If you know me at all, you know that I'm a huge fan of series like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. If it's got adventure and a little bit of magic, I'm all for it.
So, naturally I'm all about Game of Thrones, too.
What amazes me about Game of Thrones is that it's become a worldwide phenomenon. And, because of this, even though it's “just a TV show,” each season has the budget of a Hollywood blockbuster — allowing the producers to film all over the world. So far places like Croatia and Iceland and Northern Ireland and Malta have stood in for parts of Westeros and beyond.
And, in Season 5, the show added Spain to its list of filming locations.
I don't know of many other TV series that are able to do this, but it means that with each new season of Game of Thrones, new locations have the chance to be thrust into the spotlight.
On my recent trip to Spain (before all of GoT Season 5 had even been released), I was lucky enough to hop on a brand new tour highlighting some Game of Thrones filming spots around Andalusia. (Check out the tour here.)
And, because I know there are plenty of other Game of Thrones fans out there, I figured I would write about it!
Royal Alcazar, Seville / Dorne
The tour began at the Royal Alcazar in Seville. The Alcazar is one of Europe's oldest castles and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status along with the nearby Cathedral and Archivo de Indias in 1987. In Season 5 of Game of Thrones, however, the Alcazar and its gardens stand in as the home of House Martell in Dorne.
We see the Alcazar for the first time in Episode 2 (its gardens are used as the famous Water Gardens of Dorne), and it crops up quite a few more times throughout the season.
(Check out this video for some great interior shots in the Alcazar in GoT.)
The Alcazar on its own is incredible, especially to a history nerd like me. The main portion of the castle you can visit today was built in the mid-1300s by King Peter I on the site of a previous Moorish palace. King Peter wanted a palace like the Moorish Alhambra in Granada, and so hired many of the same architects to build the Alcazar in Seville. The style the palace was built in is known as “ Mudéjar” — a mixture of Christian and Moorish architecture that includes lots of tiles and intricate archways.
Rumor has it that the Game of Thrones producers originally wanted to film at the Alhambra, which is even more famous for its tiles and archways. But then they discovered that the Alcazar was built in the same style and would be much easier to shut down for filming.
As we wound our way through patios and plazas and gardens (many that I would recognize later in Game of Thrones episodes), I decided that the show's producers made a good call in scouting out this location. The palace is gorgeous — and is perfect for Dorne.
And, as our guide shared the history of the Alcazar — a history punctuated by wars and affairs and political betrayals — he pointed out the similarities between the real-world history and the HBO series that was filmed there.
“Game of Thrones basically happened here for real,” he said. “Just without the incest.”
Whether you're a fan of Game of Thrones or not, a visit to the Alcazar is a must while in Seville. Even some of the cast (including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie Lannister) took some time to see the entire castle in their free time from filming.
Osuna / Meereen
A Game of Thrones-themed tour of the Alcazar would have been enough for me, but this specific tour has an optional add-on that takes you to yet another memorable Game of Thrones filming location. From the Alcazar, I hopped into a car and was driven to the small town of Osuna, about an hour away from Seville.
Osuna is adorable. It's filled with white-washed houses, small squares, and sleepy streets — it's essentially worlds away from Seville.
The town has been struggling economically for years, but I have a feeling it will soon be able to add film tourism to its income streams. Because, for a couple of weeks in 2014, Osuna was transformed from a hilly Spanish town into the town of Meereen, a former slave town that Daenerys Targaryen is ruling by Season 5 of Game of Thrones. During filming, hundreds of locals were cast as extras, with the Osuna bullring standing in as the main fighting pit in Meereen (which Daenerys re-opens in Season 5).
The tour started out with some non-GoT sites, like the University at the top of the hill, and La Colegiata de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, a 16th-century church that today houses a collection of fine art.
We had a lunch break at Casa Curro, a popular tapas restaurant near the center of town that has latched on to the Game of Thrones connection in Osuna. Here, visitors can order from a special GoT-themed menu, choosing from things like the Khaleesi salad (delicious) or a wild boar dish simply named “Baratheon.”
And then, finally, we visited the bullring. The ring was used as Daznak’s Pit, the main fighting pit in Meereen seen towards the end of Season 5. It's here that Jorah Mormont fights 5 other men with the hope of winning back Daenerys' favor — and then saves her life during an attack by the Sons of the Harpy before she escapes by…. (Well, I won't spill the beans on how she escapes Meereen in case someone hasn't seen that episode yet!)
They used CGI to make the ring look bigger than it really is, but other than adding a couple extra layers of seats, they did very little to change the look of it. I don't really condone bull fighting (or fighting pits, for that matter), but in this case I thought being inside a bullring was pretty cool.
On our way out of the tiny town, I tried to imagine what Osuna must have been like during filming, with hundreds of barefooted, costume-clad extras roaming the streets. It probably felt like you really were in Meereen.
So, would I recommend a tour like this? Well, you could certainly visit the Alcazar and drive to Osuna on your own. However, if you want your experience to be Game of Thrones-themed (and if you want to get inside the bullring in Osuna), then this is a great option for any fan.
IF YOU GO
Tour: ‘Game of Thrones' Walking Tour in Seville with Optional Trip to Osuna, exclusive to Viator
How much: Starting from $55.72 per person for the half-day tour and $219.25 per person for the full-day tour that includes Osuna
Notes: A minimum of 2 people are required for the tour to run. This is more of a “private” tour than a group tour, meaning it would be great for a couple or family.
Some other Game of Thrones filming locations tour options in Spain include:
- Seville and Osuna Guided Game of Thrones Tour – similar to the one reviewed here, except you go to Osuna by train if you choose the full-day option.
- ‘Game Of Thrones' Walking Tour of Girona – another Viator exclusive where you get to see where parts of Braavos and King’s Landing were shot in recent seasons.
- ‘Game Of Thrones' Tour in Girona from Barcelona – perfect for those who aren't planning to stay in Girona but still want to see filming sites.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Would you book a tour like this on your travels?
*Note: I did receive a free tour from Viator in order to preview this tour for both them and their local operator, however I wasn't obligated to write about it on my blog — I just thought you guys would like it! As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
LET'S PIN IT!