To say that the Game of Thrones franchise is hugely successful is an understatement, even in today’s golden era of global television production. HBO spends lavishly on the series, with each episode having at least a $10 million budget. It’s a decision that ultimately pays off, as the result is a visually stunning masterpiece.
Along with the series’ meteoric rise to fame, its various filming locations have also become more popular. After all, Game of Thrones films in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and it’s understandable that many among the show’s viewers would want to visit these places themselves. From King’s Landing to the lands beyond the Wall, here are five European locations made popular by the hit series.
1) Dubrovnik, Croatia
The city of Dubrovnik serves as King’s Landing, the seat of power in Westeros. In fact, the city has credited the show for its 10% annual tourism growth, which helped boost the Croatian economy out of a recession.
The old town is a beautiful maze of terracotta-roofed houses and stone cathedrals, surrounded by medieval walls that run for nearly two kilometres. Fans would find many recognisable landmarks from the fictional Westeros capital, with the Stradun serving as the site of Cersei Lannister’s ‘Walk of Penance’ in Season 5.
2) The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
One of the most photographed spots in Northern Island, this avenue of serpentine beech trees in Ballymoney is known as ‘The Dark Hedges’. Game of Thrones fans would recognise it as the Kingsroad, which Arya Stark traverses on Season 2 in search of her family. The Stuart family helped create this picturesque road by planting the trees in the 18th century, as an entrance to their Gracehill House mansion. Because of the high influx of tourists in the area, all but essential vehicles have been banned from using the road since October last year.
3) Castillo de Almodóvar, Spain
The Castillo de Almodóvar in Andalusia was originally a Roman fort, before being conquered and rebuilt by the Moors in the late 700s. In the show, however, the majestic castle is known as Highgarden, the seat of the Tyrell family. Although the location is given little screen time, visitors can explore its well-preserved towers, dungeons, battlements, and ramparts, with stunning views of the Guadalquivir River below.
4) San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain
Much of the latest season showed Daenerys Targaryen taking her ancestral seat at Dragonstone, which was filmed in several locations along the Spanish coast. One of the most breathtaking of these is the islet of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where Jon Snow sees dragons for the first time. Fans of the show may easily notice the gorgeous winding stone bridge and walkway, which leads to an ancient monastery at the top of the mountain.
Daenerys’ onscreen homecoming and the magical caves in which Jon searches for dragonglass are filmed along Itzurun beach, a couple of hours east.
5) Grjótagjá, Iceland
Last but not least is the volcanic cave and thermal spring of Grjótagjá. Although appearing only once in the show, Jon and Ygritte’s intimate scene was enough to boost fan tourism in the area, which has been a tourist spot since the 1990s. Visitors can climb down the passageway and swim in the hot spring below, but Vogue recommends going early to avoid the crowds.
Although fans will have to wait until 2019 for the next and final season of the show, one way to pass the time is to relive its greatest moments in these stunning European locations.
If you’re short on vacation days, there are also virtual adventures you can go on right from the comfort of your living room that include forums, videos, and games. A great one is the Game of Thrones slots game on Slingo, which takes players into its version of Westeros. The game features familiar visuals and audio reminiscent of the show to give both fans and occasional players an immersive experience. They may not provide the same suspense and excitement as the show itself, but they can be enough to drive down the anticipation through a temporary GoT fix.
As Game of Thrones nears its end, it’s safe to say that the listed European locations, as well as other filming spots, are sure to draw in more tourists in the next couple of years.