Do you know what ran through my head as I watched Game of Thrones for the first time? Finally, a show which has made it acceptable to unleash my inner nerd! Thankfully, it turns out I’m not alone in this guilty pleasure. In fact, the show one quickly became of the highest grossing TV franchises of all time. Such was its popularity that it’s even had a direct impact on the travel industry! Among the most popular destinations with GOT fans, the beautiful Croatian city of Dubrovnik. Determined to walk in the footsteps of my Westeros heroes – and to find out more about this Thrones tourism boom – I booked a visit to Dubrovnik shortly after the final season aired. Thankfully Dubrovnik Walking Tours were there to show me around. In this post, I’m going to tell you all about their fantastic Game of Thrones walking tour. If ever you’re looking for an insider guide to the city’s key filming locations, this is the place to start.
But first…why Dubrovnik?
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. Ancient fortified walls stand guard over a network of narrow, cobbled streets. Imposing castles catch watchful eyes over the terracotta rooftops and craggy shoreline. Marble flagstones lie underfoot, while original drawbridges stand proud under the Croatian sun. Everything about this city cries out history, drama and romance. It’s the perfect backdrop for a fantasy show, with little changes needed by CGI. Naturally, it was quick to catch the attention of the show’s producers. The rest, as they say, is history.
What are the benefits of taking a guided tour?
In theory, it would be possible to walk yourself around many of the city’s key filming locations. Personally, I reckon you’d be missing out! The perk of being shown round by a local guide is that they have actually lived and breathed the experience of daily life on a working film set! They have all the fun insider knowledge. Many choose to run these tours because they’re fanatics of the show themselves. Our guide, the wonderful Dora, had even worked as an extra on the show, and had all sorts of saucy secrets up her sleeves for us.
Dubrovnik Walking Tours are an excellent choice to go with. They run several tours a day and are well-priced, at only 150KN (£18.00).
Which sights are included on the tour?
Sounding good so far? Ok, 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 is one of the city’s original sources of water. To this day, it makes for a great place to fill up your bottle with some refreshing 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!”
Once one of the city’s main protection points, the Pile Gate today is one of the main entrances to the walled city. Its impressive wooden drawbridge still remains, and draws attention to its former role.
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 scene is made up entirely of local extras. Originally, the producers issued the extras with scripted lines. After hearing the audio back, they felt it sounded a little too contrived. On retake, the locals ad-libbed in their native language, shouting pretty much anything that came to mind! As Dora pointed out, plenty of Croatian swears made their way into the final edit. Her favourite line goes to the extra whose only words for the entire scene were “who would like to buy my potatoes?!”.
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: Remember the colour changing in King Joffrey’s face as the effects of the poisoned wine took hold? This is 100% 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?
Granted, Cersei Lannister is not the most likeable of characters. Still, few could forget her harrowing Walk of Shame, as she finds herself forced to walk naked through the realm she once governed as penance for her sins.
Of all the GOT sights the city has to offer, this is the most frequented by super-fans. In fact, the steps are now so popular that you can even find cafes selling ‘Shame Burgers’, and Cersei sympathisers willing to bare all in an attempt to recreate the iconic scene! 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? This iconic moment was created using a combination of a body double and CGI. Before you ask, it wasn’t because the actress was afraid to bare all for the camera. She was pregnant! Quite rightly, the producers felt slightly uncomfortable about the prospect of flinging cabbages 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 which will be waived if you 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 website here.