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Game of Thrones Croatia has become a standard phrase in recent years. A look at where the hit HBO series meets the Adriatic: tours, locations & souvenirs.
- Game of Thrones Croatia: an introduction
- History of Game of Thrones Croatia filming
- From Kings Landing to Meereen: Game of Thrones Croatia locations
- Dubrovnik Old Town: from Ragusa to Kings Landing
- GoT locations expand across Dalmatia
- Game of Thrones Croatia tours
- Game of Thrones souvenirs: meet Here Be Dragons
- Life as a Game of Thrones Croatia extra
One of the biggest TV shows of the decade, HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on the series of novels by George R. R. Martin, has become an important factor in Croatian tourism growth. Not since Lord of the Rings had such a massive effect of New Zealand tourism has a show directly affected tourism.
The knock-on effects have been varied. Increased tourism certainly, with a raft of new tours and innovations coming to the market. But also accusations of dumbing down of tourism. It seemed a number of tourists really thought Dubrovnik was a specially constructed film set for the show. Centuries of heritage and fascinating history were seemingly irrelevant.
However you feel about Game of Thrones, it is here to stay, and it has become one more piece in the jigsaw of Croatia’s global tourism branding.
Even a regular fan of the show can hardly remember the times when Dubrovnik was NOT King’s Landing. But that was the case for the first season, which appeared on screen in 2011 after filming the previous year. Back then, the city of Mdina in Malta was King’s Landing. Other Maltese locations helped create the entire Southern world of the series.
Due to disagreements of the production with the Maltese, the filming of the second season moved to Croatia. September of 2011 brought King’s Landing to Dubrovnik, and Qarth to Dubrovnik, Lokrum and Trogir. After that, Game of Thrones just started spreading throughout coastal Croatia. Season 3 saw
Season 4 came back, with its biggest expansion yet. For the first time Game of Thrones was filmed in Split and Klis fortress. Almost all of the scenes taking place in Meereen were filmed in the iconic Dalmatian fortress. Filming for the fourth season also took place in Baska Voda, Krka and Kastela.
The fifth season added Sibenik as a filming location, in addition to Dubrovnik and Split. Sibenik starred in three episodes, where it doubles for Braavos and fighting pits of Meereen. Season six briefly abandoned Croatia, and most of the filming took place in Spain. There were, however, reports of just one brief scene in Dubrovnik. Season seven came back strong to Dubrovnik, and the final, eighth season was also partially filmed in Dubrovnik. This occurred under strict security measures as the long-awaited final chapters of the saga were filmed in 2018.
So, let’s look into the locations where all those scenes were filmed a bit more closely. Dubrovnik is, of course, the most recognisable Croatian Game of Thrones location. Amazing medieval city, with unbelievable walls and fortresses right by the sea is a perfect match for the city of King’s Landing, as most people in Croatia who have read the books before the production of the series would have told you. I remember reading an online post about that exact topic back in 2005 or 2006, when the books became international bestsellers and when people in Croatia reading them saw the resemblance. There are so many locations right from George R. R. Martin’s imagination that Dubrovnik doubled for that it’s not easy to list them all.
Dubrovnik Old Town has become synonymous with King’s Landing. So many memorable scenes took place there, including one of the most iconic scenes of the entire scenes (that does not include the dragons!), the famous Walk of Shame by Cersei Lannister in the fifth season finale.
The Stairs to the Great Sept of Baelor, where Cersei had to walk naked are in fact baroque Spanish steps by Saint Ignatius Church, which were (of course) an amazing tourist attraction even before the filming of GoT.
Lovrijenac fort, the most famous fort in Dubrovnik, where numerous plays and events have taken place in the past, have been turned into Red Keep, king’s residence, where the Iron Throne is also located.
Minceta tower, on the northern side of Dubrovnik Old Town, is the location where Daenerys kept her dragons – The House of the Undying.
The Rector’s Palace, St. Dominic Street,
The fortress on the Lokrum island, just off Dubrovnik, helped create Qarth. Gradac Park, a park just west of the Lovrijenac fort was the setting for the Purple Wedding between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell (spoiler alert for something that happened more than 5 years ago: the wedding does not end well for the young king). Take a closer look with this early TCN guide.
