fbpx
close

Anthony Carpio

5 Game of Thrones Locations in Spain That Feel Like You’re in the Show

Gaztelugatxe Game of Thrones locations Spain
The towering castles, glittering palaces, and sea-torn shorelines of HBO’s iconic Game of Thrones series weren’t just computer simulations. Most were filmed in real locations — and few countries feature more prominently than Spain. From Basque Country to Catalonia to Andalusia, no matter where you are on the Iberian Peninsula, you’re bound to discover just how many Game of Thrones locations Spain has to offer.

Your next Spain trip won’t be complete without these destinations. Here, we’ll share the top 5 most stunning destinations for Game of Thrones fans — but they’re incredible stops for anyone interested in learning about Spain’s history and culture.

We’ll also include recaps of what happened at each site (so spoiler alert) along with all the details on how to get there, plus what you need to know about each real-life location. Let’s kick off our ranking with #5.

5. Castle of Zafra | Tower of Joy

Castle of Zafra Game of Thrones
The 12th-century Castle of Zafra, located in Aragon, was the Tower of Joy in "Game of Thrones" season 6.

The Real-Life Destination

The Castle of Zafra is a 12th-century castle built to protect the southern flanks of the Kingdom of Aragon. Perched on a sloping, sandstone outcropping, it bursts forth out of a hilltop overlooking the rolling countryside of the Spanish province of Guadalajara, and is a simply stunning place to visit.

Over the years, attackers who tried to seize the castle failed again and again.

The Game of Thrones Location

In the world of Game of Thrones, this castle appears in the sixth season as the infamous Tower of Joy, located near the Red Mountains of Dorne. This is where Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen fled to hide their secret love and Lyanna’s secret pregnancy. This is where a young Ned Stark arrived to rescue his sister, only to be met by the most famous swordsman in Westeros, the Sword of the Morning, Ser Arthur Dayne. This is where Ned Stark would duel Ser Arthur Dayne to the death, then race up the castle steps to find his sister Lyanna, immediately after giving birth, on the brink of death. This is where Lyanna, in her final moments, would charge Ned with protecting her half-Targaryean, half-Stark baby from the wrath of Robert Baratheon by hiding his true identity from the world.

The mystery and hidden legacy of Jon Snow begins here and this impressive location is worthy of the pivotal events that unfold in the story here. Campillo de Dueñas, Guadalajara.

Check out this video of young Ned Stark facing off against Ser Arthur Dayne outside the Castle of Zafra / Tower of Joy:

How to Visit

The Castle of Zafra is located in the Sierra de Caldereros, and is best accessed by car. You’ll drive about 2 hours and 30 minutes northeast from Madrid or 1 hour and 40 minutes southwest from Zaragoza to get here.

Keep in mind that you won’t be able to go inside the castle — but the views from outside are stunning enough.

4. Itzurun Beach | Beachhead of Dragonstone

Itzurun Beach Basque Country Spain
Itzurun Beach in Basque Country serves as the beachhead of Dragonstone in "Games of Thrones." | Courtesy http://www.passenger6a.com/game-of-thrones-reconquers-spain.

The Real-Life Destination

Near the small seaside village of Zumaia, located in the north of Spain in Basque Country, lies Itzurun Beach. This beautiful beach is wrapped by vertical cliffs and limestone walls that have been eroded by the sea to reveal beautiful striated layers of rock, a geological phenomena called flysch.

Along the sea walls there are beautiful overlooks to take in the dramatic landscape. At low tide the unique rock strata extend all the way across the beach into the sea.

Like the landscape, the water is wild, and visitors should travel with care. There are strong currents, big waves, and hidden rock fins beneath the surface.

The Game of Thrones Location

On Game of Thrones, this is where Daenerys Targaryen, having crossed the Narrow Sea with her army, returns to Westeros for the first time. This is a strong symbolic milestone in the beginnings of her war to reclaim the Iron Throne and fulfill what she believes is her destiny.

When her ships land on the beach, they are landing on the beachhead of Dragonstone, the ancestral home of Daenerys’s people — the home of House Targaryen. When she lays her hand on the beach she is reconnecting to that heritage and walking in the footsteps of her ancestral kings and queens. From here, she approaches and enters the dragon-flanked gates of Dragonstone.

Here's Daenerys's arrival at Dragonstone, where you see her land at Itzurun Beach:

You can see some of the same battlements from the video above in the film set, which is shown under construction in 2016 in this video: 

How to Visit

You can arrive at Itzurun Beach by car, bus, or taxi from San Sebastian, Bilbao, or another nearby city. If you’re driving from one of these cities, you’ll be traveling along the A-8 toll motorway.

By bus, check out the schedules with Bilman Bus or Estellesa. You can also try the local train system, Euskotren.

