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For one minute and 40 seconds let us all silently imagine the Game of Thrones theme song is playing. Or for anyone dedicated enough, open up your multimedia player of choice and play that tune. Ready? GO!
One minute and forty seconds later…
Are we back? Good. Excellent.
(If you don’t fancy reading my hella long intro, just click here to skip to the juicy bits)
Game of Thrones. It’s exciting, isn’t it? All that murder and fire and incest and sex and naked people and not naked people and ugly people and pretty people and horses! What’s not to love? Apart from the unbearably long wait between books/seasons, of course.
I’d even go so far as to say Game of Thrones, the world of Westeros and beyond, is on par with Harry Potter as winner of the “Greatest Fictional Universes Ever Invented” category at an awards ceremony that doesn’t yet exist. It blows my mind to think that such a complex and intricate universe, storyline, and myriad of plots came from just one man’s mind. It also blows my mind to think that one man loves killing people off that much but I digress.
I have to be honest here and admit that as much as I love Game of Thrones (spoiler: a lot), I’m not too keen on HBO’s interpretation of it. Don’t get me wrong, I do watch it and I do quite enjoy watching it (as much as someone who’s 3 seasons behind and not in a hurry to catch up can claim that) but I also think that the TV series doesn’t quite deserve as much credit as it gets.
Because the books? They. Are. Amazing.
They take you to a whole different world! You zone out, get way too invested in it all and the next thing you know you’re questioning whether brutally murdering a whiny little pre-teen boy with a curtain rail would actually be that frowned upon. We all know who I’m talking about here right?
What I love about reading books more than watching TV is that you are in control of the setting. Your mind takes all of these words that have been printed onto paper by somebody else and moulds them into your very own interpretation of the scene, secret and personal to you. The book says the trees are green, but you decide what shade of green. The walls are crumbling post-battle, but just how bad is it? Is it just dust or huge, monstrous chunks of debris falling down and threatening to squish you like a bug?
That’s the beauty of books.
Which explains why, despite not being overly keen on the TV series itself, I still find myself happily watching Game of Thrones. Because the way HBO has filmed, and the locations they have chosen, are absolutely incredible! It’s almost exactly how I imagined Westeros, King’s Landing and beyond to look.
This year I have two travel goals. One is to explore more of my own backyard and the other is to satisfy the Game of Thrones nerd in me by visiting as many Game of Thrones filming locations as possible, starting with Croatia.
Or, to be more precise, Dubrovnik.
Just a few hours by bus from Kotor (the city which I may or may not have fallen madly in love with), Dubrovnik was naturally the next stop on my little rendezvous in the Balkans.
Travelling during off-season meant that I was lucky to be able to avoid the hoards of tourists who seem to descend on Dubrovnik as soon as the thermometer hits the mid-teens. On the flip side, though, it also meant that a lot of tourist-oriented activities and businesses just weren’t functioning. They were hibernating for winter.
The one thing I really really wanted to do in Dubrovnik was to go on a Game of Thrones tour. I wanted to see all the locations, learn all the facts and hear all the inside scoop. There are loads of different companies in the area offering up the same sort of tour, so I sort of thought I’d get my pick of the bunch.
I was wrong.
There wasn’t one single company running the tours during the winter! In fact, almost all of them were starting up the week after I planned to leave Dubrovnik. I could have forked out the money for a private tour, but although I was keen on doing a tour, I wasn’t $100 worth of keen.
So, armed with a map of the city, this Radio Times guide and my trusty iPhone SE, I went off in search of all things Westerosi (is that a word?).
Now for 10 Game of Thrones filming locations in Dubrovnik, tried and tested by yours truly!
WARNING: There’s a potential for spoilers here, so if you’re not 100% up-to-date on the series, proceed at your own risk.
St Dominika Street
This set of steps is used as the setting for loads of different scenes across the series, but most notably as the place where almost all of Robert Baratheon’s bastard sons were killed. It was the first filming location I came across during my first jaunt through the old city, and I actually did a little fan-girl flap of the hands and let out a little piggy squeal as I rounded the corner. Then I stood like an awkward turtle for about 10 minutes, waiting for somebody to walk by so I could ask them to take my photo sat on the steps. Nobody came, so I made do with an awkward selfie of half of my head (because my arms are not long enough to get the whole of my head plus the background in shot) instead.
Probably the most un-photogenic of all the filming locations, Dubrovnik’s Ethnographic Museum may be better recognised as one of the brothels frequented by some of the key characters such as Tyrion Lannister and Oberyn Martell. Hidden away in one of the back alleys of the Old Town, the unsuspecting building is nothing special, but I’d hedge my bets that more people stand outside taking pictures than go inside and explore the museum, if the looks of boredom etched across the ladies inside is anything to go by at least! Had I had more time (and less dehydration!) I definitely would have given it a go, but alas, an iced bottle of lemon water was calling my name.
The entrance to the Old Town, otherwise known as Pile Gate, constantly crops up in the series, but there’s no one specific scene that springs to mind when you see it. It’s more of a background scene – like an extra, except a setting instead of a person.
