Hannah Drake

8 Game of Thrones Locations to Add to Your Bucket List

TravelHannah DrakeComment

Unless you’re brand new around here (in which case, HI!), you probably know that I’m obsessed with Game of Thrones. Unsurprisingly, that comes with the ultimate dream of visiting pretty much all of the filming locations used in the show (and pretending not to be disappointed to discover they were enhanced with CGI and lots of green screens), most of which are fairly “easily” accessible to me living in Europe. I’m still trying to convince Luke, though, to do one long Game of Thrones adventure.

So, in honour of my Game of Thrones obsession and the premiere of the eighth final season Sunday night in the States (or at 5:00AM for us…and again Monday night), I’m sharing the eight filming locations that top the list for me, one from each season. (Which was really difficult to do so I’m going to mention scenes from other seasons for most locations too.)

This post may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones through season eight, episode one.

SEASON ONE - KING’S LANDING

We’re introduced to a lot of castles, cities, and regions in both Westeros and Essos in the first season. But it is the game of thrones we’re talking about here, and as Queen Cersei tells us in episode 1.7, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. From the very beginning, the show is built around this idea and of course the throne everyone is after is the Iron Throne, located in Westeros’s capital city of Kings Landing. So with everything building to who will sit on the Iron Throne, I figured Kings Landing would be a good place to start.

Dubrovnik, Croatia is used for many exterior shots of Kings Landing and has been the location of some iconic scenes, not just in season one, like:

  • Joffrey’s name day tourney, when Tyrion arrives as Hand of the King, in episode 2.1 was filmed at Fort Lovrijenac

  • Myrcella’s departure to Dorne in episode 2.6 was filmed at West Harbor

  • Tyrion, Bronn, and Pod walk around the City Walls of Dubrovnik in episode 3.1, which are actual medieval city walls and a UNESCO World Heritage site

  • The gardens, first seen in episode 3.2 when Sansa dines with Olenna and Margaery, then throughout seasons three and four were filmed at Trsteno Arboretum

  • Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, AKA the Purple Wedding, in episode 4.2 was filmed at Gradac Park

  • The trial by combat between The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, and The Viper, Oberyn Martell, in episode 4.8 was filmed at Belvedere Atrium, but is not open to the public and only visible from outside

  • Cersei’s walk of atonement (SHAME!) in episode 5.10 was filmed on St. Dominic Street and the scene in which she crosses into the Red Keep was filmed at the Ploče Gate, the entrance to Dubrovnik's Old Town

SEASON TWO - DRAGONSTONE

Even though the season seven premiere is named for Dragonstone, we’re first introduced to the castle (and it’s amazing carved table) in the season two premiere, when it was held by Stannis Baratheon. Historically, it was the seat of the Targaryens, as its where they landed when they first sailed to Westeros, but Stannis was given the castle when Robert Baratheon won his rebellion. It’s not a glamorous castle, but probably befitting Stannis. In episode 7.1, Daenerys finally lands in Westeros and arrives back at her home.

  • The steps to the castle were filmed at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Bermeo, Spain, though the dragon gates and castle are of course digitally added

  • The beaches of Dragonstone that we see especially in episodes 7.1 and 7.3 were filmed Itzurun Beach in Zumaia, Spain

SEASON THREE - BEYOND THE WALL

Again, there’s an episode literally called Beyond the Wall in season seven, but we spend quite a bit of time with the Wildlings in season three before they climb the wall with Jon is episode 3.6. Like many of these locations, we go beyond The Wall every season, but it just seemed to fit best here. We did see the first spiral from the White Walkers in season three. Anyway, if you’ve ever heard Kit Harrington (Jon Snow) on a talk show, you know they filmed A LOT in Iceland, from season two and beyond. (Season one’s scenes that take place north of the Wall were filmed at a quarry in Northern Ireland.) All the scenes and locations below were filmed in Iceland, but keep in mind there were some other awesome scenes filmed in Iceland, but took place south of the Wall in the show (like the path to the Eyrie, seen in episode 3.8 and the Hound and Brienne’s fight in episode 4.9).