Find the latest deals on places to stay around Spain:

Booking.com

3. Girona Cathedral | The Great Sept of Baelor

Girona Cathedral Game of Thrones
The Girona Cathedral towers above the 86 steps where Queen Margaery almost did her walk of shame. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

The Real-Life Destination

The heart of Girona, a town in the Catalonia region, is comprised of winding, stone-paved streets climbing the steep slope of the hill of the Capuchins. The rectangular façade of the Girona Cathedral, poised at the very summit, is one of the most imposing structures you’ll ever see.

After climbing the hill and passing through the narrow staircases and alleys of the old Jewish Quarter, you’ll reach an open plaza at the foot of the 86 steps that approach the entrance to the cathedral. This Catalan Gothic and Romanesque structure was constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries. Inside, you’ll find a 23-meter-wide Gothic nave that’s the widest in the world.

Behind the Girona Cathedral, explore the ancient city wall, built by the Romans in the 1st century BCE. It now serves as a foundation for fortifications built by Peter III in the 14th century. Climbing the watchtowers and walking along these walls offers stunning views of the cathedral and Girona. It’s an experience just as stunning as the cathedral itself.

The Game of Thrones Location

Few filming locations could have been worthy of serving as the exterior of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing in the final episode of Game of Thrones season 6. Here, Jaime Lannister faces off with the High Sparrow, and narrowly prevents Queen Margaery’s walk of shame.

Girona Cathedral plaza Spain
Nearly 90 steps lead down to a broad plaza at the peak of the hill in Girona's old city. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

Girona’s old town also features prominently in Game of Thrones. It was transformed into the city of Braavos, where Arya Stark, blind and begging in the streets, was attacked by the Waif. Visit the Plaça dels Jurats to relive the play Arya witnessed about the Lannister family. Then walk toward the Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligants; you’ll cross the very bridge where Arya was stabbed. The interior of this monastery also features in season 6; it’s where Samwell Tarly declares he wants to become a Maester. There’s an archaeology museum here now that comes highly recommended.

Pass through the claustrophobic Carrer Sant Llorenc, the archway-shaded street where the Waif pursued Arya. Next, stop on the stairs to Sant Marti Sacosta church to transport yourself to the Braavos markets, where an injured Arya flees the Waif. She later tries to hide in the Banys Àrabs, or Arab Baths. These are located in a 12th-century building behind the cathedral.

Girona old city Game of Thrones
Many parts of Girona's old city, not least its steep and winding streets, are featured prominently in "Game of Thrones." | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

How to Visit

At 61 miles (98 kilometers) from Barcelona, Girona makes an easy day trip by bus or by rental car. Take the Barcelona Bus from the Estació Nord; you can buy your tickets at the Barcelona Bus desk on the first floor of the station. Buses should leave from platforms 28 and 29. One way tickets are €16 and round-trip cost €25. Check out bus timetables on the Official Barcelona Bus website.

Girona is well worth a full day of wandering and exploring. You’ll enjoy exploring the hidden archways and winding, ancient streets of the old town. Eleven bridges cross the river Onyar, which is flanked by brightly painted buildings. Take a moment to explore the streets along this river.

To visit the cathedral, buy your €7 ticket to the left of the main entrance. An audioguide will help you navigate the massive structure.

Booking.com

2. Gaztelugatxe | Dragonstone

Gaztelugatxe Game of Thrones locations Spain
Gaztelugatxe is an island, reachable by bridge, that is a featured "Game of Thrones" location in Spain. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

The Real-Life Destination

Journey to the town of Bermeo in Basque Country, an hour’s drive west of Itzurun Beach, and head to the coast. There, just off the rugged and scenic coastline, you’ll find a jagged little island of obstinate rock punching out of the waves, like a sleeping dragon in the breaking surf. This island is called Gaztelugatxe.

Over the millennia, the battering of the sea has eroded a wing of double arches on the east side of the small isle. The Basque people centuries ago built a bridge from the mainland to the south side of the island that acts as another wing, topped with a zig-zagging stone pathway.

That pathway leads across the churning waters and up onto the island to a small, beautiful church. First built in the ninth century as a hermitage, the church, called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, is dedicated to John the Baptist. It is also a sacred refuge for the communities of seafaring people to give thanks and pray for protection from the powerful forces of nature and the dangers of the sea.  

The Game of Thrones Location

Gaztelugatxe is home to Dragonstone, the ancestral home of House Targaryen, in the Game of Thrones universe. When Daenerys Targaryen walks through the gates of Dragonstone, the pathway to the castle is the very same stone bridge that leads to Gaztelugatxe.

Now, there is no Dragonstone castle on this little island — that was a computer-generated animation in the show. But remember that famous scene when Jon Snow is walking into Dragonstone with Tyrrion Lannister and Tyrrion reminds him that “Stark men don’t fare well when they travel South”? Jon replies, “True, but I am not a Stark” — then all of a sudden Jon and his men fall to the ground for cover as a roaring dragon, Drogon, flies by just overhead. That scene foreshadowing the true lineage of Jon Snow occurs right on the pathway steps of Gaztelugatxe.  

