Game of Thrones wrapped up its first season with blood, fire and dragons – and as we book-readers know winter might be coming, but you have to wait a little while for the story to continue. In the meantime, here’s another filming location you can visit that will make you feel like you’re part of the story in Westeros or Essos – or where you may catch a glimpse of shooting if your timing is right… the island nation of Malta!
We’re now visiting Malta on November as a stop on our cruise, so this Locations of Thrones post is of even more interest to us than usual! We’ll be doing our best to squeeze in as many locations as we can while we’re there.
Most of the filming was scattered across the largest island of Malta, however the country is only about 300 square kilometers in total land mass – so it’s not difficult to get around by car. I’ll be working on a driving route to visit the locations in hopes of renting a car for the day – too little time – and will post it before we go.
The nearest location to Valletta, the largest city in Malta, is on its north side – Fort Manoel on Manoel Island in Gżira‘s Marsamxett Harbour. Fort Manoel is considered an excellent example of 18th century military engineering, built in 1726 by Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta. In World War II, the Royal Navy used the fort as a base. During that time, a direct hit by the Luftwaffe destroyed the Chapel of St. Anthony on the site.
The fort was used for the pivotal scene in ‘Baelor’; Ned’s confession and subsequent punishment. There has been significant restoration occurring on the site since 2006 – along with some controversial development – and though some of the fort can be seen, most is not open to the public. Gżira also offers fabulous views of the walled city of Valletta, something that’s worth the visit alone, and something I am hoping we can take advantage of while there.
Fort St. Angelo
On the south side of Valletta is and the Grand Harbour is Fort St. Angelo in Birgu. The original date of construction is unknown, however the Knights of Malta chose to settle in Birgu on their arrival in 1530, and the fort became the seat of the Grand Master. The fort became their primary site of fortification, and they significantly expanded and reinforced it to the point that they were able to defend it successfully over the Great Siege of Malta against the attacks of the Turkish Armada.
In Game of Thrones, Fort St. Angelo was used for some of the scenes of Arya chasing cats in the Red Keep. I’m not sure that the fort is accessible to the public; I couldn’t find much information about visiting it – please let us know if you know anything!
Also on the Grand Harbour, Fort Ricasoli was used for the Red Keep as well, primarily the gates and the gatehouse. The fort was an active military installation from the time of its completion in 1693 throughout to the British period, and then again in World War II, as with many Maltese forts. Though the fort did suffer some severe damage in the war, the greatest danger it faces now is from erosion from seaward. Despite some restoration work, some areas of the fort are still considered dangerous. Though it does not appear to be open to the public, it does not appear that it is necessarily closed either.
The old capital Mdina, in the centre of the island of Malta, stood in for King’s Landing, with the Mdina gate as the King’s Landing gate,. The strategically-located walled city is one of the oldest in Malta, with only a limited number of cars allowed on the streets. The city is small, but there’s a number of cathedrals and museums, as well as the Mdina Dungeons, that are all apparently worth a visit if you have the time. Charmaine & Noel Tanti visited the set in Mdina and shared some great pictures on their blog of the Mdina gate dressed up for the show.
Coming up in part two of Locations of Thrones in Malta: where Ned confronted Cersei, where stone dragons are woken from salt and smoke, and where Illyrio welcomed the last of the dragons in Pentos.
For more about Malta – this time, with food – visit Velvet Escape for A Tour of Malta’s Culinary Delights.
As always, thanks to Winter-is-Coming.net for their invaluable network of spies and regular set reports!