We all know what steps I’m talking about right? I don’t think there’s a more iconic set of steps in the world of TV and film than these, the ones where Cersei made her Walk of Shame!
I stumbled across the Jesuit Steps by accident, as they aren’t actually featured in the Radio Times guide I mentioned earlier. Robin Hood was being filmed in the main street and so there were all sorts of diversions put in place, so I got a little lost looking for my way out of the Old Town. Lo and behold a little while later I found myself on the south side of Gundulic Square, completely alone except for a few little ragamuffins who were skiving off school.
Had they not been there I totally would have done my own reenactment of Cersei’s scene, although would have kept my clothes firmly on my body.
This one confused me. I’m not sure if it’s always inaccessible to mere peasants like me, or if it was just closed because Robin Hood was using it to frolic with his Merry Men, but I could not get anywhere near Bokar Fortress, which was frequently used as a filming location throughout the series. What I could do, however, was stand on the Walls and take a really bad photo of what I thought might be Bokar Fortress, having only the Radio Times guide as my ally.
This was my favourite. It’s kind of boring compared to a lot of the others, but to me it was the most instantly recognisable!
In the Game of Thrones world, Minçeta Tower is better known as House of the Undying, that place where Khaleesi walks around and around looking for an entrance before entering and having that really trippy experience in the quest to find her dragons, culminating in one of the dragons setting fire to a man. Ring any bells?
To get to the tower, you have to pay entry to walk the City Walls. It’s 150 Kuna (about £17) but is totally worth it, not only for the views across the city and the sea, but also because the City Walls ticket also grants you access to Lovrijenac Fortress. Two for one? Bargain!
Pile is Blackwater Bay. There’s no need to beat around the bush on that one! I don’t think there’s a single angle of Pile that hasn’t been used on the show. In this next photo, just imagine a bunch of Game of Thrones-y people walking along the gangway, and some old school sailing boats in the distance.
Are you with me? Are we seeing the same scene in our minds?
And then there’s this view, overlooking Pile and the walled city, taken from halfway up the steps to Lovrijenac Fortress.
Dem likes though. At the time of posting it, I had less followers on IG than the photo had likes. Is it sad that my proudest moment of this year so far has been the reception of this photo? For that, Game of Thrones, I thank you.
Most well-known in the World of Ice and Fire as the place where that twit Joffrey had his Name Day festivities, Lovrijenac Fortress was, without a doubt, the most arduous of Game of Thrones filming locations to get to! There are at least 60,000 steps to climb up to get there, and you might just about collapse and die before even reaching the halfway mark! I jest, of course. There’s apparently only 175 steps, but let me tell you, they are steep. And Croatia can get hot, even during late February – early March!
Aside from admiring the breathtaking views over the Walled City, there’s not a lot to do in the fortress itself when you’re up there. And by that I mean there’s no information. You know those informative placards or boards you normally see in places like this, telling you all about the history and why it was built? Yeah, it doesn’t have any. Use your imagination (or Wikipedia). There is, however, a chair for you to sit on, a non-functioning cannon to play with and a pretty hilarious man working the entrance.
Speaking of, you should definitely take Lovrijenac Fortress’s opening times as more of a suggestion than fact, as when they say they close shop at 3pm during off-season, you can heave your sweaty self up that damn rock for 2:40pm and it’ll already be closed. So yeah.
As I mentioned earlier, entry to Lovrijenac Fortress is included in the City Walls ticket, but the catch is that you have to visit on the same day, or the next day.
I won’t go on too much about this location because to be honest, my absolute failure in understanding exactly what an arboretum is is totally deserving of its own post (which can be found right here), but I will say that Trsteno Arboretum is known to some as the palace gardens of the Red Keep. It’s where that heroine of epic proportions, Olenna Tyrell, manages to sweet-talk poor, unsuspecting Sansa into becoming a double-edged sword and spilling all her darling hubby’s secrets. There are plenty of thorns hidden about the place too – perfect for the Queen of Thorns!
Though not located in the city of Dubrovnik itself, the arboretum is located in – yup, you guessed it! – Trsteno, which is a district of Dubrovnik and is wholly accessible by bus from the main bus station, so is totally deserving of a place on this list.
Honorary mention for somewhere I didn’t manage to visit because I’m an idiot who doesn’t properly plan things!
Lokrum Island, used as a representation of the City of Qarth, is situated a short ferry ride from the harbour of Dubrovnik and, not only does it look absolutely gorgeous (seriously – get on Google and check for yourself!) but while you’re there YOU CAN SIT ON THE ACTUAL IRON THRONE!!! Like, the real deal!!
I was absolutely kicking myself for not planning ahead. The island was closed until the week after I left Dubrovnik, and so it was completely inaccessible to me. Oh well. The desire to sit on a fancy chair is a good enough reason to go back, right?
If this wasn’t enough to quench your Game of Thrones thirst, I’d highly recommend checking out Karen’s review of a Game of Thrones tour she took in Malta and Lucy’s guide to Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland!