Gaztelugatxe near a town called Zumala. You might want to visit this area, though, as this is the area where Daenerys first lands on Westeros.
In the province of Castellón is the popular tourist resort of Peñíscola, and when the Game of Thrones crew came to town, it was used as one of the locations for Meereen. It first appears in season four, when Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm go for a walk. The name Artillery Park came from the fact that it originally was supposed to store artillery equipment, but then it got turned into botanical gardens.
The rest of Peñíscola was used throughout season six, and the cast and crew must’ve really enjoyed this spot when they weren’t working, as it’s considered one of the jewels of the Castellón region. If you would like to read more about Peñíscola, click here.
Where to stay
Budget - Apartamentos Vértice Bib Rambla, Seville - Located on outside of Seville city centre, these apartments offer a lovely area to stay, surrounded by gardens and include a private swimming that’s open during the summer.
Mid Range - Hotel Gran Bilboa, Bilbao - Should you decide to stay in the north of Spain, this modern hotel is the perfect place to stay while visiting the rest of the GOT locations.
Luxury - Hotel Paxton Barcelona, Barcelona - With a seasonal outdoor pool, fitness centre, a terrace and a concierge service, this hotel in Barcelona represents the height of luxury.
The final destination worth visiting is Morocco's north African country. Compared to other countries on this list, there are only a handful of locations filmed in Morocco, which is a shame because Morocco has a storied history of being used for on-location filming, appearing in the likes of Gladiator, Mission Impossible, Star Wars and Black Hawk Down. As well as the Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate - which you can visit - there were two locations used for Game of Thrones, and because of their location can be easily done while exploring what the rest of the country has to offer.
The first location is Essaouira. Parts of the city were used as Slaver's Bay and Astapor during the third season of Game of Thrones, and makes for a good day trip option for GOT lovers. The other location is the iconic Ait Ben Haddou. This featured as the city of Yunkai and was last seen during the Mhysa scene that concluded season three. Fun fact, there was another version of the pilot episode of Game of Thrones that never aired, which had scenes shot in Morocco. There is a tour where you can visit Ouarzazate and Ait Ben Haddou.