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Years ago when I started watching Game of Thrones on HBO (cue the theme music in my head right now), I remember thinking are these locations real and if so, I have to go there!
I was delighted to learn the locations ARE real and that Croatia would be the next country added to my bucket list.
Actually, getting to Croatia took me almost as long as it took George RR Martin to write A Dance with Dragons, but I finally made it there last year. Did it disappoint? Absolutely not. Do I totally want to go back? Hell yes.
Besides being THE King’s Landing, home of the Seven Kingdoms, Dubrovnik itself is stunning. It sits on the beautiful turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, surrounded by a massive stone wall that has stayed intact since the 16th century. Thanks to Game of Thrones (cue the theme music again), Dubrovnik has become quite the tourist attraction and it has become so overcrowded with GOT fans like me that the last few seasons HBO has had to move shooting locations to somewhere quieter.
However, Dubrovnik is more than ready to be a “must see” destination in itself.
On the day I was there, there was a mass of people trying to get into the city through Pile Gate. I instantly felt like Arya trying to maneuver through the streets of Kings Landing in season one trying not to get trampled to death or spotted by Joffrey.
I highly recommend the Game of Thrones tour through Viator. It was absolutely fantastic!
The water here is stunning and the day I was there people were in the water and clearly not afraid of wildfire.
As you climb above the steep steps to Fort Lovrijenrc opposite the walled city of Dubrovnik and above Tyrion’s secret passage, you enter the Red Keep. Above the entrance is a very fitting saying carved in the stone, “Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro” (“Freedom cannot be sold for all the gold of the world”).
From here you get a breathtaking view of Dubrovnik and Minceta Tower, which served as the House of the Undying where Daenerys went to look for her stolen dragons. You can’t help looking out into the distance searching for Stannis Baratheon’s ill-fated fleet.
The entrance to King’s Landing is the gate to the city. Instead of peasants and commoners you will encounter artists and performers.
I couldn’t help myself from walking up and down the stairs saying shame, shame!
Even though this was just a replica, we couldn’t help taking turns sitting in it. How cool is that? It is located in a small shop, up a lot of steps but it was totally worth the picture.
Not only did we go to some cool sites in King’s Landing, but we learned some really cool insider information about the HBO production. Whether they are true or not, I really don’t care. They were highly amusing to hear.
Click & Expand for HBO insider secrets we heard on the tour!
During the filming of season 2, Tyrion Lannister (aka Peter Dinklage) had a little too much to drink and couldn’t remember where his hotel was. Hint: At the time there was only one big hotel in town but who hasn’t had one too many drinks and forgotten where their hotel room is. Australian backpackers, not knowing who he was, invited him back to their hostel in old town.
Peter Dinklage fell asleep (aka passed out) on the couch in the lobby. When he was discovered by the front desk clerk in the early morning hours, he was promptly asked to leave and did so politely.
Once Game of Thrones brought the international spotlight down onto Peter Dinklage, the following sign was hung in their lobby above the couch he passed out on: Tyrion Lannister Slept Here. Welcome to King’s Landing. Pretty awesome for the hand of the king AND queen!
HBO had a small crew filming exterior shots the day I was there. I was told that most scenes that show the outside of King’s Landing in the later seasons is actually stock footage collected from previous seasons.
With the worldwide spotlight that Game of Thrones has thrust onto Croatia, the HBO team has moved on to film in other locations that aren’t as overrun by fans and tourists.
The walled city of Dubrovnik does not have cars running through it. It is filled with cobblestone streets and lots and lots of stairs!
When we stopped to rest in front of one of the many residential doors, we were told that the door we were in front of was the entrance to a private apartment that HBO had rented out during two weeks of shooting just so the crew could use their front bathroom.
HBO was known to pay residents quite generously to use their bathrooms, as well as keep their windows and shutters closed during filming scenes. If you were to actually stand at the top of the steps where Cersei takes her walk of atonement, you would be looking at several apartment windows and restaurants at the bottom of the hill.
HBO paid for those restaurants to stay closed over a week and paid everyone to take that week off for vacation, including the workers at the businesses. That makes me love you even more HBO!
If you are a true Game of Thrones fan, you can not leave Croatia without going to Trsteno Arboretum (or Highgarden as GOT fans would recognize it). The arboretum dates back to the 15th century. It is a worthy place for the Tyrell family to call home. R.I.P. Margaery and Lady Olenna.
Below captures the scene in season three when I decided I had to find out if that place was real or not. It was and it was right there waiting for me in Croatia!
With HBO’s Game of Thrones coming to an end in 2019, I am preparing myself to say goodbye to so many great characters but I will not be saying goodbye to Croatia.
I am already planning to go back in 2020 with friends, who are not GOT fans, but who I plan to convert! If I could ever get Hayley to sit still long enough to get through an episode of Game of Thrones, I am sure she would realize Croatia needs to be added to her bucket list.
Whether you go on your own, as a couple, with friends or with family, here are my top 5 tips for visiting Croatia:
I am a mom first, and a wandering (but not lost) soul second. After years of planning travel for friends, I became a Cruise Planners Travel Advisor. You can learn more about the services I can offer you by visiting me at Memories by Marley
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