Game of Thrones (abbreviated GoT) is a television series based on the medieval high fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R. R. Martin; A Game of Thrones is the title of the first novel. The series was produced by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss and has been very successful, with many viewers, much critical acclaim and many Emmy awards. It was produced by and for the American pay television channel HBO, but was also carried by other TV companies around the world.
Eight seasons were aired between April 2011 and May 2019. All seasons are available on DVD, Blu-Ray and, depending where you live, perhaps also on cable TV.
The series is one of the few fantasy series to feature graphic sex and violence, as well as foul language. It is also adult in its exploration of moral gray areas and of philosophical and political concepts.
The setting of the series is loosely based on various periods of English history, most notably the Heptarchy, which served as the inspiration for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, and the War of the Roses, with the Houses of Stark and Lannister standing in for the Houses of York and Lancaster respectively, and to a lesser extent, on the history of other parts of Europe. The Red Wedding was inspired by two events in Scottish history; the Black Dinner in 1440 and the Glencoe Massacre in 1692. The Ironborn of the Iron Islands were loosely inspired by the Vikings, who conducted raids on the British Isles throughout the Middle Ages. The Wall is loosely based on Hadrian's Wall in northern England, which was built during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian at what was then the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.
King's Landing is said to be an amalgamation of various medieval European capitals, combining the royal and political machinations of Paris, the religious might of Rome and the capitalistic grittiness of London. The banking city of Braavos, built on a network of canals, has clear parallels with Florence and Venice at the height of their power in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The massive Titan of Braavos statue recalls the sadly lost Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Martin has said in interviews that growing up in view of New York City, its light and harbor as well as the ships entering and leaving it, let his imagination run rampant and served as an inspiration to think of various sci-fi and fantasy stories that ultimately became the books he is now famous for.
|“||When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.||”|
The series is shot in a number of locations in different countries. The story has multiple threads that happen in different places so an episode usually includes things shot in several places.
Material from several locations is sometimes used even in a single complex scene. For example, most of the loot train battle in Season 7 was filmed in Spain, but the dragon and some of the other effects were added with computer graphics and Dani riding the dragon was filmed in front of a green screen in the Belfast studio.
Much of the series was shot at the Titanic Studios in Belfast, called such because it is located in a former shipyard where the great ship RMS Titanic was built; this is generally not open to the public. Most of the interior scenes for any of the fictional locations were shot in that studio, and the green screen work was done there as well.
Belfast has six outdoor stained glass panels in an exhibit called "Glass of Thrones". Seeing them is free and a local tourist promotion site has a map.
Many outdoor locations were used as well; quite a few are near Belfast, and organized tours are available that go to many of those; see this list. Most of the temperate-zone outdoor shooting was done around Belfast, but the plot also required that some things be filmed in other climates.
Locations in other countries were also extensively used; the series often had two or three film crews working simultaneously in different places, and in Seasons Three and Five they got up to four. The list of countries is:
- Croatia - starting in Season Two
- Iceland - mostly on glaciers in the national parks
- Malta - in Season One
- Morocco - in Season Three
- Scotland - for a few scenes in the first episode of Season One
- Spain - starting in Season Five, for Dorne and cities in Essos
- United States - the scene involving the bear in Season Three was filmed at a studio in Los Angeles
- Canada - starting from Season Five, some scenes involving the dire wolves were filmed at the Calgary Film Centre in Calgary, and in Banff National Park.
Iceland was used throughout, and Morocco was the main location for the parts of the Daenerys story line that happen in a desert. For other warm areas Malta was used in Season One, mainly Croatia in Seasons Two to Five, and mostly Spain from Season Six on.
Seasons Seven and Eight were shot mainly in Northern Ireland, Spain and Iceland.
With the exception of most of the studios, all the filming locations can generally be visited by travellers, and indeed many locations are fascinating tourist destinations in their own right, having natural or architectural beauty and plenty of real life history beyond their interest to Thrones fans.
In both the books and the TV series, the fictional continent of Westeros, where most of the action takes place, is divided into seven kingdoms. Parts of the tale are on another continent, Essos, and other parts on the Iron Islands (ruled by the Greyjoy family) and Bear Island (the Mormonts).
- For seasons 2 to 6, 1 Dubrovnik. in Croatia is the location for the cities of King's Landing, capital of Westeros, and Qarth which is in Essos.
