Founded in the fifth century, this Mediterranean gem of a walled city is no longer hidden away in the Adriatic Sea, thanks to its status as the capital of the Seven Kingdoms in HBO’s fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” Known as the Pearl of the Adriatic for its magnificent views of the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik, Croatia, was the central city of the maritime republic Ragusa, which was annexed by Napoleonic Italy in the early 19th century. This is King’s Landing, where some of the most important events in George R.R. Martin’s epic saga unfold.
Dive into the series and “own” the throne. You can find a replica of the Iron Throne in a museum on a small island called Lokrum, about 600 meters off the coast of the city. Take the 15-minute ferry ride to the island that becomes the fictional city of Qarth with its noblemen and merchants. The scene in which Daenerys Targaryen attends a party hosted by a Qartheen merchant in the second season was filmed in the botanical gardens of the Franciscan monastery of Lokrum.
A short walk will take you to the saline “Dead Sea” where you can swim. You also can take a 40-minute hike to the Pigeon’s cave for stunning sea views. Don’t get stranded; the last ferry returns to Dubrovnik at 8.
Walk to the Old Town Port to see replicas of traditional Karaka ships. Skip the tourist-trap sunset cruises on the boats. Then eat, particularly at one of the best seafood, no-frills restaurants in town: Lokanda Peskarija, situated right next to the old harbour gate.
Stop by the Onofrio Fountain, which served as the main source of water for residents in the 15th century. Walk further up to the Jesuit stairs where one of the most expensive scenes of Season 5 was filmed.
The streets likely will be crowded, so come back early the next day to have the stairs all to yourself.
Jesuit stairs, a baroque staircase, leads to Dubrovnik’s first colleges and the Church of St. Ignatius. The college turns into the Great Sept of Baelor and its surroundings become the main location for Season 5’s most iconic scene: Cersei’s walk of atonement.
Grab a quick bite at the only bakery on the main square - Mlinar. Pack a few bureks, a filled pastry made from flaky dough. You’re now set to explore the ancient city walls. Make sure you reach the ticket counter before the cruise ships arrive as the queue can get very long. These walls are about 2 kilometers long and were built in the 12th century to defend the city’s citizens from invaders. They are still considered one of the greatest fortification systems of that era.
Head to Fort Minceta, the highest point of the city walls. It was used as the House of Undying where Daenerys Targaryen comes searching for her dragons with Jorah Mormont in Season 2.
Climb down the walls and eat lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in town - Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe. It overlooks Fort Lovrijenac and the West Harbour, and offers great Mediterranean cuisines and good domestic wines recommended by the locals.
The West Harbour of the city walls is the main dock of King’s Landing or Blackwater Bay, where Myrcella Baratheon departs for Dorne.
Brace yourselves, more steps are coming. Fort Lovrijenac is only a short walk from the West Harbour, but you cannot avoid the 200 steps that come with it. It is named after St. Lawrence, and is the only fort physically separated from the walls. On screen, the fort turns into Red Keep, the residence of the royals of King’s Landing.
Buza Bar is perched on a tiny cliff overlooking the Adriatic. In old Dubrovnik dialect of Croatian, Buza translates to “hole.”
Start exploring the rest of the old town from the Ploce gate, the main entrance on the eastern side. It leads to Luza Square, home of the Sponza Palace. Next to these stands the Velika Gospa baroque cathedral, built on the ruins of a Roman basilica in the 17th century.
Stop at the St. Franciscan Church and Monastery, which holds one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. The church was rebuilt after the “great earthquake” of 1667 that destroyed most of the historic buildings of the city.
Visit Gradac Park, just above the old town, to escape from the heat and crowd. The park transformed itself into the reception venue of King Joffrey’s wedding in Season 4. The park is a great spot for real wedding photo shoots, or may be not so much after the “Purple Wedding.”
The best time to visit Dubrovnik is September and October. The peak season is July to August, when prices and crowds nearly double. It is important to note that you can visit only Bosnia and Herzegovina with a Croatian visa, and not all neighboring countries that were part of the former Yugoslavia.
Editing by Robert MacMillan and Derek Caney