It is also on these steps where Daenerys reminds Jon that she, too, has lost two brothers, and that honoring the memory of her lost family is a driving force for her. Although their wills clash, Daenerys ultimately agrees to support Jon’s war against the white walkers with dragonglass, men, and resources.

Gaztelugatxe pathway Game of Thrones locations Spain
The pathway to Gaztelugatxe features prominently in "Game of Thrones." | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

This beautiful location, where a land-based people have tried to make their peace with the grand forces of the sea, is a beautiful backdrop for where the characters representing the grand forces of ice and fire, Jon and Daenerys, learn to make peace and begin to trust one another. 

Watch Tyrian and Jon Snow's conversation along the bridge to Gaztelugatxe:

To learn more about filming at Itzurun Beach and Gaztelugatxe, check out this video, which features interviews with the cast and crew on why Spain is such an incredible place to shoot: 

How to Visit

If you’re leaving from Bilbao, take the A3518 bus to Bakio. It leaves every hour beginning at 6:30 a.m. Walk 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) to get to Gaztelugatxe.

If you’re traveling from Gernika, take a bus or a train (Euskotren) to Bermeo, where you can catch a bus with Bizkaibus or a taxi to Gaztelugatxe.

Admission is free, but you need to book a ticket ahead of time if you’re visiting:

  • Between June 15 and the end of September
  • Weekends from the last week of March through the end of the year
  • On Christmas, Easter, or an official Spanish holiday

Book your ticket to Gaztelugatxe here.

1. The Real Alcazar of Seville | A Great House of Westeros

Seville Spain Patio de las Doncellas
The Patio de las Doncellas (Damsels' Courtyard) is one of the most iconic spaces inside the Real Alcazar of Seville. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

The Real-Life Destination

The Real Alcazar of Seville is probably the only filming site in Game of Thrones that is still actually the seasonal residence of a royal family. It is thus rightfully worthy of the setting for a Great House of Westeros.

The Real Alcazar de Sevilla, or Royal Alcazar of Seville, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose upper floors are still used to this day as the royal residence for the Spanish monarchs when they’re in Seville.

The site has changed hands many times over the centuries. It has been home to a Roman collegium, a Visigothic basilica, and a Moorish citadel. But the current palace, the Alcazar, was constructed in the 14th century for the Christian King Peter of Castile.

The Alcazar is a beautiful royal palace. It is built in Mudejar style — a style unique to the south of Spain that is strongly influenced by Moorish artistry and workmanship. It includes elaborate geometric patterns, multi-lobed or horseshoe arches, meticulously worked wooden roofing, ornamental stucco work, and glazed ceramic tiles.

With beautiful gardens, sunken fountains, soaring scalloped ceilings evoking the wonders of the night sky and heaven, and prismatic tilework decorating all available space, nearly everywhere the eye lands in the Alcazar is a visual feast.

Booking.com

The Game of Thrones Location

The Alcazar of Seville is the filming location for the Water Gardens of Dorne, the seasonal home for the House of Martell, the rulers of Dorne. This is where we meet the ruler of the House Martell and of Dorne, Doran Martell. Doran Martell is the older brother of Oberyn Martell, famously killed in a trial by combat against Gregor Clegane. Doran is older, but wheelchair-bound due to gout and losing the trust of his family and his people.

Here, too, we see a lovestruck Myrcella Boratheon (Cersei and Jamie Lannister’s daughter) betrothed to Trystane Martell, heir to House Martell, wandering the lush Alcazar gardens. (You can and should actually visit these gardens during your trip here.)

This is also where we see Jamie Lannister and his man Brohn sneak in and try to whisk Myrcella away back to King’s Landing only to be discovered by the Sand Snakes. The fight that ensues is set in the Alcazar gardens.

The subsequent meeting between Doran and Jamie, securing Myrcella’s return to King’s Landing and Trystane’s betrothal and position on the King’s small council, occurs in the real-life sumptuous and adorned Hall of Ambassadors in the Alcazar.

The beautiful and intricate decorations of the Alcazar, of this world-class location, mirror the elaborate and complex machinations and motivations at play in the world of Game of Thrones.

Alcazar of Seville Water Gardens
The lush gardens of the Alcazar of Seville, which include elaborate water features, play a large role in "Game of Thrones." | Photo by Erin L. McCoy
Alcazar Seville Hall of Ambassadors
The domed ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors in the Alcazar of Seville is in Mudejar style. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

How to Visit Seville

Seville can be reached via any number of bus companies or trains. For bus travel, try Alsa; for trains, try Renfe or book via RailEurope.

The Alcazar has a complex and fascinating history, so we'd recommend trying a guided tour or audioguide if you can. For a guided visit to the Alcazar, try one of these Get Your Guide tours: 

And finally, here's a map of Seville for your reference: 

Looking for more Game of Thrones locations?

Check out the map below for Game of Thrones filming locations throughout Europe. 

read more