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Visiting Dubrovnik: The King’s Landing in ‘Game of Thrones’

The old city of Dubrovnik was declared a World Heritage site owing to its medieval architecture and fortification. The city, glowing brilliantly in the night,
Visiting Dubrovnik
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As a child of the late 1960s, we had known about Croatia as the site of bombings and fighting between Serbs, Croats, and others. The Balkan state of Yugoslavia was far away, in the south-eastern part of Europe, and we knew nothing about what was happening there. It was only in the 1990s that Croatia, or Hvratska as the local people call it, became an independent nation.

Croatia again burst into my consciousness as the beautiful locale for the popular HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’ and as one of the finalists in the FIFA World Cup 2018. Team Croatia lost the game 2-4 to France, but won the hearts of millions around the world. Croatia became a member of the European Union recently, in January 2023, and now visitors need a Schengen Visa to go there by air, waterway, or roadway.

The old city of Dubrovnik was declared a World Heritage site owing to its medieval architecture and fortification. The city, glowing brilliantly in the night, right beside the Adriatic Sea, is a sight to behold! It is fortified by a nearly 2 km long wall that includes five fortresses and sixteen towers and bastions. Two of these fortresses, St Lawrence’s or Lovrijenac in the west and Revelin in the east, are outside the city walls. Located at the highest point of the city, Fortress Minceta was meant to protect the Republic of Dubrovnik from the north.

The Illuminated St Blaise Church

Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century by the people of the Roman city of Epidaurum after it was destroyed by Slavs. The Slavs also settled along the coast and named their settlement Dubrovnik. Over time the animosity between the Romans and the Slavs declined and in the 12th century the two settlements merged. The channel that divided the city was filled, creating Stradun, the present-day main street that became the city center. In the 14th century Dubrovnik was a Republic called Republica de Ragusa.

The walled city has two entrance points, the Ploce gate in the east and the Pile gate in the west. There is a moat surrounding the walls, and one has to walk over drawbridges to enter the city. Every gate leads to Stradun, the open-air public place, the venue of all festivities and processions, a beautiful, wide, cobbled street that is lined with shops and eateries. Narrow cobbled lanes shooting off from both sides of the Stradun are lined with restaurants. On the northern side, there are stairs going up the lanes, and on the southern side, they lead to smaller squares where local people sell their wares to tourists at impossible prices.

Dubrovnik port

The big Onforio Fountain stands at the western end of Stradun. It was named after Onofrio della Cava, the architect who designed the 11.7 km long Dubrovnik water supply system in 1438. The 31 m Bell Tower with its two bronze soldiers, Baro and Maro, and the Sponza Palace, built in Gothic-Renaissance style are inside the old city.

There are 5 churches and monasteries in the old city, the oldest being the pharmacy within the Franciscan monastery founded in 1317. I found a painting of Mary Magdalene by Artemisia Gentileschi in the Church Museum.

Dubrovnik became a tourism hotspot after it was used as the main filming location of King’s Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms in ‘Game of Thrones’. The Lovrijenac Fort became the ‘Red Keep’, the harbour near the Pile Gate became the ‘King’s Landing Harbour’ and when they showed people walking along the City Walls of King’s Landing, a part of Old City walls containing Fort Bokar was shown. The space between the outer walls and the Old City at the Pile Gate has been used as the place for the famous riot scene.

Mary Magdalene by Artemisia Gentileschi.

The Jesuit staircase by Saint Ignatius Church is the backdrop of one of the famous scenes of ‘Game of Thrones’ where Cersei was forced to walk naked from the Great Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep. The first shot of this scene, when Cersei is standing at the top of the stairs looking down at the crowd, is one of the most expensive shots. People had to be paid to keep their businesses, bars, and restaurants closed for a full day, and the people who lived in that street had to be paid for privacy guarantees that they would not peek out of their windows during the filming!

Lokrum Island was another place for filming the series. The island has a number of wild peacocks and they were included in the decorations of Qarth. There is a chamber where the throne made of swords and daggers is kept and nobody can resist the lure of a photograph, sitting on the throne! The island has a tiny swimming hole as well and is a nice place for spending a day.

'Game of Thrones' tour brochure and Dubrovnik old city map.

The entire city is too touristy for my choice. People queue up for adventure sports like kayaking in the sea or hiking in the mountains. If you want to stay inside the Old City, be prepared for huge crowds at all times of the day. The modern city of Dubrovnik offers a plethora of accommodations. It is a charming riviera on the Adriatic Sea. The sea shimmers in a myriad of colours as our eye travels from the rocky shores, lined with white sands, to the deep waters which take all hues and shades of blue and green – turquoise, aquamarine, teal, emerald. The combination of the serene sea, rugged mountains, a vibrant city preserving its old glory, and the old Roman architecture and forts, have an irresistible lure to the traveller looking for a place to unwind, far from the stress of daily life.

Images used in this article are by the author. 

For information on best time for visiting Dubrovnik and things to do in the city, you can visit https://visitdubrovnik.hr/

Bishakha Ghosh is a professor of Economics at the Kalyani University in West Bengal. She loves to travel and to sometimes write about her travel experiences.

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