Although HBO switched film locations for the recently premiered “House of the Dragon,” the prequel to “Game of Thrones,” the Croatian city will live on as the original capital of the Seven Kingdoms.
And from Fort Lovrijenac and the Pile Harbor (photo featured) to the Old Town Walls, the Pearl of the Adriatic has a history that rivals George R. R. Martin’s fantasy drama.
Like the fondly remembered by “GoT” fans as the Red Keep, Fort Lovrijenac oversees the city’s maritime entrance from the western wall, and it’s famous for remaining a bastion of Croatian identity during the Venetian rule.
The citadel and the ubiquitous red rooftops (where the “smallfolk” live in the series) are visible from the Old Town Walls, guarded by the City Watch.
Dating from the Middle Ages, UNESCO declared the history-rich building a World Heritage Site in 1979.
It still hurt to watch when the Mother of Dragons burnt King’s Landing to the ground in season 8, including the town outside the wall.
In real life, however, the city has survived the Roman Empire, the Byzantines, Frankish, Muslims and the Balkan and Bosnian wars of the 20th century.
In fact, businesses in the Stradun, the Old Town’s main street, display pictures of smoky stores to remember the most recent conflict.
Of course, the limestone-paved pedestrian thoroughfare is where Cersei Lannister completes her Walk of Shame in season 5.
It is also where the Sponza Palace stands.
The 16th-century Gothic and Renaissance building was the cultural center of the Republic of Ragusa.
Since surviving the devastating earthquake of 1667, it has served as the town armory, treasury and bank, among other civic institutions.
Blending with the Old City Walls and crowning St Dominic Street, where the protest speech against the Lannisters in season 5 took place, is the Dominican Monastery.
Construction of the abbey started in 1228 and included Romanesque, Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance styles.
Currently, the complex houses work from the schools of painting from the 15th, 16th and 20th centuries.
Last but not least, we arrived at the West Pier.
The popular spot among swimmers and sunbathers doubles as “Blackwater Bay.”
It was an essential point of entry to the city, perhaps because of its proximity to the Pile Gate.
Korčula and Lokrum
Come for “Game of Thrones” and stay for everything else this beautiful part of the world has to offer, including day trips to the islands of Korčula and Lokrum—both accessible by ferry.
The most inhabited one, Korčula has a historical center and sandy beaches famous for Greek and Roman archeological findings.
It’s also believed to be Marco Polo’s homeland and, as such, contains a museum dedicated to the life and work of the famous explorer and writer.
Lusher and populated only by peacocks, Lokrum, the second isle, has spectacular rocky beaches (including a clothing-optional one).
According to popular superstition, evicted 11th-century Benedictine monks cursed the island before departing.
Explore the abandoned monastery at your own risk.
The shortest trip you’d ever need your passport for, Montenegro is a eurozone country, formerly part of Yugoslavia, and from 2003 to 2006, of the Serbia and Montenegro federation.
A popular day trip from Dubrovnik (about a 2-hour+ drive each way), the geographically tiny but historically huge republic has picturesque medieval towns, clear, warm Adriatic waters, Mediterranean weather, and alluring rocky mountains.
The Venetian Old Town in Kotor, Lipa Cave and the Budva Riviera are some highlights of this enchanted land.
As we began the journey back from this distant part of the world the Venetians called “Black Mountain,” the lines between fantasy and reality started to blur.
It would’ve not surprised us to spot a giant, fire-breathing reptile flying across the impossibly blue sky.