Eight years, and hundreds of gruesome deaths later, HBO series Game of Thrones has finally reached its epic end. Now that the battle for the Iron Throne is over, many fans are undoubtedly wondering … where to get my next Westeros fix from?
How about heading all the way back to the beginning by re-visiting some fantastical Westeros locations in real life? Many iconic scenes from season one were in fact shot around the beautiful islands of Malta and are easily accessible to the public all year round.
From famous forts and rural villages to ancient Heritage sites, here are 11 amazing locations that any diehard fan must visit on their Game of Thrones tour around Malta and Gozo.
1. Mdina Gate, Mdina – Malta
Mdina Gate, also known as Vilhena Gate, is the main entrance into the ancient walled city of Mdina. This medieval egress, which is reached by crossing an arched moat bridge, makes its Game of Thrones debut in Lord Snow (s01, e03). In this episode you can spot lady Catelyn Stark, accompanied by Ser Rodrik Cassel, ride into Kings Landing through this very entrance. Here they attempt to establish whether the Lannisters were complicit in two separate attempts on young Bran’s life.
Mdina gate is also where Ned Stark says his final farewell to his beloved Catelyn before she flees Kings Landing following the death of King Robert.
Tip: You too can make your own Game of Thrones pilgrimage by hiring a horse-drawn carriage – usually parked outside the gates – and taking the very journey Catelyn did into King’s Landing.
2. Mesquita Square, Mdina – Malta
Pretty isn’t it? This peaceful piazza deep in the silent city of Mdina actually saw quite a lot of Game of Thrones action. The square housed the exterior of Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish’s debauched brothel, featured in several episodes in season one. Lord Baelish boasted of “the sheer range of appetites catered to” in his establishment.
Tip: These days we recommend you focus on a different kind of appetite and head to Fontanella’s in the city for some icecream and cake.
In The Wolf & the Lion (s01, e05), Jamie Lannister and his spearmen have a heated skirmish with Ned and his guards here. And it’ss in this square in Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things (s01, e04), that Ned visits the Street of Steel market. Here Ned deduces that the blacksmith’s apprentice Gendry is in fact the bastard son of the King.
3. Fort Ricasoli, Valletta – Malta
The bastioned Fort Ricasoli in Kalkara was originally built by the Knights of Malta. Its medieval military splendour made it the perfect stand-in for the Gate of the Gods in Kings Landing. The gates can be spotted in Lord Snow (s01, e03), when the Stark clan return to the capital of the Seven Kingdoms and Ned finally assumes responsibility as advisor to King Robert on the Small Council. The fort also features in The Wolf & the Lion (s01, e05), where Arya attempts to re-enter the Red Keep but is denied access due to being mistaken for a street urchin by the guards.
Tip: If you want to follow in Arya’s footsteps, best to do so quickly. Parts of the largest fort on the Maltese islands has already been washed away by the sea.
St Dominic’s Priory, Rabat – Malta
The gardens of this peaceful, picturesque convent in Rabat are the setting for one of the series’ most heated head-to-heads. Serving as a Red Keep garden in You Win Or You Die (s01, e07), it is here that Ned Stark reveals he knows Cersei Lannister’s most taboo of secrets – that her children, and heirs to the throne, were fathered by her twin brother Jamie and not her husband King Robert.
Despite swearing to tell all to the King should she not flee the capital, Cersei merely shrugs the threats off and declares: ‘When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.’ The priory is open to the public.
Tip: Tie in a visit to St Dominics with nearby Mdina to hit two bit Game of Thrones sites in quick succession.
Fort Manoel, Gzira – Malta
Fort Manoel doubles up as Game of Thrones’ Great Sept of Baelor – the temple for the Faith of the Seven. The exterior of the fort serves as the setting for the nail-biting, climactic end to Ned Stark’s story in Baelor (s01, e09).
It is just outside this fort that Ned is beheaded on Joffrey Baratheon’s orders, after having been forced into making a false confession of treason in order to spare his daughters’ lives. During this scene, Joffrey then commands the mute Ser Ilyn Payne to bring him the traitor’s severed head.
Tip: Time your Manoel Island visit for one of the opening days advertised on this Facebook page.
San Anton Palace & Gardens, Attard – Malta
San Anton Palace and Gardens are the official residence of the President of Malta and appear frequently throughout Game of Thrones season one. In Lord Snow (s01, e03), when the Starks arrive at Red Keep, they make use of the palace stables.
And it is here that in The Pointy End (s01, e03) young Arya discovers her family’s attendants have been slaughtered before reclaiming Needle, the pointy sword gifted to her by her step brother Jon Snow. The palace is also where Joffrey ushers his bride-to-be Sansa to the balcony and forces her to look upon her dead father’s and her household staff’s severed heads on spikes.
Tip: The palace interior is closed to the public but the gardens are open daily from 07:00 – 19:00.
Fort St Angelo, Birgu – Malta
Fort St Angelo in Birgu houses Red Keep’s dungeons. It is here that Arya, having chased a cat into the underground chambers, overhears Master of Whisperers Varys and Magister Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos plotting against the throne in The Wolf & the Lion (s01, e05).
The fort is also where Ned Stark is imprisoned before being taken to his execution at the Sept of Baelor.
Tip: When you visit Fort St Angelo, a trip to its museum is well worth an extra hour or so.
Verdala Palace, Buskett Gardens – Malta
The 16th century Verdala Palace is the official summer residence of the President of Malta and serves as the exterior to Illyrio Mopatis’ Pentos palace in Winter is Coming (s01, e01). As an ally to the Targaryens, Illyrio offers shelter to Daenerys and her brother Viserys in his palace. This is also where Daenerys’ marriage to Khal Drogo is arranged in exchange for the Dothraki horde’s assistance to bring Viserys to power on the Iron Throne.
Tip: While the palace itself is closed to the public, you can easily spot its Renaissance façade during a walk around Buskett Gardens.
Azure Window – Gozo
A lot has happened since the first series of Game of Thrones, including the collapse of one of Gozo’s most distinctive features. The Azure Window can be seen in the background of the Dothraki wedding feast between Khal Drogo and his bargained-for bride Daenerys Targaryen in Winter is Coming (s01, e01). Unfortunately, the window collapsed into the sea in March 2017 after battling heavy storms.
Tip: Thrones completionists can still tick this off their sightseeing list by embarking on a special underwater dive to the sunken arch ruins.
Manikata, Birgu – Malta
This small rural village in the limits of Mellieħa is where the barbaric Dothraki ransack a settlement of sheep herders in The Pointy End (s01, e03). During this extended scene, Daenerys defies the Dothraki raiders and attempts to protect the women of the tribe.
However Khaleesi’s act of benevolence backfires when the rescued Mirri maz Duur uses blood magic that causes Dani a miscarriage and leaves Khal Drogo in a vegetative state resulting in his death.
Tip: You won’t see witches, but you might spot a hunter so make sure to comply with the Private signs!
Mtaħleb Cliffs – Malta
The Mtaħleb Cliffs and surrounding area create an undulating, rugged landscape like something belonging to a fantastical world. No wonder then, that the cliffs were chosen as the setting for the Dothraki camp throughout Game of Thrones season one. The most iconic scene set on Mtaħleb cliffs happens in Fire & Blood (s01, e10), when Daenerys emerges from the flames of hubby Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre accompanied by her baby dragons.
And if you’ve scrolled this far and are still feeling a Game of Thrones size hole in your heart, remember, it’s Malta.
Summer Is Coming.