Game of Thrones first arrived on our screens back in 2011, propelling the likes of actors Kit Harington, Richard Madden, Sophie Turner, Emilia Clarke, and Maisie Williams to stardom. The fantasy drama series is based on the fantasy novel series – A Song of Ice and Fire – by George RR Martin and takes place across fictional continents of Westeros and Essos. However, the show is filmed much closer to home with the filming headquarters based at Titanic Studios, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
How has Game of Thrones changed Belfast?
Belfast has been home to filming and production of Game of Thrones since the fantasy series first aired in 2011.
Other filming locations have been used for for the series including Canada, Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Latvia, Morocco, Scotland, and Spain.
Originally, the series was set to be filmed in Scotland but the show’s producers changed their mind about the country simply because Belfast had more availability of studio space.
Alas, Scotland missed out on roughly £60million being pumped into the region’s economy in the early days of Game of Thornes according to the Scotland Herald.
Instead, Doune Castle in Stirling, the original setting for the scenes of Winterfell in the pilot episode is now a distant memory with Belfast thriving off of all things dragons, sex, violence, and everything and anything wonderful and widely associated with the term ‘Game of Thrones’.
Belfast, an incredible city, was formally and still does remain a tourist hotspot for those interested in the history of the Troubles and the home of the Titanic.
Undeniably, Game of Thrones has transformed the city, propelling Belfast into the spotlight for something other than its dark, complicated and, at times, deadly past.
Ahead of the Game of Thrones season eight premiere, searches for flights to Belfast increased by 215% according to Jetcost.
Hotels.com also revealed it has seen a huge increase in hotel searches in Belfast during the final season.
Since 2011, fans from across the globe have been flocking to the city to see the origins of their favourite show.
According to Tourism NI, visitors to Northern Ireland pumped £2.5 million into the economy every day between 2017-2018.
Tourism NI also estimated that GoT fans generated at least £30 million into the local economy last year.
The show itself pumped millions into the economy and provided jobs for more than 6,000 people.
Not only can tourists to Belfast visit the iconic Belfast City Hall, Titanic Belfast, Crumlin Road Goal, the Murals on Shankill Road, but they can also now take part in a GoT themed escape room, embark on numerous Game of Thrones sightseeing bus and taxi tours ‘to discover the real seven kingdoms’.
The series is filmed in Titanic Studios Belfast and the city and surrounding areas serve as Westeros.
As a result, the city has been able to build a booming tourism industry off the back of GoT.
The Giant Causeway Coastal Route, which represents the Iron Islands in Game of Thrones, is now littered with GoT fans snapping pictures of The Wall and Castle Black – (real location Magheramorne Quarry) and the stairs where Ayra (played by Maisie Williams) crawled out safely, which are actually situated on Carnlough Harbour.
Other locations on there include Larrybane beach which served as the location for the Kingsmoot when Yara Greyjoy (Gemma Whelan) made her final bid for the Salt Throne and Ballintoy beach where Balon Greyjoy’s (Krysten Coombs) funeral was held.
On the route you can also visit the Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, belonging to The Kingsroad scene when Ayra disguised herself as a boy to avoid being captured, which all GoT fans will know, ultimately failed.
Game of Thrones has also brought more filming and production to Belfast and even led to a new studio complex called Belfast Harbour Studios, which is home to Syfy’s Krypton.
According to Northern Ireland Screen, Game of Thrones has spent more than £210 million in Belfast.
Other activities across Northern Ireland allow you to can visit unique locations including The Cuan, a family-owned Hotel in the village of Strangford where the cast stayed during filming for season one.
From there you can go into visit the home of Winterfell, Castle Ward, the home of the Starks in Game of Thrones.
On the other hand, you can visit the Tollymore Forest Park, County Down where the White Walkers began their march into the realm of men through the Haunted Forest.
Through Game of Thrones tours, which you can book online at Visit Northern Ireland, you can channel your inner Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and take archery lessons, whilst dressed in traditional Game of Thrones attire.
In the city itself, you can visit Seaview Hall, where Brona Spencer’s jewellery shop is located.
The store is where the Starks and the Lannisters accessories are made for the entire eight seasons.
You can also embark on a Game of Thrones DIrewolf Tour, where you can meet the infamous direwolves Summer and Greywind.
You can even download Northern Ireland Game of Thrones filming locations app to help you find the secret filming locations.
Kit Harington AKA Jon Snow perhaps said it better himself when he was speaking to the Irish Sun about saying goodbye to Belfast after filming there for nine years.
He said: “I saw it change from a place coming out of great unrest for far longer than I’ve even been alive through various efforts that the city and the country made.
“That brought in shows like Game of Thrones, the new bars, new restaurants, and the new culture, I feel very privileged to have witnessed the transformation of the city over that period.”
Game of Thrones season 8 airs on HBO in the US on Sundays 9pm ET and on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK on Mondays at 2am and 9pm BST
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