Trsteno Arboretum is the location for many scenes that needed to take place in the gardens close to King’s Landing, including all of the scenes that included iconic Tyrell family gardens.
The 5-kilometre-long defensive Walls of Ston, a small town some 60 kilometres west of Dubrovnik are also seen in the show, as they help create the illusion of the walls of King’s Landing.
The other most notable GoT location in Croatia is Klis fortress, medieval hill-top fort just north of Split. It is visible if you’re coming to Split from the Dalmatian highway. Klis hosted most of the scenes that were taking place in the city of Meereen.
Its amazing design, access roads and unbelievable view provided the perfect backdrop for the scenes in Meereen, including the gory ones, like Daenerys dealing with the disobedient and cruel Great Masters of the city. Many scenes taking place in the Meereen
Endearing scenes in which Daenerys bonds gently with her dragons are filmed around Baska Voda, also near Split. Zrnovnica quarry and grain mills are also visible in the season 4 of the series.
Trogir also doubled for Qarth, Kastel Gomilica is a small place between Split and Trogir where an amazing medieval castle doubled for the entrance to Braavos. Sibenik Old Town is where the scenes taking place within Braavos took place. Krka National Park is the background for most outdoor scenes throughout Westeros.
It should come as a surprise to exactly no-one that such exposure for Croatia in one of the most popular TV shows in the world resulted in many tourists coming to Croatia with the intent of visiting as many Game of Thrones filming locations as possible.
It is also clear that tourist guides, agencies and other people working in tourism in Croatia decided to organize tours around the filming locations. Of course, with Dubrovnik being the
Shorter walking tours that will take you just through the locations within the Old Town of Dubrovnik itself, with Lovrijenac are also available. Once you’re in Dubrovnik, you can, of course, make the effort and try and find as many of filming locations as possible, and there are maps online that might help you with that, and getting to Trsteno to see the amazing Arboretum also shouldn’t be a problem for those fond of the Tyrell family.
In Split there are also many Game of Thrones related tours, and many of them include locations throughout the central Dalmatia. So, booking one of those tours you get the chance to see the sites of the show, but also to acquaint yourself with a part of Croatia that’s not so close to the top of the tourist charts.
You can, of course, create your own Game of Thrones Tour of Croatia, as many people have already done and have written about, like this blogger.
TCN recently did an overview of Game of Thrones Croatia tours. Here are our top 5.
The tourism effect in numbers
The scientists from the Croatian Institute of Economy recently published their research findings, in which they concluded that filming of Game of Thrones brought almost 1.5 million additional overnight guests to Dubrovnik-Neretva County in the period of 2012-2015. Those tourists, arriving solely because of the Game of Thrones allure, supposedly spent 126 million euro during that period. You don’t have to be a scientist from the institute of economy to be able to estimate that the numbers are at least as impressive for the period after 2015.
And, a large portion of the spending goes toward the purchase of the Game of Thrones souvenirs. HBO is, of course, very protective of their IP, but have realized that they have to offer their licensed souvenirs to tourists in the locations where the show was filmed. So, these days it’s very difficult to go to any souvenir shop in Dubrovnik and NOT see some Game of Thrones merch offered to fans.
There is one special place in Dubrovnik for the GoT fans, and that is the Dubrovnik City Shop, located in Boskoviceva Street, very close to Stradun and other filming locations, where you can buy official souvenirs and also have your photo taken sitting in the amazing Iron Throne!
In Split the situation is similar, but in
In Split, their store is located inside the Diocletian palace, where the Game of Thrones scenes took place. Recently they opened a store in the centre of Zagreb, where no GoT scenes took place, but many fans come to Zagreb.
And Here Be Dragons is not just a place to pop in for your GoT souvenirs. They are also licenced merchants for a whole host of other top shows. Harry Potter, Star Wars and pretty much anything geeky you can think of. The stores are gorgeous, and they are as much of an experience as the shopping itself. An online webshop will be available in 2019.
The filming of Game of Thrones in Croatia was obviously popular. There were many fans here, as elsewhere around the world. The filming also gave a great opportunity for many to get very close to the action as extras.
There were so many crowd scenes that many locals had a chance to mingle with the stars. TCN also got into the action, and here is a look behind the scenes as a GoT extra.