  • The Frostfang mountain range is filmed at Höfðabrekkuheiði glacier

  • Jon and the Night’s Watch capture the Wildling Ygritte in episode 2.6, filmed at Svínafellsjökull glacier

  • Sam first finds dragonglass at the First of the First Men in episode 2.8, filmed at Mýrdalsjökull glacier

  • Sam and Lord Commander Mormont are attacked by the Army of the Dead in episode 2.9, Jon is brought to the King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, in episode 3.1, and Ygritte steals Jon’s sword (before going into the cave) in episode 3.5, all filmed at Dimmuborgir

  • Sam running from the Army of the Dead in episode 3.1 was filmed at Hverir

  • Jon and Orell’s confrontation about the Night’s Watch in episode 3.5 was filmed at Lake Myvatn

  • Ygritte seduces Jon in the cave in episode 3.5, partially filmed at Grjótagjá, though reshoots had to be done on set as the steam from the pool kept fogging up the camera lens

  • The Hound sees a mountain in the flames in episode 7.1 and in real life in episode 7.6, the Westeros which was filmed at Kirkjufell

  • Jon and company sail to Eastwatch-By-The Sea (technically on the Westeros side of the Wall though) in episode 7.5, filmed at Reynisfjara Beach

  • The Westerosi Avengers capture a wight in episode 7.6, filmed in Stakkholtsgjá Canyon

  • Jon rides Rhaegal with Daenerys on Drogon in episode 8.1, using Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon as the setting

  • They land the dragons at Skogafoss waterfall (though the surrounding area, including higher waterfalls, were digitally added later)

SEASON FOUR - MEEREEN

Daenerys Targaryen first lays seige to Meereen in season four, taking the city. She then spends the next three seasons in control of the city before finally sailing toward Westeros at the end of season six. It was a long three seasons in Meereen, there’s no arguing with that.

  • The underground passages Grey Worm and the Unsullied use in episode 4.4 was filmed in the cellars of Diocletian's Palace in Split, Croatia

  • The execution of a Sons of the Harpy prisoner and subsequent riot outside the city walls in episode 5.2, was filmed at Klis Fortress in Croatia

  • The Meereenese Fighting Pit seen in episode 5.9 when Daenerys first rides Drogon was filmed at Plaza de Toros de Osuna in Seville, Spain

  • Exterior shots for Meereen in season 6 were filmed in Peñíscola, in Castellón, Spain, including Portal Fosc, Calle Mayor, Parque de la Artillería, and Plaza de Santa María

SEASON FIVE - DORNE

The Dorne story line from season five is arguably the worst show-original plot they’ve had. Personally, when I realised Bronn and Jaime would be paired up for some buddy adventures, I was stoked. And when they introduced three of the eight Sandsnakes, I had high hopes. But it was all a major flop and instead gave us some of the worst lines ever uttered by any of the characters. Regardless, we still journey to the southernmost kingdom of Dorne for the first time in the fifth season and it gives us some gorgeous locations.

  • The water garden scenes seen throughout season five was filmed at the gardens of the Alcázar of Seville, Spain

  • Jaime meets with Prince Doran to discuss the release of Bronn in episode 5.9, filmed at he Ambassador's Hall (Salon de los Embajadores), the throne room of the original Arabic Palace at the Alcázar of Seville

  • Scenes at the castle of Sunspear in season six were filmed at Alcazaba of Almería

  • The scenes at the Tower of Joy in Bran’s visions, where a young Ned Stark, with Howland Reed, fights Ser Arthur Dayne of the Kingsguard and Lyanna gives birth to a baby later revealed to be Jon Snow, her legitimate son with Prince Rhaegar, throughout season six were filmed at Castillo de Zafra in Spain

SEASON SIX - THE GREAT SEPT OF BAELOR

The Great Sept of Baelor was the setting for one of the most iconic scenes in the whole show—maybe even television. We as viewers visited Baelor in hopes Ned Stark would be sent to the Wall by Joffrey and got the shock of our lives when he was promptly beheaded. But there’s no arguing that our visits to the Great Sept picked up later in the show. The coronations of both Joffrey and Tommen were inside, as were the weddings of Tyrion and Sansa, Joffrey and Margaery, and Tommen and Margaery. But once the High Sparrow showed up in the fifth season, we spent a lot more time on the steps. But we all know the real reason I put Baelor in season six happened in the beautifully scored opening sequence of the season six finale.

