The History Buff's Guide
Your Game of Thrones Guide to Croatia (Part I: Dubrovnik)
If you’re reading this, you know it as King’s Landing — the capital and largest city of the Seven Kingdoms; a land of opulence, excess, and grandeur. And, while King’s Landing does not really exist, much of it is filmed in the very real and historically rich city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.
The ancient Walls surrounding Dubrovnik’s Old Town are considered one of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages and have never been breached, making them a perfect stand-in for King’s Landing. Construction on the Walls spanned the 13th to the 17th centuries, and today you can still explore all 2,000 meters of it.
So, from Qarth to King’s Landing, the Red Keep to Blackwater Bay, here’s THE STELLA’s Dubrovnik Guide to Game of Thrones!
1. Fort Lovrijenac
Game of Thrones fans will recognize it as the place where King Joffrey’s name day tournament was held in S2 — but locals know it as, “Croatia’s Gibraltar.” The imposing Fort Lovrijenac, or St. Lawrence Fortress, is a medieval defense complex, poised atop a 37-meter-high cliff overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
In the 11th century, invading Venetians knew the strategic advantage of placing a fort here: complete control of Dubrovnik. With no time to lose, locals banned together and successfully constructed their own fortress, repulsing the arriving Venetian ships. Inscribed above the fortress gate are the words, Non Bene Pro Toto Libertas Venditur Auro: Freedom is Not to be Sold for All the Treasures in the World — King Aegon I Targaryen would have surely agreed.
Of its three sides, the seaward-facing walls are an impressive 12 meters thick. Conversely, the city-facing walls are only 60 centimeters thick. Laziness? Not at all. In fact, the deliberately thin walls were built in the event that the Venetians took possession of the fort, allowing Dubrovnik locals to easily storm the complex by land. Fort Lovrijenac really is a must on your Game of Thrones itinerary.
2. Bokar Fortress
Standing on the stone promenade overlooking the cobalt waters of Blackwater Bay, Tyrion and Lord Varys discuss the imminent invasion of King’s Landing by Stannis Baratheon. Pay special attention to the scene and you may notice another fort poised on a rocky cliff some distance behind Varys — that’s Fort Lovrijenak!
Designed by Italian architect and sculptor, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo of Florence, the Bokar fortress began construction in 1461. Although the bulk of the construction occurred during the first decade, it was only officially completed over 100 years later, in 1570. Placing the Fort at Pile Gate allowed for the strategic defense of Dubrovnik’s western entrance. The Fortress’ cylindrical shape harmoniously follows the curvature of the detached rock upon which it sits, while arched supports bridge the sea-gap between the fortress and the Walls.
Definitely a must-see for Game of Thrones fans.
3. Tower of Minčeta
Game of Thrones fans may recognize the Tower’s base as the House of the Undying in S2E5, as Khaleesi frantically searches for her confiscated dragons in the city of Qarth. The Tower has also been used as part of the King’s Landing set.
Construction on the Tower of Minčeta began in 1319. It was intended more as a symbol of Dubrovnik’s resistance to conquest than as a strategic defense tower; however, after Bosnia fell to the Turks in 1463, the city hired architects to fortify its strength. An outer wall was added and the Tower was outfitted with nine guns, including a bronze cannon. The decorative Gothic crown atop the Tower is both beautiful and imposing.
For visitors today, the Tower offers extraordinary views of Dubrovnik’s Old Town and the Adriatic Sea, as it remains the highest point in the city. Locals say you haven’t really seen Dubrovnik until you’ve taken in the panoramic views from atop of the Tower of Minčeta — so be sure to add it to your Game of Thrones itinerary!
4. Jesuit Staircase
The Staircase is featured prominently in an unforgettable S5E10 scene. That’s right — Cersei’s naked walk of atonement from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep, pursued by a vitriolic crowd and a shame-chanting nun. It may have been a difficult scene to watch but, fortunately for fans, the Jesuit Staircase where it was filmed is much easier on the eyes.
Designed by Italian architect, Pietro Passalacqua, the Baroque steps are reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. It joins Gundulić Square to the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola. For die-hard fans, you can even follow in the footsteps of Cersei’s walk of shame; begin at the Jesuit Staircase and continue through Od Margarite Street, St. Dominika street, and Ploce Gate.
You’ll also definitely want to snap a selfie on the Staircase — just make sure to keep your clothes on.
5. West Pier
You may recognize the West Pier as the site of the largest battle in the War of the Five Kings — the bloody Battle of Blackwater (S2E9). Can you picture the green-tinted flames of wildfire as they eviscerate Stannis Baratheon’s ships? Or Stannis’ unlikely escape from the fire, only to be taken on the shore of King’s Landing?
Shae and Sansa also shared a scene on Dubrovnik’s West Pier in S3E1. Idling by the water, the pair was interrupted by Lord Littlefinger, who sought to speak with Sansa in private (much to Shae’s chagrin).
The West Pier is part of the city’s Old Town. You’ll find it in an opening in the Walls of Dubrovnik, nestled in a small bay between Fort Lovrijenac and Bokar Fortress. Walk along the stone pier and take in gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea. Don’t forget to get a photo of yourself reenacting Sansa’s thoughtful pose.
If you plan on visiting Dubrovnik’s Old Town, be prepared to arrive early. Due to the high surge in tourist numbers (most of whom are Game of Thrones fans), the city permits a maximum of 4,000 visitors per day. That said, the experience is well worth it. You can opt to be taken on a guided tour of the filming locations, or simply wander at your leisure, dreaming of the Red Keep. You’ll need at least two hours just to walk the entire length of the Walls, so clear your morning and be sure to stay hydrated.
If you still can’t get enough Game of Thrones, check out Your Game of Thrones Guide to Croatia Part II
Did we forget any Dubrovnik Game of Thrones filming locations you’d love to see? Let us know in the comments below! And, if you haven’t yet booked your Croatian vacation rental yet, check out THE STELLA’s curated collection of awesome properties!