“Game of Thrones” is riveting partly for its stunning filming locations. Wonder what Kings Landing is like in real life? World Traveling Mom says visiting Dubrovnik, a medieval walled city in Croatia, feels like walking into a Game of Thrones set. And don’t miss Dubrovnik’s real history during the Venetian and Ottoman empires and, later, as part of Yugoslavia. Eat delicious seafood, and enjoy beautiful views of the Old City, the sea, and the surrounding mountains.
Dubrovnik, Croatia – Beautiful Movie Location of Game of Thrones
My husband and I visited Dubrovnik to explore the real history and culture of this medieval city in Croatia. But we also enjoyed feeling like we’d walked into a Game of Thrones set.
Game of Thrones Dubrovnik Tour
As soon as we walked through the massive stone gate of the medieval walled city, I felt like we’d entered the set of Game of Thrones. Dubrovnik is immediately recognizable as Kings Landing. And as the dramatic backdrop of other pivotal Game of Thrones scenes. It was fun to turn a corner and realize we were on the same stairs Cersei Lannister descended on the Walk of Atonement. Or that we were standing where Tyrion had plotted while looking out to sea.
As fans of the show, naturally, we took a walking tour of spots used in shooting Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik. While the tour helped to show us out of the way locations we might not have stumbled on, my husband and I had more fun discovering filming spots for Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik on our own.
Explore Dubrovnik’s real history
Dubrovnik was independent for 450 years, until Napoleon. Dubrovnik fended off and then traded with the Ottomans, was dominated by Venice, then became part of Yugoslavia. In the 1990’s, Croatia fought a war to leave Yugoslavia.
For a one-hour historical walking tour by Dubrovnik City Tours, we looked for the person with a red umbrella at Big Onofrio’s fountain (4 times a day) and paid 12 Euros. Our excellent guide, Ana Vrtikapa, was raised speaking the Dubrovnik dialect, a mix of Croatian and Italian, lingering evidence of the city’s past domination by Venice.
Walk the Dubrovnik Wall
We immediately recognized Dubronik’s surrounding medieval stone wall as the dramatic backdrop to the Game of Thrones scenes. Old City Dubrovnik once was a thriving commercial trading center. The fortress wall that surrounds the city juts out into the Adriatic Sea and cradles its scenic harbor.
We climbed up steep stairs to walk the entire stone wall that surrounds the city. It’s worth it for breathtaking views of the orange-topped roofs of the Old City, the Adriatic Sea, islands, and the mountains beyond.
Allow at least 75 minutes. Allow two hours if you have little ones or, like me, are blown away by the views and stop every few minutes.
Practical tips for the Dubrovnik wall:
- If it’s hot, bring water. Before you climb up, make a pit stop. The bathroom in the tourist office at Pile Gate costs $1.
- To avoid crowds – and the midday sun in summer – walk the wall either before 9 am or after 4 pm. In June, we walked during the golden hours of 5-7 p.m., when the crowd had thinned and the stone buildings and orange tiled roofs glowed against the blue sky.
- Stairs are the only way up to the wall. No elevator and no way to bring a stroller other than carrying it. While we did not have our kids with us, we saw tired parents carrying toddlers. Realistically, Dubrovnik might be best for kids who can easily handle lots of stairs.
Cable Car View of Dubrovnik
We enjoyed a 3-minute cable car ride to the top of a nearby mountain. In June, the line to get on was not long and moved fast; expect bigger crowds in July and August. During the ride and at the top of the mountain, we had views of the layout of Dubrovnik and the sea. At the top of the mountain is Restaurant Panorama. While it has lovely views, it’s dodgy for little kids because of its steep drop off and minimal fencing.
The Homeland War Museum, located near the top of the cable car, is inside a fort built by Napoleon and used in the 1990s war. The museum has graphic images of the Serbian shelling of Dubrovnik, which could be upsetting to kids under 10.
Great Views of Dubrovnik
Our favorite spots to watch the stone buildings of Dubrovnik glow in the early evening sun were from the Wall, from Restaurant Panorama at the top of the cable car, and from a roof terrace restaurant in Dubrovnik. The restaurant, called Above 5, is on the 5th floor of the Boutique Hotel Stari Grad in Old City. While Dubrovnik’s Old City does not have elevators, our climb up to Above 5 was rewarded with a panoramic view of the walled city and the sea beyond.
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Above 5 Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner. Our stay in Boutique Hotel Stari Grad – a splurge – included an elegant breakfast on the roof terrace. Our breakfast with that view was a wonderful beginning to every day in Dubrovnik.
Truly nutty places with great views of the sea are Buza Bar 1 and Buza Bar 2. Amazingly, customers sit directly on the rock facing the sea at both of these open-air bars connected to the city wall. While my husband and I sat on the upper rocks to sip wine, hardier customers climbed down the steep rock. Or jumped into the sea to swim. These are delightful places during the day. But they are not for little kids or anyone with unsteady footing. And too risky to navigate in the dark.
Game of Thrones outside Dubrovnik
On the May day we visited Trsteno Arboretum, about 15 miles outside Dubrovnik, we had the garden to ourselves. We immediately recognized a stone structure with stunning views of the Adriatic from Game of Thrones scenes between Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna Tyrell.
In reality, Trsteno Arboretum is a 15th-century summer pleasure palace and garden. While we had a car for the half-hour drive from Dubrovnik, there also is a bus – or take a Game of Thrones tour that includes it. And for Game of Thrones filming locations in Split, Croatia, click here.
TravelingMom Practical Tips for Dubrovnik, Croatia
Be prepared to climb stairs. Cars and elevators are prohibited in medieval Dubrovnik. And be warned, sidewalks can be stone staircases. So be prepared to walk. Also, I wore comfortable shoes with good tread, since we walked the main stone street daily, and it is slippery when wet. While the Old City is compact, I figured the stairs justified my daily gelatos.
The Old City in Dubrovnik gets overcrowded with cruise passengers between 10 am and 4 pm. In summer, if you can, explore the streets of Old City before cruise passengers arrive. Or, wait until after cruise passengers leave. To avoid crowds, we used the middle of the day for day trips or museums.
We didn’t need to speak Croatian. People in hotels and restaurants speak English. While they are cheerful about it, they appreciated being thanked for speaking English. Also true in another Croatian city we loved, Zagreb.
Save money by taking the bus from the airport. For less than $10, an air-conditioned bus with plush seats took us from the Dubrovnik airport to the Old City (stop is Pile Gate). Since cars are prohibited inside the Old City, even if you take a taxi, you’ll need to carry bags to the hotel.
Croatia beyond Dubrovnik
Along Croatia’s coast, you can explore its wine region and taste delicious Croatian wine. Farther inland is Croatia’s Plitvice National Park, known for striking green waterfalls and lakes. Croatia’s capital is the cultural center of Zagreb, a destination in itself.