The gorgeous city of Seville has never had to try too hard when it comes to attracting tourists – which must be very annoying for a lot of other destinations – but is now also going to get invaded by fans of Game of Thrones. Season 5 of the HBO medieval fantasy series premieres this Sunday, April 12, and starts in the UK at 9pm on Monday, April 13.
The location scouts must have been thrilled to bits when they first clapped eyes on the Alcázar in Seville. They were looking for a suitable building to feature as the fortified castle at the heart of Sunspear, the capital of Dorne, the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms. And they found the perfect place in this ornate palace right in the centre of the city.
Much of what you see today was built in the 14th century for King Pedro the Cruel by the leading Mudéjar craftsmen of the day (Mudéjar refers to the Moslems who stayed on after the Christian reconquest and the style of architecture they created). There was however previously an Arab fortress on the site – parts of which survive – and before that Visigothic and Roman structures. Various Spanish monarchs added bits on over the centuries too. So it is a pretty complex structure what with one thing and another. Alcázar means castle or fortress. The official name is the Reales Alcázares – royal fortresses – as it used to be different palaces for the various the Moorish rulers.
Game of Thrones was filmed in several places in the complex. It will be easy to recognise the Hall of Ambassadors with its mosaic tiles around the walls and intricate cedarwood domed ceiling, decorated with stars to symbolise the sky. They didn’t really have to change anything as it was just what they wanted. All they did was add the odd plant, rug, table and chair – and that was just to disguise the lighting and cables.
Also look out for the rather spooky underground vaulted pools, built for María de Padilla, who was King Pedro’s mistress. Dorne is the only part of the continent of Westeros where citrus fruits grow, so the sensual gardens of the Alcázar, with their orange trees, pools and waterfalls, fitted the bill rather nicely. The Mercury Pond – dyed dark blue for the filming – and the Grotto Gallery made ideal backdrops for the action.
The Roman bridge in Córdoba will also feature, as well as the bullring in the town of Osuna, 82 km south east of Seville, where a battle was staged. Rumoured to be the most expensive television scene ever filmed, 1000 extras were taken on to represent the troops of Daenerys Targaryen, also known as Khaleesi, among other names. Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays the role, celebrated her 28th building during the shoot and the town’s San Francisco cake shop made her a rather special birthday cake – Game of Thrones themed of course. She also had a party at the Casa Curro restaurant, which now offers a Game of Thrones menu. You can see where this is going. There is of course now a leaflet detailing a route with all the places linked to the series, including the hotels where the cast and crew stayed.
Osuna is one of the best preserved historic towns in Andalucía, with a wealth of Renaissance architecture, and well worth a visit even if you have no interest in Game of Thrones. It has featured in several films and television programmes before, but the stroke of luck of being chosen as a location for one of the most popular television series on the planet might finally put it firmly on the tourist map.
Getting there British Airways flies to Seville from London Gatwick – fares are often very reasonable if you can be flexible on dates.
Where to stay The Fontecruz hotel in Seville has 40 pretty rooms around an elegant courtyard and has a very welcome outdoor pool. It is in a handy location with the cathedral and Santa Cruz on the doorstep. In Osuna, stay at the Palacio Marqués de la Gomera or the Hospedería del Monasterio.