We can’t get enough of Game of Thrones at the JustLuxe offices. In fact, the Monday mornings after an episode airs, we all gather together to talk about what went on. And so help the person who missed that week's episode, because, "Really, really?! You're going to make us wait to discuss?" Yes, we’re serious about our show.
So when the HBO show put out a 26-minute film called Game of Thrones Season 5: A Day in the Life, we knew we had to watch (a few times). The clip chronicles one day of filming in its three locations: Dubrovnik, Croatia; Seville, Spain; and Belfast, Ireland. For all you Throners out there, here’s a closer look at the destinations you'll see in the coming episodes, along with comments from the show’s directors, producers and team in each city. Since we know you'll want to visit these locations after watching them come to life, here's a head start on what to expect, where to stay and what GoT tours you can do in each place.
Called “the Southern locations” on set, Croatia and specifically, Dubrovnik have been used in each season thus far. The walled city is a UNESCO world heritage site and thanks to restoration efforts following the 1991-92 sieges, the town has been brought back to life, reflecting its same Renaissance grandeur. Five centuries ago, Dubrovnik was a major sea power busy with trade merchants and Croatian residents.
Today, those same copper domes, orange-tiled roofs and antique bell towers create a real sense of history for anyone strolling through its streets. It’s also considered one of the world’s most beautiful cities due to its coastal location, baroque buildings, narrow alleyways and old marble streets. However, these quaint characteristics also made filming there a challenge for Game of Thrones.
“One of the logistical problems of Dubrovnik, is it’s such a tight, small, old city, that we can’t get our big vehicles actually into town. Just ‘cause the streets are so narrow,” explains Duncan Muggoch, UK Line Producer. “We can’t take vehicles within the old walls, so everything has to get taken by Sherpas…” (up many, many steps). Look for scenes of this old town in episode 503, when Cersei (Lena Headey) walks through the soup kitchen in search of the High Sparrow (a new character). The courtyard in the was transformed from a former convent into a poverty-stricken place where Cersei first encounters the hardship that she has managed to ignore while living in King’s Landing.
Photo Credit: Game of Thrones
Portrayed as King’s Landing, the fairytale-like Bokar Fortress is one of the area's best attractions. Located on the southwestern part of Dubrovnik, it was built according to the designs of Michelozzo di Bartololmeo of Florence in 1461. It remains one of the largest and most complete structures in Europe. After upgrades in 1555 and 1570, today it is primarily used for performances of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival.
While Dubrovnik was already a big tourist attraction, with the success of the show, the number of visitors has risen as fans are making their way to the Croatian city (possibly hoping to run into Tyrion or Cersei). Last year, an estimated 863,801 tourists visited, a 12 percent rise over 2013. Among its many guests were celebrities including Beyoncé, Tom Cruise, Tina Turner and John Malkovich.
Where to Stay: Villa Orsula
When to Go: September or October
GoT Experience: Tour of Croatia
Belfast, Northern Ireland
In episodes one and two, viewers will watch Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) first scenes in Belfast at her penthouse. It is here that she begins to realize what has been going on in Meereen under her leadership. “Belfast remains the heart of the whole thing. It’s a major city, […] but you know, you drive 20 minutes out of the city and you’re in the heart of the countryside. It helps with the ancient feel of the show,” says Producer Chris Newman.
While GoT producers may see Belfast as a beautiful place, it wasn’t always so beloved. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the city was plagued by violence and crime, and generally, tourists avoided the European destination. But in 2012, the opening of Titanic Belfast (the ship was built here) and the 50th anniversary of the Belfast Festival at Queen’s sparked a renewed interest in the city. Visitors to the Titanic alone made up more than 1.3 million of the area’s tourists during its first year and helped to bring in much-needed revenue.
