Although Croatia has become almost synonymous with Game of Thrones filming locations and in latter seasons several regions of Spain were widely used for filming, in the first season King’s Landing, Pentos and the Dothraki Lands could be found on the tiny island nation of Malta.
In Malta, you can walk in the footsteps of Cersei Lannister, Catelyn Stark, Eddard Stark, Arya Stark, Jaime Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo, just to name a few.
Malta’s pristine beaches and ancient fortresses are a veritable treasure drove for film tourists The list of movies filmed there include titles like Gladiator, Troy, Assassin’s Creed and Captain Phillips. You can view the full list of movies on Wikipedia.
Looking at this long and impressive list of filming locations, it’s pretty clear why film tourists like us consider Malta one of our top travel destinations!
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Azure Window Ruins
Malta’s most famous and recognizable landmark used to be the Azure Window, a massive naturally formed rock arch stretching over the ocean at Dwerja Bay. It was on the beach next to this landmark that the wedding of Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo in the first episode of season 1 was filmed.
Sadly, in 2017 the arch, weakened by erosion, collapsed in a storm. The location is still well worth a visit though. The rocky beach is covered in fossils and the views are great. There are also boat rides that take you through the Inland Sea Tunnel and you get to view what is left of the Azure Window from the water. You will also get to explore a couple of the many caves that line the shoreline on the same boat ride. And the cost? A mere 4 euros per person!
The Azure Window ruins can be found on the neighboring island of Gozo, which can be reached from Malta by a ferry. The trip takes only about 20 minutes and there are several ferries a day.
Church of St Dominic & The Blessed Virgin
This convent can be found in the village of Rabat, about a 30-minute drive from Valletta. The conven’t courtyard is where Ned Stark tells Cersei Lannister the truth about her children’s parentage in an attempt to be merciful.
The courtyard itself is closed off from visitors but you can walk around it along the convent cloisters. You’ll still be able to see the water fountain and the benches where they had their conversation and to remind yourself that when you play the game of thrones you win or you die, there is no middlle ground…
Fort Manoel on Manoel Island between Sliema and Valletta can easily be reached by a bridge connecting it to the main land. The island is a popular swimming place for locals and less crowded than the more touristy beaches. The fort itself is private property but has an open day once a month when you can visit free of charge. Keep an eye on this site to find out when the next one is if you’re planning a visit.
Unfortunately when we were in Malta we had just missed the open day and couldn’t visit this iconic location. In the penultimate episode of season one, Fort Manoel served as the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Ned Stark is brought here to be sentenced for treason and he confesses, with the promise of mercy and a chance to take the black. In a shocking twist of events Joffrey Baratheon decides to forgo mercy and orders Ned to be executed instead.
Built in the late 17th century by the Order of Saint John, Fort Ricasoli is the largest of Malta’s forts. Parts of it were destroyed in bombings during World War II but most of the fort is still intact today but in a decrepit state. Plans to restore the fort were approved in June 2019 so there is some chance that it will be open to visitors in the future, but at the moment it is mostly used as a filming location and you need a special permit to enter. We were luckily able to visit thanks to a little help from the Malta film commission.
It is Fort Ricasoli’s main gate that will most likely look familiar to Game of Thrones fans. This is The Gate of the Gods, through which the Stark convoy arrives in King’s Landing in episode 3 of the first season. Later on in episode 5 Arya Stark tries to re-enter the Red Keep after chasing a cat into the dungeons but the guards have a hard time believing the ragged-looking Arya is in fact the daughter of The Hand of the King.
Even if you’re not able to visit the fort itself, the gate with its very distinct-looking columns can be seen from a distance at Rinella Bay. The end of the walkway on the southside of the bay is the best place for a view of the gate.
The walled city of Mdina served as Malta’s capital until 1530 when the Order of the Knights of St John arrived in Malta and the administrative center of the island was moved to Birgu. Nowadays Mdina has only 300 citizens and is known by the nickname Silent City. You can walk from Mdina Gate to the other side of the city in about 5 minutes. The city retains much of its medieval features and it’s not hard to see why it was chosen for a couple of Game of Thrones locations.
The city’s main gate is instantly recognizable to any Game of Thrones fan. It is through this imposing gate that Catelyn Stark and Ser Rodrick Cassel ride into King’s Landing in episode 3 of the first season. Later in the same episode Catelyn and Ned Stark say goodbye – for the last time as it turns out – just inside the gate.
This small square in the heart of Mdina is home to Littlefinger’s brothel. It is here Catelyn Stark hides out during her time in King’s Landing and Ned Stark comes to find her in the third episode. Later on in the first season, in episode five, Jaime Lannister and his men attack Ned, leaving all of his men dead and him wounded in the leg.
The imposing Mtahleb Cliffs on Malta’s west coast are a bit tricky to reach – the road there is winding and narrow, not to mention in some disrepair for part of the way – but the journey is worth it. The views alone are stunning and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, there’s even a zipline from cliff to cliff, dangling high above the sea!
There’s a paved parking lot at the end of the road and the actual filming location is easy to find. The level field just on the left side of the lot is where Daenerys Targaryen stepped into Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with her dragon eggs, only to emerge later with actual living and firebreathing dragons in the final episode of the first season. The same area was used for many scenes depicting the Dothraki camp towards the end of season one.
San Anton Palace and Gardens
Built in the early 17th century by – you guessed it – a knight of the Order of Saint John, today San Anton Palace serves as the official residence of the President of Malta. Parts of the large gardens are open to the public but, unfortunately for us, the parts where filming took place are not. It is in the inner garden of the palace where Ned Stark and Littlefinger have their conversation about who to trust in the fourth episode.
The palace itself was also used for quite many scenes during season 1. It is in the courtyard that the Starks arrive in King’s Landing in episode three, there’s a hallway where Arya Stark chases a cat (because “Syrio says”) in episode five and in the final episode of the season, Joffrey Baratheon forces Sansa Stark to look at the decapitated head of his father on a spike – he’s a charmer like that. You can see the courtyard and the hallway from the gate but sadly that is as far as we got.
Originally built as a hunting lodge in the late 16th century, Verdala Palace now serves as the official summer residence of the President of Malta. It is not regularly open to the public but there are occasionally tours organized by Visit Malta so keep an eye out. The palace is located in Buskett Gardens, one of the few woodlands on the island and is touted as Malta’s greenest place. The area is worth a visit, even if you can’t get to the palace itself.
Verdala Palace played the part of the exterior of Illyrio Mopatis’ mansion in the very first episode of Game of Thrones. Daenerys Targaryen is introduced to Khal Drogo, her future husband on the steps of the palace.
Please be kind and notice: This page is still under construction. We recently returned from an amazing trip to Malta that we did in collaboration with Visit Malta and will keep adding more locations and photos as soon as possible!