'Game of Thrones' Season 4: An Inside Look At the European Paradise That Looks Like King's Landing


Die-hard Game of Thrones fans waiting for the latest news on the hit HBO series have cause for some celebration: Season 4 is just began filming in Croatia! The small Adriatic country has long been important to the TV show, which is based on George R.R. Martin's saga A Song of Ice and Fire. The seaside city of Dubrovnik has been a stand-in for many locations in the series, including King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

The site of King's Landing. Photo courtesy Nick Hunt.

The imagined King's Landing:

Dubrovnik was already a Mediterranean tourist destination, but its popularity has boosted considerably since Game of Thrones came to town. Dubrovnik was once the seat of the wealthy and successful Republic of Ragusa, and the ancient maritime town was at various times a vassal to the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians, the Ottomans, and Napoleon. The motto of the Republic evokes Dubrovnik's long history of self-rule: "Liberty is not sold for all the gold in the world."

The famous walls of Dubrovnik offered Game of Thrones show runners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff a match made in heaven. In this HBO production video, Weiss says that, "To find a full-on, immaculately preserved, medieval-walled city that looks uncannily like King's Landing, where the bulk of our show is set, that was, in and of itself, just such an amazing find."

Because Dubrovnik is such a perfect fit for Game of Thrones, a lot of the show can be filmed naturally, with minimal CGI and set building, and few edits to cut out real-world elements (after all, we don't want hotels and cruise ships in the scenes!). Dubrovnik's stone streets and golden light suit it for multiple roles; in addition to King's Landing, the city serves as the Red Keep, Blackwater Bay, Qarth, the countryside, and more.

Game of Thrones fans know Minceta Tower as the House of the Undying. Photo courtesy Nick Hunt.

A new location for Season 4 is the city of Split, about 140 miles northwest of Dubrovnik. Split is the former home of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who maintained a massive palace in the coastal city. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular tourist destination, Split has its fair share of medieval fortresses and cathedrals. There is no word yet on what role Split will play in the world of Westeros. Season 4 will introduce House Martell, so it is possible that Split could be filling in for the kingdom of Dorne and its capital, Sunspear. 

Split. Photo courtesy Vincent Ko Hon Chiu.

The production cast and crew will typically stay in an area like Dubrovnik or Split for a couple of weeks to a month, enjoying the local scenery and culture in between shoots. Locals are often cast as extras, and local businesses often benefit from playing host to such a large amount of visitors. Filming in Dubrovnik is expected to last until September 20, and filming in Split is planned for September 20 to October 10.

The Dubrovnik location for the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Photo courtesy Nick Hunt.

If you're interested in visiting these beautiful, real-life locations, some local tour guides are arranging Game of Thrones-inspired walking tours that visit the series' shoot locations. You can wander the same King's Landing walls as Tyrion, Joffrey, and Cersei, stroll through the same gardens as Lord Varys and Olenna Tyrell, and see where the Khaleesi hung out in Qarth. Touring Dubrovnik sounds like an excellent way to pass the time while waiting for Season 4, when we'll get to see what beautiful locations the show shoots at next!