  • Ned is executed by order of King Joffrey in episode 1.9, filmed at Fort Manoel in Gżira, Malta

  • Jaime attempts to rescue Margaery from the Faith Militant in season 6 episode 6 culminating in a stand off between the Faith Militant and the Lannister and Tyrell armies, which was filmed at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona in Girona, Spain

SEASON SEVEN - THE DRAGON PIT

The Dragon Pit was the set of the big meeting between so many of the main characters in the final episode of season seven and it’s one of my favourite scenes to date, so I had to choose it to represent the whole penultimate season. They talk a little bit about the history of the dragon pit in that episode, but it’s also mentioned earlier, in episode 7.1 by Ed Sheeran and his merry men. It’s considered one of the great structures of King’s Landing, along with the Red Keep and the Great Sept of Baelor. The Targaryens built it hundreds of years ago, when it was first home to Balerion the Black Dread, though they mention what a cruel joke it was to have the tiny dragons contained there before they went extinct.

  • The gathering between Cersei, Jon, Daenerys and their advisers (AKA the group project Jon and The Hound presented) took place at the Roman Ruins of Italic in Seville, Spain

SEASON EIGHT - WINTERFELL

Winterfell is seen throughout all eight seasons, has been the subject of many conflicts, and has been prominently featured in the opening credits since the very first season, first with the Stark banners, then burning, then with the Bolton banners. And now we get to see the inside in the credits! The reason I chose Winterfell for season eight is simple: The episode 8.1 is named Winterfell and it’s one of two locations seen in the episode we’ve seen so far.

  • Exterior shots for Winterfell in the unaired pilot were filmed at Doune Castle in Scotland, but production never returned to Scotland for the series

  • Exterior shots for Winterfell have been filmed at Castle Ward in Northern Ireland (where you can now travel back in time to practice archery and attend a feast fit for a Royal Visit)

  • Ned and his sons finding the dead direwolf and her pups in episode 1.1 was filmed in Tollymore Forest Park in Northern Ireland

  • Arya’s escape from King’s Landing on the Kingsroad and the start of a journey intended to return her to Winterfell in episode 2.1 was filmed at the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland (Yes, it’s closer to King’s Landing on the Kingsroad, but being in Northern Ireland like much of Winterfell, I figured it would fit here.)

Which one of these—or other—filming locations would you most like to visit? Luke and I are seriously considering a roadtrip around Northern Ireland in the next year or so to see all the locations they used there. (Most of which, I didn’t even include!)

Fingers crossed they’ll one day create a Game of Thrones studio tour like they did with Harry Potter because many of the interior shots (including the Great Pyramid of Meereen and the Great Sept of Baelor) were shot on set.

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Mount Vesuvius

TravelHannah DrakeComment

We decided to drive back to Pompeii one day to visit Mount Vesuvius since we didn’t really have any other concrete plans for our time on the coast and it wasn’t too far of a drive. We quickly figured out that we should have put a little more planning into it. We had a late start to the day, so we decided to get lunch before heading up the volcano. We went back to the same place we ate after Pompeii, Le Delizie, because that €5 deal for a pizza and a Coke was too good to pass up! While Luke was waiting for the food to come, I decided to head down the road to the tour place to get our tickets, only to discover the final bus of the day left in something like 10 minutes because there was a special event up there that evening, I think. I got the tickets for the bus and ran back down the street to tell Luke. The restaurant was great and put our pizzas in boxes so we could eat them on the bus.

Unfortunately I can’t remember who we booked the bus with. It was a tourism store right across from one of the entrances to Pompeii, but it seemed like there were a lot of different options. They drove us up the mountain to the start of the trail, where we had to hike the rest.

It was probably about a mile hike up to the opening of the volcano and I personally was not prepared for it. At least I was wearing sneakers, but I wasn’t mentally prepared and don’t usually hike in a collared shirt! Luke was patient with me being a bit of weenie about the hike.

But when we got to the top, it was worth it! It was a bit of a hazy day, but you could still see the Bay of Naples and the surrounding cities. We tried to spot the ruins of Pompeii, but we never got any confirmation that our guess was right.

It was absolutely mind boggling staring into the crater left behind from the eruption nearly two thousand years ago! There was some growth in and around the gaping hole in the earth, but it was also literally still steaming. It was just incredible.