- Season 1 also used 2 Mdina. in Malta.
- Some locations in season 5, including the Great Sept of Baelor, were shot in the Catalan city of 3 Girona. .
- Doune, Scotland is the location for Doune Castle, featured in the TV series as Winterfell, the capital of the North. This castle is very picturesque and has been used in several films. In Monty Python and the Holy Grail it is the castle with the taunting Frenchmen.
- Strangford, Northern Ireland is the location for Castle Ward, also used for Winterfell.
- Myra Castle, also near Strangford, was used for the Bolton stronghold, the Dreadfort.
- Þingvellir National Park in Iceland was used as a filming location for some of the wildling camping scenes in Season 4, as well as for the pass leading to the Bloody Gate in the Vale of Arryn.
- The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland was used to film the tree-lined parts of the Kingsroad.
- Most of the forest scenes were filmed at Tollymore Forest Park in County Down, Northern Ireland.
Many of the scenes in the far North around the wall (mainly the Jon Snow story line) were shot in Iceland, but the sets for Castle Black and Hardhome are both in Magheramorne Quarry near Belfast. The scenes in the Haunted Forest were mainly filmed in Tollymore Forest Park.
Elsewhere in Westeros
Many of the scenes in Dorne are shot in Spain; in particular around Seville. In Season Seven, Gaztelugatxe, near Bilbao, was the location for Dragonstone and the loot train battle was shot near Caceres.
Ballintoy harbour in County Antrim was used for Lordsport, capital of the islands.
Continent of Essos
Essos lies to the East of Westeros, across the Narrow Sea. All of Daenerys' story line up to Season Six takes place on this continent, and some characters from the Westeros story lines — Arya, Tyrion and Varys — are there as well in seasons 3-6.
- Dubrovnik in Croatia was the location for the city of Qarth, as well as for King's Landing in Westeros
- Split, also in Croatia, was used for many scenes set in Meereen
- Some of the scenes in Volantis, in particular the great bridge there, were shot in Córdoba, Spain.
- Many of the scenes in and around the desert cities of Astapor and Yunkai were shot at Essaouira and Aït-Benhaddou in Morocco.
- Some of the filming for Pentos was done in Malta.
- The streets of Braavos, in particular the scene where Arya is hunted by the Waif, were filmed in Girona, Spain, while some other Braavos scenes were filmed in Šibenik and Kaštel Gomilica near the city of Split, Croatia.
- The desert scenes in the Dothraki Sea around Vaes Dothrak were filmed at Bardenas Reales in Navarre, and in the Tabernas Desert in Almería, Spain.
Related events and places
The Emmy awards are the main awards in the television industry, given every year. Usually the awards ceremony takes place in Los Angeles in mid-September. Over its run, Game of Thrones got 160 nominations and 59 awards, both the most any series has ever had. This page has details.
Comic Con is a large event held every summer in San Diego; attendance in 2019 was over 130,000. Their original focus was comic books, but sci-fi and fantasy in any medium are now definitely part of the mix. They have had a panel involving Game of Thrones people — cast, crew, writers, directors... — every year since the series started. Most or all of these panel discussions are on YouTube.
George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series of novels on which the TV series is based, lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He owns a theater there and sometimes has showings of TV series episodes on the big screen. Other places connected with Martin include Bayonne, New Jersey, where he was born and raised, as well as Evanston, Illinois, where he is an alumnus of Northwestern University.
For the Game of Thrones TV series, linguist and president of the Language Creation Society David J. Peterson was hired to construct the Dothraki langauge, as well as various dialects of the Valyrian language based on the limited material (only a couple of words) provided in Martin's novels. Peterson has published several books detailing these languages, and some Game of Thrones fan clubs have dedicated resources to promoting and teaching these languages, with a few even conducting some meetings in these languages.
HBO has a large website for the series, and at least two wikis — Wiki of Ice & Fire and Game of Thrones Wiki — each have enough material to keep a fan amused for days. The author of the books also has his own website with material on the books, the TV series, and his other works. A site called Winter is coming has game GoT material as well as articles on other shows like Star Wars.
HBO also has an online store, as well as a physical shop in New York City where you can purchase Game of Thrones memorabilia. They also license out various things so items like coffee mugs and T-shirts are available in bookstores and gaming shops worldwide.
On Wikivoyage, see also: