So the new, penultimate season of Game of Thrones is out – and yet again, Andalucia is a favoured location for the seven episodes.
This time you will be able to spot the Roman site of Italica, the castle of Almodovar del Rio, and the Ataranazanas (shipyards) in Seville. Filming took place in October and November 2016.
Back in March, I went on a bloggers’ weekend, “A Una Hora de Sevilla” (An Hour from Seville), themed around Game of Thrones. Some locations had already appeared in the HBO series, watched by around 25 million people, and others you’ll be able to see in the next few weeks and months.
Of the new ones, we visited Italica, where a big action sequence will take place, and Almodovar de Rio, probably a setting for battles. Visiting the Alcazar (seasons 5 and 6) gave us a new insight into the filming of Dorne scenes – the Alcazar’s royal palace portrays the Water Gardens of the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms, ruled by Doran Martell; while in Osuna (major battle featuring dragons, Episode 9, Season 5), they’ve created a whole section dedicated to the series in the town’s museum.
The Alcazar of Seville – Dorne’s Water Gardens – Seasons 5 and 6
On the first night of the trip, we had an evening tour of the Alcazar by Dani of Sevilla4Real. Dani is a terrific guide, and a natural storyteller, with lots of insider gems about filming Season 5 here – Jaime arriving to collect Myrcella, while grieving Ellyra and the Sand Snakes, her three beautiful daughters with impressive fighting skills, plot against Jaime and Myrcella.
Without wishing to steal Dani’s thunder, he has fascinating insights into how and why the Alcazar was chosen as a location, what the filming was like, how much HBO paid use it as a location, what was constructed to embellish the rooms, and the costumes worn, and language-based communication errors. But my favourite part was the story how a prominent local (now national)politician bumbled onto the set and caused havoc. This tour is highly recommended for fans of the series.
Real Alcazar de Sevilla, Patio de Banderas, Sevilla
Italica – the Dragonpit in King’s Landing? – Season 7
On Saturday morning, we visited the Roman site of Italica, in the town of Santiponce, 10km from Seville. Founded in 206BC, Italica (whose name derives from Italy) was not in itself an important town – nearby Hispalis (Seville) was much bigger – but its status improved when some of its inhabitants became wealthy and important. In those days, similar to now, the prosperity came from grain (wheat) and olive oil – millions of tons were exported to Rome.
This wealth reached a new level when Trajan, a general born in Italica, became emperor in 98AD, and Italicans were riding a wave in Rome. The buildings we see today date from this era, of the nova urbs (new town), built on higher ground than the original town, which is underneath the modern-day Santiponce. Italica’s good fortune continued when Trajan’s nephew Adriano (who built Hadrian`s Wall in England) succeeded him. You can see large, formerly luxurious villas with beautiful mosaic floors in the nova urbs, as well as a temple to the deified Trajan.
In terms of Game of Thrones, the scenes – our guide couldn`t reveal details – were shot in the amphitheatre, which is very large for such a small town (pop 8,000), seating 25,000 spectators, and which would have been frequented by inhabitants of Hispalis, Merida and other large cities. The amphitheatre was built on the banks of a river which the Romans rerouted.
In its day, the amphitheatre would have hosted gladiatorial combats with wild boar and bears from Osuna (see below). Games were used to win over the public before an election – three days of subsidized shows with free food, to encourage them to vote for the politician/patron.
If you want to explore the Roman history theme further, highly recommended is the recreation of a Roman house in Santiponce, Cotidiana Vitae. You can see the dining room, kitchen, bedrooms and more, with panels explaining what they wore and ate, as well as a video showing how Italica was built.
The amphitheatre may have been used as the Dragonpit, a huge circular domed building in King’s Landing previously destroyed by fire. Much speculation surrounds these scenes, as a large number of main characters were here for the filming including SPOILER ALERT Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons; Lannisters, and Jon Snow. The actors delighted adoring fans who were outside their hotel (the Alfonso XIII) waiting to see their favourite TV mega-stars, by ordering them pizza and delivering it personally. Social media was full of snaps of thrilled Sevillanos with GoT cast members.