Nearly half a million people (a third of Northern Ireland's population) live in “Titanic Town,” a nickname given to the city. Today, following repairs and restorations, Central Belfast is a charming place filled with historic pubs, Victorian architecture, boutique shops and waterfront luxury hotels. Travelers can usually be found drinking whiskey with locals, exploring the University Quarter, taking in the sight of the area’s beaches or touring the Peace Wall and its murals. Beyond the city also lies the world’s oldest distillery, Mountains of Mourne, and the Antrim Coast Road, one of the best driving roads in Europe.
Photo Credit: Game of Thrones
One place that may not make most visitor’s sight-seeing list though is Magheramorne Quarry, the site of Game of Thrones’ Hard Home set. “We’re now driving up to a little village called Magheramorne in which there is a quarry that’s been there for a number of years now. And in season one, we built the set of Castle Black there because there’s a lake in the quarry,” says Newman. “In season two we built the battlements of King’s Landing [here] for the Battle of Blackwater with Stannis’ boats attacking.”
The quarry was originally built as a protected fishing village, designed to be where people made a living off the sea. This waterfront destination will be transformed into a tent city with a longhouse and landing area which will be seen in episodes 507 and 508. But it’s North of Belfast, that will be a major player this year. It will involve three weeks of filming in one of the most “complex and ambitious scenes of the season.” From the video, it looks to involve Jon Snow and his fellow crows engaged in an epic battle during a particularly foggy evening (sigh, we love you, Jon Snow).
Where to Stay: The Fitzwilliam Hotel
When to Go: May through September
GoT Experience: Stones & Thrones’ Game of Thrones Day Tour
Season five brings us into a new location for the filming of Dorne (yes!) as we make our way into Spain. Seville (aka Sevilla) is a vibrant city boasting around 700,000 residents living among historic cathedrals, beautiful palaces and Spanish Baroque buildings. It is one of Spain’s most sophisticated and self-assured cities, most likely due to the Sevillanos’ belief that the Greek god Hercules founded their Andalucian metropolis. During the 16th and 18th centuries, an influx of money flooded into the city because of its trade monopoly in the New World. This wealth led to it growing into what is now one of the most ornately-decorated cities in Spain.
Among its most stunning structures is the royal palaces of Seville called Real Alcázar. This is where Dorne will be shot. While we learned about this southern Westeros kingdom in season four, this will be the first time we get to see actually see it. “[…] The Real Alcázar are palaces built by Peter the Horrible in the 13th century. It’s one of the most visited monuments in Spain,” says Spanish Line Producer, Peter Welter Soler. “The Alcázar will be, like, the water gardens of Dorne.” On an average day, the palace gets around 8,000 tourists walking through its halls. Just to film there was a privilege for the show, as it has never been closed off to visitors in the past.
Photo Credit: Game of Thrones
Sevilla is just as known for its attractive structures as it is for its gorgeous residents, many exuding a cool air of refinement. Spaniards are also known for their love of Flamenco, and this city is no different. Its sounds echo through the streets and women are said to have at least one beautifully-embellished dress for April’s Feria, a week-long fiesta held two weeks after Easter Holy Week. For those who want to explore the city’s best shopping areas, look to the city’s main shopping district Calle Sierpes. Calle Velazquez Tetúan and Calle Cuna are also both great options and located nearby Sierpes.
Photo Credit: Lukasz Lukomski/WikiMedia Commons
Another place we’ll see Spain show up this season will be during one scene involving an arena fight. Osuna is known for The battle of Munda won by Julius Caesar (his last in-person fight) and for being home to Calle San Pedro, named the second most beautiful street in Europe according to UNESCO. “It has this beautiful old bull ring and it’s a national monument as well. We’re shooting just one single scene in here and it’s 12 days. It’s quite complex.” It also relatively unvisited by tourists, so for those who prefer untouched destinations, now would be the time to visit before the show makes it famous. Although, it’s already seen a 30 percent increase in visitors and the episode hasn’t even aired yet. Guess having your city shown on “the most successful TV in the world right now” (Soler), has its perks.
Where to Stay: Hotel Alfonso XIII
When to Go: March to May
GoT Experience: Tour The Real Alcázar