How ‘Game of Thrones” Locations Have Expanded With the Series

When the eighth and final season of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” debuts on April 14, the show’s millions of followers will once again be transported to the exotic lands and sweeping landscapes where the saga is set. From King’s Landing to The Wall, stunning locations have been woven into the fabric of “Thrones” since its first shoot in 2010 (for a 2011 air date), before “the whole show developed into something that nobody knew yet,” recalls producer Christopher Newman.

Newman, who started as a line producer before becoming co-producer and producer on the show, was in those days just “the guy planning it all in terms of locations — [where] you could afford to go.” Even then, there was always an expectation of doing King’s Landing exteriors in a real medieval city. In Season 1, that was the walled city of Mdina, in Malta. In Season 2, which required a bigger King’s Landing, it became Dubrovnick, in Croatia.

“By Season 3 [the show had] turned into an absolute juggernaut,” notes the series’ Northern Ireland location manager Robert Boake. “And we grew with it. We’re talking huge lighting rigs: big cranes on sites in muddy fields. We got involved in civil engineering questions — building bridges over lagoons, laying road and trackway.” 

For Season 3, production to represent the cities Astapor and Yunkai in Slaver’s Bay moved to Morocco. By Season 5, those locations moved to Spain, filming in Seville’s Alcázar Palace. By then the production was shooting in four countries simultaneously: Northern Ireland, Croatia, Iceland and Spain. 

Northern Ireland, or course, has always been the home base for “Game of Thrones,” chosen for the stages in Belfast’s Paint Hall (now Titanic Studios), which “had tremendous height for the scale of our show,” says HBO senior VP of physical production Janet Graham-Borba, who adds that the location offers unspoiled landscapes and the cooperation of film agency Northern Ireland Screen. 

Game of Thrones Season 8 BTS

In Season 2, producer Bernadette Caulfield came on board, and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss gave Newman free rein to go to Iceland. Weiss sent back photos and told them: “North of The Wall is in Iceland, because it’s just unlike anything you’ve seen before.” By Season 6, “the ambition for both Bernie [Caulfield] and myself was never to say that’s impossible,” Newman adds.

Iceland, along with Northern Ireland, has remained a location for the series ever since. Lavish helicopter shots off the nation’s coast were used for the heart-pounding Season 7 finale when the Ice Wall comes down. 

In Season 8, by virtue of the way things went in 7, says Newman, viewers already know how battlegrounds and landscapes will be drawn up as the Army of the Dead marches south. King’s Landing will be playing a major part again, but this time, he reveals, “we knew that no historical city could agree for us to shoot in it with what the script would call for.” So the show built replicas of Dubrovnik in Belfast. 

Due to the massive scale of the set-pieces in Season 8, “only Northern Ireland and a little bit of Iceland were physically trodden on by a camera crew,” explains Newman. He and Caulfield said to themselves, “OK, what’s the best way to do this. We’re not going to take the set to Iceland, so we’re going to have to bring Iceland to [Belfast].” 

In the end, Newman says, the most important thing when you have 400 to 500 people and 60 horses every night is to have a “robust location that you can maintain.” 

More Artisans

  • A still from Miles Davis: Birth

    Film Editor Lewis Erskine on Finding the Rhythm for Miles Davis Doc 'Birth of the Cool'

    On-the-beat editing for the documentary “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” comes courtesy of Lewis Erskine who brings rhythm to the images apace with that perfect flow of the jazz icon’s horn. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2019 and earned a nomination at the NAACP’s 2020 Image Awards for outstanding documentary [...]

  • Robin Thede

    Robin Thede: 'Turn Black History Month Into Black History Year' (Guest Column)

    From “The Queen Latifah Show,” “The Nightly Show,” “The Rundown with Robin Thede” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” my career has been dedicated in large part to the representation, advancement and celebration of black people year-round. And I know what you’re thinking: “Robin, you’re black (I think, right? Googles ‘Robin Thede ethnicity’ Yes, got [...]

  • Kasi LemmonsNew York Women in Film

    Kasi Lemmons: 'African American History Is American History' (Guest Column)

    My influences were literary initially. I was a big reader of books so my influences were Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and southern novelists. In terms of film, I liked Bergman a lot and Hitchcock, but there were a lot of different people that I admired. I realized recently that Lina Wertmuller was one of [...]

  • The Invisible Man

    How 'The Invisible Man's' Production and Costume Designer Avoided Horror Tropes

    While Universal’s “The Invisible Man” is based on the studio’s popular 1933 horror feature of the same name, director Leigh Whannell didn’t envision his remake as a fright fest. That provided the marching orders for his artistic team: Production designer Alex Holmes and costume designer Emily Seresin sought to avoid horror tropes, turning the Elisabeth [...]

  • call of the wild

    'The Call of the Wild' Editor David Heinz on Creating Emotions for a CGI Dog

    “The Call of the Wild” editor David Heinz has worked on “The Jungle Book” and “War for the Planet of the Apes,” but this movie starring Harrison Ford and an animated dog named Buck was different. “If you think about it, the lead of the movie is fully CGI and never speaks,” he said, also [...]

  • Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' Cinematographer, Costume Designer on the 'Painterly' 18th-Century Look

    “Painterly” might be an overused term to describe a certain aesthetic of period cinematography, informed by candlelit interiors and sweeping outdoor compositions. But it seizes the essence of French writer-director Céline Sciamma’s deeply feminist 18th-century gay romance set on the coast of Brittany, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which debuted in theaters on Valentine’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content