With series six upon us, the days when Brandon could walk and Ned Stark still had a head on his shoulders are a distant memory. Much of season one was filmed in Malta, so if you’re after a Game of Thrones nostalgia tour, here are the top six locations to sniff out.
The winding, cobbled backstreets of the island’s capital were used in several King’s Landing scenes, but the most striking location here is the 17th-century Fort Ricasoli, which doubled as the Red Keep. It’s visible across the Grand Harbour from the gorgeous Upper Barrakka Gardens.
A popular filming location, the fort was also used in Gladiator, Troy and more recently the Assassin’s Creed movie. If the site is in use you might not be allowed close-up access to the King’s Landing gate, with its impressive plaited pillars (pictured above), but you can still get reasonably near by boat. We recommend hiring a “dghajsa”; a refurbished 200-year-old gondola/water taxi. There’s no better way to travel on the island.
Just south of the ferry port that links Malta to Gozo (on the Maltese side) is the hamlet of Manikata (above). On its periphery you’ll find some ruins that doubled as the village of Lhazareen, where Khal Drogo gets poisoned by a witch in episode eight of series one. The location is easily recognisable to those familiar with the scene, but it’s probably only worth the trek as a stop-off en route to…
Malta’s sister island has only one GoT site, but it’s an iconic one. The Azure Window (above) is a 30-metre-high rock formation surrounded by an unusual, alien-like honeycomb of stone, punctured with small pools of turquoise water. If you’re adventurous you can scramble to the top or pick your way around its base to a lagoon that’s popular with divers. Pack shades and water-resistant footwear though: the rock reflects the light and is jagged in places.
The location was used for Daenerys and Drogo’s wedding scene, where we’re also introduced to Jorah. The foreground looks different in real life because the show’s crew covered the ground in a mesh and smothered it in sand to achieve a desert effect. This didn’t go down well with the Maltese authorities and may have contributed to the show’s eventual relocation.
3. Saint Dominic’s Priory
The small town of Rabat is worth exploring for many reasons, most popular of which are Saint Paul’s Catacombs — but our Game of Thrones location is a lesser-known saintly site. Towards the town’s periphery you’ll find Saint Dominic’s Priory (pictured above). This doubled as the Red Keep courtyard where, in episode seven, Ned seals his fate by telling Cersei he knows her and Jaime’s secret. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” comes her prophetic response.
2. San Anton Palace
Ten minutes’ drive east of Mdina, towards Valletta, is another Red Keep site — San Anton Palace and gardens in Balzan (above), where the courtyard and stables were filmed. This is the President’s residence and it’s clearly the posh part of the island. Whether you’re into Game of Thrones or not, the tranquil gardens here are a must, with their exotic flowers, fountains and roaming peacocks. They have a similar feel to Dorne (which appears in series five), although if you want to see the real location for that you’ll have to visit Seville.
Malta’s original capital (pronounced Imdina) is seriously beautiful. It’s also the prime spot for Thrones fans. Perched imperiously on top of the island, its medieval walls encircle a labyrinth of museums, shops and King’s Landing-style alleys.
Its plazas evoke many familiar scenes, including the courtyard outside Littlefinger’s brothel (pictured), where Ned Stark feels the pointy end of Jaime Lannister’s sword. The sandy stone buildings and horse-drawn carriages evoke the essence of Westeros’s principal city, making the whole area a delight to stroll around. This is King’s Landing all right, minus the muck and violence.
Radio Times Travel:
Valletta, Mdina and the wonders of Malta tour, 7 nights from £599pp. Our escorted tours combine the best of the island with the chance to enjoy the charms of a highly favoured holiday haven. What’s included:
- Enjoy a week of rest, relaxation, exploration and Maltese hospitality
- Get to know Malta’s historic capital, Valletta, one of the world’s greatest natural anchorages
- Spend a day on fascinating sister island Gozo
- Explore the island’s interior, including historic Mosta and ‘silent city’ Mdina
- Valletta’s ‘Three Cities’ were home to the Knights of St John
- Enjoy an evening in a traditional restaurant
- Seven nights’ carefully chosen dinner, bed and breakfast accommodation at the Hotel Santana, Qawra (upgrade hotel available for a supplement)
- Return flights to Malta
- Click here for more details and to book