One theory is that CGI may combine the amphitheatre of Italica with the Atarazanas of Seville, the 14th-century royal shipyards, which have impressive pillars and arched ceilings. Scenes were also shot here around the same time.
Conjunto Arqueologico de Italica, Avenida de Extremadura 2, Santiponce (Sevilla)
Castillo de Almodovar – Season 7
A later stop in that very full day (we drove ourselves in teams using a variety of Fords, cheaper than a minibus I suppose) was Almodovar del Rio, where we visited the spectacularly-located hilltop Castillo de Almodovar which will appear in this current season. (I had already visited this castle in October last year, when the locations of GoT7 were announced, so was already long overdue a blog post.) The town is about 25 km from Cordoba, and 115km from Seville, not by motorway – bit more than an hour, then.
Dating from Arab times, when the town was called Al-Mudawwar, the hilltop fortress hosted King Pedro I, who built the Mudejar (Moorish-style) section of the Alcazar where scenes in earlier series were filmed (see above). But the castle fell into disrepair and was largely rebuilt in the early 20th century by the then-owner, the Count of Torralva, employing (and therefore feeding)many townspeople during 35 years of lean times.
The castle has fantastic battlements, straight out of a children’s storybook, and crying out for thrilling sword fights, as well as heaps of towers with amazing views of the surrounding countryside and river Guadalquivir, which flows on to Seville.
You can see tableau recreations with costumed models of the King Pedro being dressed in his armour for battle, and the King listening to his subjects. A clever model of the castle shows the progress of a siege, brought to life with sounds and projections of tents, arrows and fire, as soldiers advance up the hill and are repelled.
Various scenes in season 7 were shot here over 12 days in November 2016, using two patios, according to our guide, but presumably also battlements. A display of swords on one of the battlements was especially impressive – Viking, Arabic, Spanish and English among them.
A word of warning for nervous drivers – the road leading up to this castle is narrow and windy, with a steep drop, and limited parking, so you may prefer to leave your chariot in the large car park at the bottom of the hill and walk up, or drop off your passengers at the castle and then park down below.
Castillo de Alomodovar, Almodovar del Rio (Cordoba)
Osuna – Danzak’s Pit, Meereen – Season 5
I visited the Renaissance town of Osuna two years ago, when this scene in Episode 9, the Dance of Dragons, filmed in the bullring, was about to be broadcast. You can see photos in my post of the impressive space.
This was our final destination on the bloggers’ trip, 90km from Seville. The dynamic Osuna tourism office has added a massive dragon’s head next to which you can have your photo taken, or do a selfie (it hadn’t yet arrived when we did our bloggers’ visit). In addition there’s a VR experience using a headset, to see the five different types of countryside surrounding Osuna from a dragon’s eye view.
The town’s tourist office (2 euros entrance fee) has an excellent small museum about the filming, which took place in October 2014, and the series in general. Hundreds of extras were used, and each received a signed T-shirt at the end of the shoot from director David Nutter. A cheery bunch, they tolerated the extreme temperatures and long days with typically Andalucian good humour, using umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, and singing.
The director was delighted and reportedly thought Osuna to be a magical place, while the actors felt so comfortable that they brought their families to stay – unlike in Seville, they were largely left alone by the locals.
In the museum’s Sala de Hielo y Fuego (Room of Ice and Fire) upstairs, you can see photos from the shoot, signed photo portraits of the actors, and various costumes and models, including a Whitewalker, Unsullied, and a number of other gems: a Sons of the Harpy mask, Robb Stark’s sword, the Hound’s helmet, and best of all you can try on a Night`s Watch outfit, including the fur-trimmed cape and sword. This a very worthwhile visit for Thronies.
Plaza de Toros, Calle Travesia Plaza de Toros, Osuna
Museo de Osuna, Calle Sevilla 37, Osuna
This leaflet in English has useful information about Osuna, including museums, monuments, hotels and restaurants.
If you’re a Game of Thrones fan and you’re visiting Andalucia, you can also see various locations in Almeria, including the Alcazaba fortress in the city, and Tabernas desert. The tourism impact of using these locations in such a hugely successful show has been considerable, and hopefully will continue for years to come, as this series will not age with time and will be enjoyed well into the future.