This story contains a spoiler or three. Beware.
Winter has come. The nights are long and full of terrible TV shows that are mere cockroaches to be squashed underfoot compared to our beloved Game of Thrones. (Seriously, has anyone else wasted their time on Black Sails? Which just happens to feature a broodily handsome leading lad named John S…ilver? Ugh. No.)
Good news, fellow GoT addicts. The hit HBO series may not return to our screens until next year, but King’s Landing actually exists (kinda) and it’s summer there right now. All your Christmases may have just come at once.
I recently took a rather epic 5.5 hour walking tour through the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. Here’s five cool things I discovered while there.
#1 King’s Landing is an on-steroids version of Dubrovnik in Croatia
A metric buttload of King’s Landing scenes have been filmed in the Croatian fortress city of Dubrovnik since 2011. Malta was the golden child for season one, but that fell through and ever since the Lannisters have called Dubrovnik home.
The 11th century Fort Lovrijenac doubles as Westero’s Red Keep, though you won’t actually find the Iron Throne there — more on where that guy’s hiding a little later. There’s loads of scenes to recreate up here. The Hound saving Sansa from would-be rapists. King Joffrey’s name day, where Sansa saved the drunk Ser Dontos’s life. The Kingsguard attempting to murder Tyrion. And down below, in the glittering Adriatic Sea, the momentous season two Battle of the Blackwater, where a giant ball of murderous green flame destroyed Stannis Baratheon’s fleet. SO MANY SELFIE OPPORTUNITIES.
In Dubbrovnik’s beautiful Old City, Cersei met the High Sparrow in Fleabottom (actually a small courtyard off Margarite street) and a few episodes later he watched as she began her nudey walk of shame from the stairs near the Church of St Ignatius. Meanwhile, 20 minutes from the city by bus is the Trsteno Arboretum, aka the lush Red Keep gardens.
The Dubrovnik tourism board recently released a scene locations map, by the way.
#2 You can actually travel from King’s Landing to Qarth in under a minute
Across the narrow sea? Hardly. At the highest point of Dubrovnik’s ancient two-kilometre-long walls is the Minceta Tower, which doubled as the House of Undying. So Qarth is literally a step away from King’s Landing. “But this fortress has an entry and exit, you won’t disappear and we have no dragons,” our guide, Zrinka, insists.
Okay, Qarth kind of is across a narrow sea, too. The small nearby Croatian island of Lokrum also doubles as a setting for the great Essos trading city and you can hire kayaks and paddle around it, or grab a ferry over and wander around.
#3 Television producers are a bunch of tricksters and liars
King’s Landing is huge and majestic. Dubrovnik is less so. Cue epic levels of television trickery. Take the Battle of the Blackwater, for example. Producers digitally added more cityscape to where the Adriatic Sea normally stretches unbroken to the horizon, to make King’s Landing appear bigger.
Likewise, loads of scenes feature stately towers, doors and plants that are added via CGI and therefore don’t exist in real life. Which seems obvious, right? TV is make-believe. Still, it’s kind of jarring to have the illusion so comprehensibly shattered. You’ve been warned.
#4 His Horribleness King Joffrey is actually a Nice Guy
For all his creepy on-screen torturing of women, dwarfs and naive young Starks (grow up already, Sansa!), in real life Joffrey aka actor Jack Gleeson is actually a lovely guy. All the extras say so.
Though that doesn’t make me hate him any less. Happily, there are loads of places around Dubrovnik to gloat at Joffrey’s misfortune. Like just inside the Old Town by the Pile Gate, where peasants flung dung at his stupid face. Or Gradac Park, which you can visit or see from atop Fort Lovrijenac. That’s where the Purple Wedding celebration was filmed, and the little monster finally frothed to his entirely delightful death. Yessssss.
#5 It’s totally possible to claim the Iron Throne without spilling a single drop of blood
I know, because I did it myself. Mwahaha. You just head into the Old City, to a pokey little souvenir store on narrow Boskoviceva street. They’ll make you cough up 20 kuna ($4AUD) or buy a souvenir, but then the Iron Throne is yours, all yours. Well, the Fibreglass Replica Throne. The accompanying replica sword is metal, at least.
Viator’s 3.5-hour walking tour costs $86.95AUD or $180.59AUD including the optional extra two-hour tour through Trsteno Arboretum. The reporter was a guest of Viator.
Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance writer living in Spain. She writes regularly for publications including frankie, Peppermint, New Internationalist and The Lifted Brow, and in a former life she covered the colourful world of Queensland politics for The Courier-Mail. Koren blogs at She Makes Magic and tweets at @KorenHelbig.