Amazing Game Of Thrones Filming Locations (Part 1)
Being a Game of Thrones fan, of both the books and the TV-series (basically the whole A Song Of Ice And Fire universe), one of my main wishes is to visit the places where the TV-series was filmed. For those of you who don’t know what Game of Thrones is about, I won’t spoil the fun, but I will just say that the action of the series takes place in different places in a fantasy universe and the story has multiple POVs.
The story is complex, the characters are complex, but sometimes the most complex part of the series are the locations. George R.R.Martin imagines an entire universe, with unique places and diverse cultural identity, and therefore it is hard to transpose the universe into the real world. However, the producers are trying to use real locations when filming and less studio sets in order to maintain a feeling of authenticity. They manage to do this using diverse locations – from the island of Malta, to the Scotland Highlands, from the beautiful Greek landscape to the coast of Croatia, from sunny Spain to the African continent in Morocco, from Ireland to Iceland.
Sometimes the locations are world-famous and sometimes the locations are less known, but my dream is to visit all of them.
For this post I will tell you about the filming locations in Morocco and Spain.
Game of Thrones filming locations in Morocco
There are three locations in Morocco where the famous Game of Thrones TV-series was filmed. Sometimes when you visit these locations, the locals remind you about the many movies filmed there and Game of Thrones is saved for last, as the most important one.
Being in Morocco and visiting these locations was a dream come true, and even though CGI was used to fully develop the cities into what the author intended you can still feel like visiting the Essos continent in the search for Daenerys Targeryan. (Spoiler alert: we couldn’t find her 🙁 ).
Game of Thrones name: Yunkai
Appearances: Season 3, episode 7 “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”, episode 8 “Second Sons”, episode 9 “The Rains of Castamere” and episode 10 “Mhysa”
Described in books: “Ancient and glorious is Yunkai, the queen of cities. Our walls are strong, our nobles proud and fierce, our common folk without fear. Ours is the blood of ancient Ghis, whose empire was old when Valyria was yet a squalling child. ”
Aït Benhaddou is a fortified village, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took a day trip to Aït Benhaddou from Marrakech using a private tour company. This location is very popular among tourists as it’s located near the Sahara Desert and because the village was used as a filming set for many other movies (such as Gladiator, The Mummy, Prince of Persia, Babel). Also, to get to Aït Benhaddou we had to cross the Atlas mountains on a serpentine road with beautiful landscapes, but enjoyable by those with a tough stomach.
Today’s Aït Benhaddou is far from a city with strong walls and a definitely a village without nobles, since the walls are made of mud and only a few families lives there without electricity. We got to visit a family house and I was impressed of how simple and clean everything was. The people are very nice and there are berber shops were you can buy paintings, jewelry and carpets.
CGI was used to develop the Yunkai city, mainly the pyramids with the harpy, however you can easily identify Aït Benhaddou in all the scenes. It has the ancient and glorious feeling about it. Once you get the first glimpse of this impressive city you can understand the feeling that Daenerys had had when she first saw Yunkai.
Once you’re at the top of the village, where the pyramids should have been, you can have a complete perspective over the area – you can see the whole village, the Asif Ounila river, the modern and new developed part of the Aït Benhaddou surrounded by palm trees, it was a surreal landscape.
Game of Thrones name: Astapor
Appearances: season 3, episode 1 “Valar Dohaeris” and then again in season 3, episode 3 ” “Walk of Punishment”
Described in books: “Astapor is most beautiful at dusk, Your Grace. The Good Masters light silk lanterns on every terrace, so all the pyramids glow with colored lights. ” (by Missandei, to Daenerys Targaryen)
Essaouira is the second Game of Thrones filming location that we visited in Morocco. The city is located on the Atlantic coast and the name is a reference to its walls. The Medina of the city is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Astapor, also known as The Red City is one of the Slaver City, on the south coast of Slaver’s Bay, in Essos and it is mentioned in A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons books.
Essaouira was used for scenes located in the Astapori port and it is obvious that it does not have pyramids, and as in the case of Yunkai and Aït Benhaddou CGI was used to fully develop Essaouira into the city of Astapor.
We took a day trip to Essaouira in our attempt to see the beautiful city and the ocean. After passing the argan tree fields we got the chance to visit the Essaouira port and the city’s Medina. Unfortunately, the City Walls were closed for maintenance, but we’ve managed to see the outer walls.
The famous boats in the port can also be seen in season 3, episode 1 “Valar Dohaeris” when a warlock masked as a young girl attempts to assassinate Daenerys with a scorpion-like creature.
We wish that we would have seen the sunset in Essaouira, but we had to return to Marrakech, because of the nightfall. Also, if you ever get the chance to visit this beautiful city don’t miss the fresh seafood.
