Film tourism is becoming more and more popular and brings substantial benefits to the locations featured in the box office favourites. Lord of the Rings fans head for New Zealand, Harry Potter fans to London and for Game of Thrones fans, it has to be Croatia.
Scheduled to premiere on HBO on April 14 in the US and 15 April on UK screens, the finite season of this popular fantasy series promises to once again deliver great drama and stunning scenery into our living rooms. It will also bring mass film tourism to many of the locations used for its production.
A troubled city plagued by the IRA, bullet holes and bombings, the city of Belfast has turned itself around in the last thirty years. The film tourist numbers have risen sharply in the previous ten years contributing to visitor numbers which expected to exceed two million again this year.
Filmed last year, most of the GOT Season 8 interior scenes took place in an area of Belfast which has developed rapidly in the past ten years thanks to the series. The Red Keep of King’s Landing and Blaise Cathedral were both housed in Belfast studio lots.
A few miles north of Belfast, Northern Ireland’s stunning landscape provides critical locations within the series. Castle Black at the Wall has been purpose built in Magheramorne Quarry on the shores of Larne Lough, and Moneyglass Estate is the new home of Winterfell.
Iceland’s extreme landscapes have frequently featured in cinema blockbusters. The black sands of Reynisfjara were the filming location for the battle of Eadu in Rogue One. And the frozen Jökulsárlón lagoon was perfect for escalating the dramatic tension of infamous car chase scenes from James Bond, Die Another Day. An ice cave in Grjótagjá played host to one of GOT’s steamiest scenes with wildling Ygritte and Jon Snow, and Kirkjufell is now famous for one of the most significant White Walker battle scenes to date.
Like Northern Ireland, the popularity of Iceland has seen film tourism drastically swell the overall number of tourists within the last four years. However, while the film industry has played its part in highlighting the beauty of Iceland’s landscape, the Blue Lagoon and Northern lights are still the most popular attractions.
The beautiful arid landscape of Andulacia features once again in the new season of GOT. Seville, most famous for flamenco dancing, is home to scenes filmed in the Anfiteatro de Itálica at Santiponce. Renowned for its Roman ruins the town, once called Itálica, was an ancient Roman city founded in 206 B.C. The remaining ruins provide an ideal location for the Romanesque styling of the southern lands within the fantasy series.
Seville isn’t a newcomer to film tourism. It has played host to many others Hollywood blockbusters including James Bond, Die Another Day and Star Wars, Attack of the Clones, where filming was centered around the stunning Plaza de España.
Another country devastated by modern political conflict, Croatia is probably the best-known real-life location for GOT. Spread out amongst the islands and the mainland, many of the enticing places showcased in the series have witnessed an influx of film-loving tourists.
The easy-going city of Split was catapulted to TV fame when Klis fortress transformed into Meereen. The beauty of the Croatian coastline which provided a stunning natural backdrop for many of the scenes in series four brought the quiet towns of Baska Voda, Krka and Kastela into the public eye. And Sibenik joined the list of essential sites to visit after series five, but the most famous location throughout the series has to be Dubrovnik.
A city which has witnessed many real conflicts during its past, Dubrovnik became part of Croatia after the first world war and Yugoslavia after the second world war. It was shelled repeatedly by Serbs over many months during the regional wars on the early 1990s and was considerably damaged. Now almost completely restored to its former beauty, several of the key actors within the GOT series elevated its importance as they walked its walls during filming last year.