Sun, Sea and Game of Thrones: A Journey Into Iconic Croatia
From ancient alleyways and weather-worn castles to stone steps worn smooth by centuries of shuffling feet, Croatia is home to some of the world’s most evocative Medieval architecture. Recently, though, it’s taken on a whole new dimension – playing a starring role as various backdrops in the Game of Thrones.
From the city of Meereen and Red Keep to Qarth and King’s Landing itself, dozens of locations from Game of Thrones were filmed here. What most people are unaware of, however – whether you’re a history buff or hardcore GOT fan – is that the best time to see it all is outside of the peak holiday season (or when ‘winter is coming’).
Start off in Split, at the Diocletian Palace, where you can follow in the footsteps of Daenerys’ dragons. This UNESCO World Heritage Site featured in some of the show’s most iconic scenes: it was where Daenerys was locked up and trained her fire-breathing beasts, and also where the slaves discuss rising up and fighting for Daenerys against their masters. While there’s plenty to explore above ground, make sure you also take the stairs down to the Palace’s dark, atmospheric basement – the location of Daenerys’ throne room on the show.
Just a short distance from the Diocletian Palace is the medieval fortress at Klis. Overlooking Split, this ancient citadel doubled as the mighty city of Meereen, which Daenerys and her army conquered to free the slaves. With the exception of The Great Pyramid, the show’s creators used very little CGI in these scenes so it’s not hard to imagine yourself rising up and following the charge with the rest of the rabble. Klis is open most of the year but it’s best to go on a clear day, when you’ll get unparalleled views of Split, the Adriatic and the surrounding islands.
A little further down the Adriatic Coast, you’ll find Trogir. Incredibly, this tiny historic town was the setting for the trading harbour of Qarth, the greatest city that ever was or will be. Surrounded by medieval walls, Trogir is blessed with many beautiful churches, palaces and quaint narrow streets but Game of Thrones fans should head straight for the St Dominic’s Monastery, which you’ll recognise from several scenes in the show.
Continuing further north, up the Adriatic coast from Split, you’ll come to Šibenik, which made an appearance in Game of Thrones as the city of Braavos. Interestingly, the people of Šibenik are renowned for their swordsmanship and sailoring abilities, just like the fictional Braavosi. GOT fans among you should make a beeline for St James’ Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which doubled as the Game of Thrones’ Iron Bank – the most powerful financial institution in the Free World. Another place to check out is the fisherman’s port of Mandroc, which was also used to recreate the port of Braavos, which Arya Stark sailed into.
Getting to King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, was no easy task for many Game of Thrones characters. Fortunately, in real life, it’s much easier (and a lot less bloody) – just head to Dubrovnik Old Town. With its terracotta-topped roofs, white marble houses, high-rise cliffs and ancient city walls, it’ll fire your imagination, whatever the season.
Share in Cersei Lannister’s disgrace and stroll the Walk of Shame down the Jesuit stairs, follow in the footsteps of Tyrion Lannister along the winding, narrow streets, loiter outside Littlefinger’s brothel (actually the Ethnographic Museum), or keep watch at Red Keep Gate, aka Ploče Gate. You can even experience the hustle and bustle of a King’s Landing market day along St Dominic Street (albeit without any noisy tradesmen or protest speeches).
Whether you’re here for a weekend or just a few hours, any visit to Dubrovnik Old Town should include a trip to the King’s Landing Harbour – in reality a small fishing harbour set between Fortress Lovrijenac and Bokar Fortress. It was here that many characters made a big entrance (or speedy exit), most notably Princess Myrcella and Jon Snow. Ironically for such a tranquil place, Fort Lovrijenac also doubles as Red Keep, the scene of so much plotting, fighting, raucous celebrating and Prince Joffrey’s tournament.
A short distance away, at the highest point of Dubrovnik, you’ll find the imposing Minceta Tower. This ancient fortress is a symbol of Dubrovnik and featured as the House of the Undying in Qarth, when Daenerys went searching for her stolen dragons. While you won’t come across any fire-breathing reptiles, you will find jaw-dropping beautiful views across the Old City.
If you’ve time, it’s worth making the 30-minute drive out of Dubrovnik to Trsteno Arboretum, too. These exotic botanical gardens are instantly recognisable to Game of Thrones fans as the King’s Landing Gardens. Even if you’ve never seen the show, there’s a palpable sense of magic about this place, with over 300 different species of trees and flowers to see (and smell), plus idyllic fountains, stone monuments and palm tree vistas. Come in spring for the bougainvillea, summer for the Japanese roses, and autumn and winter for the golden colours when the leaves are on the turn.
With warm breezes and blue skies much of the year round, why wait til summer?
Croatian National Tourism Board
THE CROATIAN NATIONAL TOURIST BOARD (CNTB) is a national tourist organization founded to create, promote and enhance the brand and reputation of Croatian tourism. Including the creation and implementation of a common strategy in Croatia and abroad, as well as raising the overall quality of tourist services in Croatia.