Astapor is also featured in season 3, episode 4 “And Now His Watch Is Ended”, and the scenes from this episode were filmed in a studio set. The scene that featured the trade of one of the dragons to the slaver Kraznys for the Unsullied army, which was one of my favorite scenes in the series was filmed there.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to visit the studio set, but we had a quick glimpse while driving towards the city. We saw the Atlas mountains behind the studio, featured in the episode. The main focus point in the city of Ourzazate was the Taourirt Kasbah, with its walls similar with the Astapori walls seen in the episode.
Game of Thrones filming locations in Spain
Different locations in Spain were used to animate regions in the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe, locations such as the beautiful city of Seville, to Almeria, Cordoba, Peniscola, Girona or Bardenas Reales Natural Park. In this part however, I’ll talk about the ones we’ve visited (so far).
Alcázar de Sevilla
Game of Thrones name: Water Gardens
Appearances: Season 5, episode 2 “The House of Black and White”, episode 6 “”Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” and episode 9 “The Dance of Dragons”
Described in books: “Here the air smelled of dust, sweat, and smoke, and the nights were alive with the babble of voices. In place of the pink marble of the Water Gardens, Sunspear was built from mud and straw, and colored brown and dun. The ancient stronghold of House Martell stood at the easternmost end of a little jut of stone and sand, surrounded on three sides by the sea. […] Compared to Tyrosh or Myr or Great Norvos, the shadow city was no more than a town, yet it was the nearest thing to a true city that these Dornish had.”
As I was reading the books, I kept imagining the Dornishmen as being of Hispanic nationality. Even George R. R. Martin acknowledged Spain, alongside Palestine and Wales as historical influences for Dorne. I think David Benioff and D. B. Weiss had the same feeling because the Alcázar de Sevilla was used for the Dornish Water Gardens.
The Water Gardens are a private retreat for House Martell and are described as a palace with gardens and water fountains, a unique place in the hottest part of Westeros. The Water Gardens are featured or mentioned in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, and surely they will be mentioned in The Winds of Winter, the upcoming book.
The Alcázar de Sevilla is a royal palace built by the Moors and is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain. Also, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture of the palace is simply breathtaking, one of the best we have ever seen. Should you visit, you’ll marvel for hours at all the intricate details in every room.
Roman Bridge of Córdoba
Game of Thrones name: Long Bridge of Volantis
Appearances: Season 3, episode 3 “High Sparrow”
Described in books: “A man can buy most anything on the Long Bridge, gloves, slaves, monkeys”
Córdoba is a city in Andalusia, the southern part of Spain, and its historic centre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman Bridge of Córdoba was built in the first century across the Guadalquivir river by the Romans. Located in the historical centre of the city, it was used to animated the Long Bridge of Volantis.
Named one of the nine “Wonders Made by Man” in the A Song Of Ice And Fire universe, the Long Bridge of Volanti, as it is described in A Dance with Dragons, is a multilevel structure with different kind of buildings, from markets to taverns and brothels. The idea is kept in the TV series, when in season 2, Talisa Maegyr mentioned to Robb Stark that “What if I told you my father sold lace on the Long Bridge and my mother, my brother, and I lived with him above our shop?”
In the show, the bridge is heavily CGI altered but you can still distinguish the bottom part of the bridge. If you visit Cordoba, the best view over the bridge is from Torre De Calahorra, a small, but fascinating museum.
Game of Thrones name: Mereen
Appearances: season 6, episode 1 “The Red Woman” and episode 8 “No One”.
Described in books: “Meereen was as large as Astapor and Yunkai combined. Like her sister cities she was built of brick, but where Astapor had been red and Yunkai yellow, Meereen was made with bricks of many colors. Her walls were higher than Yunkai’s and in better repair, studded with bastions and anchored by great defensive towers at every angle. Behind them, huge against the sky, could be seen the top of the Great Pyramid, a monstrous thing eight hundred feet tall with a towering bronze harpy at its top.”
Peniscola (don’t! it’s not pronounced the way you think!) is a city located along the Mediterranean coast that was used as a filming location for Meereen, especially the scene located in the Meereen Docks. It’s a charming place to visit, especially for wandering on the labyrinth like streets of the castle. We have visited Peniscola long before we had any Game of Thrones figurines. Or a good camera. Or they decided to film there. You can say we’ve visited before it was cool? 😉 I’ll see myself out.
As I’ve told you, my dream is to visit all the Game of Thrones filming locations, so I’m already planning the second part of this post, with locations from Malta, Scotland and Greece. I can’t wait to see to what Game of Thrones filming locations 2017 will take me.
Disclaimer: All the pictures from the TV series “Game of Thrones” are the property of HBO. More information about all the different filming locations and a map can be found on MovieMaps.