It won’t take long after setting foot in Dubrovnik to discover why this beautiful coastal city has made such a popular film location over the years. With its ancient fortified walls, dramatic mountain backdrop and UNESCO-protected old town, it’s a place which’ll stir the imagination and have you transported back to a different place and time before you know it.
It’s a location which quickly caught the attention of HBO; from the second season onwards, much of the hit show Game of Thrones was shot in and around Dubrovnik, its fairytale-esque scenery providing the perfect backdrop for the fantasy hit, and the cast and crew forming strong relationships with the community as their seven-year working relationship grew.
I’m a pretty big fan of the show (sexy dragon times, who knew?!), but even if the world of Westeros doesn’t float your boat, I’d recommend taking part in one of Dubrovnik Walking Tour’s guided trips about the city’s connections to the TV show. It’s a fab way to discover some of the city’s hidden treasures, and also gives a fun insight into the phenomenon GOT brought to the city and its locals.
We were lucky enough to bag ourselves a spot on one of the company’s specialized film locations tours and were left in the very capable hands of Dora, who had actually worked on the show as an extra and so was able to offer us oodles of insider knowledge…more on that later! 😉
First, let’s have a look at some of the key spots you’ll be visiting on this two-hour walking tour.
Built in 1438, this eye-catching fountain was originally built as a water source for the city and is still a great place to fill up your water bottle with its crystal-clear H20. It’s also a prime spot for people watching and the starting point for your tour.
Be sure to look out for a representative from Dubrovnik Walking Tours, who’ll be waiting for the group with a big red umbrella.
Fun fact: During filming seasons, the city’s flag would be taken down. Gone was Saint Blaise, patron Saint of Dubrovnik, and in his place flew the banner of the House of Lannister!
One of the main entrances to the walled city, the Pile Gate would once have been home to a spectacular wooden drawbridge and was used as a protection point during Medieval days. GOT fans might recognise it as the site of the citizens’ riot, where King Joffrey got pelted with a mouthful of dung.
Fun fact: The riot was filmed using local extras. Originally, the producers had given them scripted lines, but after hearing back the audio, were worried it sound a little too contrived. On retake, the locals were asked to ad-lib in their native language, and were allowed to shout pretty much anything that came to mind. As Dora pointed out, there were plenty of Croatian swears being flung around that day, but her favourite line goes to the extra who decided to repeatedly chant “who would like to buy my potatoes?!” at the top of his lungs.
Bokar Fortress/West Pier
This craggy little bay, with its distinctive rocky structures jutting out from the sea, was a prominent feature in the show for many reasons. It has a great vantage of the Bokar Fortress (aka The Red Keep), its jetty provided the perfect location for the Stark children say their goodbyes before Arya set off to sea, and – most importantly – it was also the setting for the infamous Battle of Blackwater (Season 2, episode 9).
Fun fact: He might have a towering screen presence, but did you know that actor Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow, is actually one of the shorter members of the male cast, at 5 ft 8? Sophie Turner, who plays his younger sister Sansa, was actually a good couple of inches taller and often had to be strategically placed so as not to give away the secret!
I was so glad we got the chance to visit this imposing fort, not just because of its connections to the show, but because I’d heard that it had some of the most unrivaled views of the city…the rumours, I can safely say, were all true!
Built 37 metres atop a fierce-lookin‘ cliff, Fort Lovrijena was traditionally a major defence point in the city. Today it’s used mostly for concerts, weddings and, of course, filming!
Much of the fort’s interior will be recognisable to fans of the show, as many of the Red Keep’s pivitol scenes were filmed here, from Joffrey’s naming ceremony (where a stunt man had the unfortunate task of filming a dramatic backwards fall into the pit above several times over), to the grizzly Purple Wedding (they never end well, do they?).
Fun fact: Who could forget the colour changing in King Joffrey’s face as the effects of the poisoned wine took hold? Did you know that this was created entirely with make-up? Not a hint of CGI involved!
Dubrovnik’s most recognisable staircase took centre-stage in Game of Thrones’ fifth series. Something to do with a naked lady, perhaps?
Cersei Lannister may not have been the most likeable of characters, but there are few who could forget the harrowing, humiliating and emotionally charged Walk of Shame she was forced to take as penance for her sins and walk naked through the streets of the realm she once governed.
Of all the GOT sights the city has to offer, this is the most frequented by super-fans. Such is the popularity of the stairs that you’ll find local cafes selling ‘Shame Burgers’, and might even be treated to more than you bargained for as Cersei sympathisers attempt to recreate the iconic scene…and no, before you ask, it’s not okay to strip to the scud in Dubrovnik…
Fun Fact: She might have made television history with her scantily-clad performance, but did you know that Lena Headey did not actually walk naked through the streets of Dubrovnik? Her infamous Walk was actually filmed by a body double, with Headey’s face CGI’d on after. And no; it wasn’t because the actress was afraid to bare all for the camera, it’s because she was actually in the first stages of pregnancy! Quite rightly, the producers felt slightly uncomfortable about having cabbages being flung at an expectant mother.
Though these are just the key sites you pass on the tour, you’re never exactly going to be far from a Game of Thrones reference in Dubrovnik. Whether you look at it from afar or down below, the city’s impressive skyline is instantly recognisable as the setting of King’s Landing; the ancient cobbled streets, a shining beacon of survival after Daenerys Targaryen’s attempt to burn the city to ashes.
Will non-fans enjoy the tour?
I’d say so! It’s still a really fun way to explore some of the most beautiful parts of the city, and you’re never going to go far wrong with having a local guide show you around. We got super-lucky with Dora, who was really bubbly and engaging, and full of behind-the-scenes knowledge!
Although tourism has been high in Dubrovnik for quite some time, the filming of GOT brought with it a new wave of interest from a new type of traveller. This, combined with the scale of the production, had many positive impacts on the local economy, and there’s a certain pride that Dubrovnik folk have in showing off their city’s showbiz connection!
The Seven Kingdoms might not be gracing our TV screens any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun stepping into the world of Game of Thrones, even if it’s just for one day…
Ready to sign up? Here’s the small print:
The Game of Thrones walking tours run daily at 9:30, 11:00, 16:00 and 17:00.
Meeting point is the Onofrio Fountain; just keep an eye out for the red umbrella to avoid mix-ups with other companies!
The tour costs 150 KN (£18) and lasts around 2 hours. There’s an extra charge of 50KN for entry to the Fort, but this will be waived if you can show same day tickets from the City Walls. Make sure to hang on to these! I learned this the hard way…
Tours last approximately 2 hours and though there’s a fair bit of walking involved, it’s well broken up with rest stops at each location. The only tricky part was climbing the hill to the Fort in the afternoon heat.
As always, it’s safest to book ahead. Check out Dubrovnik Walking Tours here website here.