Mount Vesuvius remains one of the deadliest active volcanoes in the world due to the number of people (600,000) who live in its red zone. The Italian government has evacuation plans in case of another eruption and anticipates about two weeks notice to evacuate the area. Efforts have been made to reduce the number of people who live in the area, including demolishing illegally built buildings and declaring a national park around the base of the volcano. The last eruption was in 1944, but the last evacuation was in 1984 when an eruption never occurred. Scientist don’t anticipate there will be an eruption as wide-reaching or as dangerous as the eruption that buried Pompeii.

We couldn’t spend a ton of time at the top because it closed early that day, but we tried to let it all soak in. We got dropped off at the other entrance of Pompeii, so we got to walk through the town a bit on the way back to the car. Of course we had to stop for gelato at Pasticceria De Vivo, which was far and away the best gelato we had in all of Italy. (Sure, maybe that was because we were hot and tired, but damn it was good.)

WHAT TO WEAR AT MOUNT VESUVIUS

I decided to include this section for any ladies planning a trip to Italy in the late summer or early autumn. Mount Vesuvius is going to be an active day. You’re going to sweat and you’re probably going to get dirty climbing a volcano. (Even though the hike it’s too strenuous.) Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothes and shoes.

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Self Care Is... Building A Life You Don't Want to Escape

Self CareHannah Drake2 Comments

In the last year or so, I’ve been trying to focus on self care and what it looks like in my life. I’ve decided to start a new (semi) regular blog series called Self Care Is, but I’m not entirely sure what it’s going to look like yet. Self care means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, many of whom know a whole hell of a lot more about it than I do. But I view it as a journey and since I’m inclined to share my life in this space, I figured I’d invite you along in the journey as well.

I wanted to start with the concept of “self care is building a life you don’t want to escape”, which is really the idea that sparked this new series. A friend shared this on Instagram and a few days later, one of my favourite “influencers” shared it as well, calling it bullshit (which I’ll get to). However, it really resonated with me, so I wanted to share it with you today.

Let’s start with the woman who called it BS. If I remember correctly, her reasoning was that you never get there. You’ll never have a perfect life and self care can also be small things you do for yourself or routines that you create for yourself. There might always be something that you want to “escape”, no matter how big or small. So this concept could be seen as perpetuating the idea that some people have perfect lives, but you don’t and you never will.

I see her point and it’s valid, but I instead focused on the “ing” in “building”. To me, that implies continued work throughout your life. Kind of like how doctors practice medicine and lawyers practice law. Common sense says they’re practising for something, but in reality, they’ll never do more than practice. In this concept of building a life you don’t want to escape, I choose to see the building as continued work throughout your entire life. I’m not naive enough to think that you’ll one day arrive at some sort of destination of bliss or enlightenment or zen or whatever.

In my opinion, building a life you don’t want to escape is about creating routines, habits, and mindsets that will set you up for success today and down the road. What are you doing today on a good day that will help protect you on a bad day? You can’t build a guardrail while you’re already careening off the side of the road. You can’t build in good habits and systems to take care of yourself when you’re spiralling. You need to build them beforehand to protect you when conditions get bad.

When you build these structures of habit, routine, mindfulness, and even indulgence into your life, you aren’t escaping your real life when you need to unplug or reset. You’re instead taking advantage of things you’ve already set up beforehand and retreating to an area of your life that you’ve created to recharge and rejuvenate you. That could look like taking a 30 minute bath once a week to give yourself a moment rather than waiting for the stress to build up until you need to escape for a spa weekend and ignore what’s going on in your life. Or maybe it looks like creating a safe place for you to express your feelings—whether that be in therapy, through journaling, or in conversations with someone you trust—so it doesn’t show up in a way you can’t control.

Building a life you don’t want to escape is work. It’s a continuous process and at the end of it, you won’t have something you created beautifully wrapped up in a bow. Life is messy and it’s going to be messy, but you can control how you show up in your own life. You can do things every day to take care of yourself and you can make choices every day to create the life you want. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re not going to arrive at any sort of destination and you probably won’t know what the road ahead looks like. Do your best to set yourself up for success along the way. That’s all you really can do.

What does self care look like to you? Let me know in the comments and remember there is no right or wrong answer!