Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Croatia: How Does Historical Dubrovnik Compare to Kings Landing?

By 24 February 2016

TCN's series taking a closer look at various aspects of Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik continues on February 24, 2016, as we look at how Kings Landing compared to historical Dubrovnik, or Ragusa as it was known. It would appear that Ragusa was a much more civilised and progressive place to live...

There might be some spoilers further on, so if you haven’t watched Game of Thrones yet, then perhaps you should read this article after you’ve seen some episodes. 

So, what is the difference between the fictional city and the real one? Well, in almost everything, unfortunately (or luckily), the fictitious one is more familiar than the real one. Too bad, because the original Ragusa was much more cool and humane than King’s Landing. Let’s see the obvious differences and some unexpected similarities outlined.


Unlike King’s Landing, Ragusa did not have kings or queens. In fact, the head of Dubrovnik was a rector (sort of a medieval version of a mayor) and he was governing the city for only one month, after which another person would take over his positin. However, the city rulers were of aristocratic descent. This one-month-system was invented to prevent corruption amongst other reasons. Perhaps we could re-introduce some of the good old customs into the present...


Dubrovnik is one of the first cities in the world that had a very developed sewage system. While some of the more known European cities had a common practice of throwing faeces over the balconies (imagine the lovely smells that were spreading in the streets!), Dubrovnik early on came to the conclusion that is not the way and already in late 13 century started laying out a plan that included tiling the streets and laying sewage pipes to the ground. It was meant to keep the plague and other illnesses in contingency. King’s Landing on the other hand was not a very clean place, especially the place listed out below.


It’s hard to forget the scenes from Flea Bottom, of the poor, begging, ill and dying in the streets of King’s Landing. Ragusa was not that harsh to its habitants. There was aristocracy and yes, they were ruling the city, but even the lower members of society were protected as well – medical care was free of charge and there were public fountains available for everyone to use. There is one scene from Game of Thrones that was shot in Dubrovnik and this time it was posing as Qarth. The Mother of Dragons was negotiating with the city’s finest men in some atrium with a lovely stairwell. A bust of a man can be seen in the scene as well. That bust is actually Dubrovnik’s historical heritage and it presents Miho Pracat. He’s the only commoner that ever had the honor of having his own statue made during the time of the Republic, in the 17th century. He was not born rich, but he was very talented and he made his own (immense) wealth that he gave away to charity after he died. Did you hear about any other city in medieval Europe where a poor common man was able to make a fortune? If you have, we’d love to hear about it, please write your comments. We believe there were not too many of such people.


Diplomatic skills are what actually kept Ragusa alive and well for almost 500 years. Unlike King’s Landing, Dubrovnik did not desire to rule the world and it was important for them to keep their freedom because it meant prosperity – and they were right. Throughout history, Croatia was divided by many wars and foreign authorities (Austrians, Hungarians, Ottomans, Venetians…) that brought to huge exploitation of people, natural goods and resources (did you know that Venice is lying on Croatian lumber that was excessively cut in the mountain regions? Well now you do.). Dubrovnik learned early on to seek out for a strong protector and avoid any kinds of conflicts – they realized that the power lies in information and how it is utilized. Can you imagine Joffrey negotiating with anybody?!

As we said in the previous article, George Martin visited Dubrovnik in 2003 while he was promoting his book. It is where he said to the audience (all 8 of them) that he was inspired by Dubrovnik’s diplomatic history and weaved some details into the character of Varys. Too bad we don’t have that statement in a written form; it would be an even better promotion of Dubrovnik. Hopefully George will visit Ragusa for some more inspiration so he could be asked this question once more.


Ragusa was a Catholic state and they were Roman Catholic in fact. It was considered to be almost the final frontier between the East (orthodox) and the West that was established by Great Schism of 1054. Once the old town is visited, one cannot help but be amazed by the number of churches that are still kept there from some forgotten times. In the old Ragusa, the highest authority was The Lord, second place was occupied by the Republic and no man was allowed to elevate himself above it, otherwise he’d be terminated – if he was aristocracy, then he’d be decapitated, or if he was a commoner, he’d be hanged. Sometimes, while observing King’s Landing, we get the idea that all that the habitants care about is lush life and hedonism (at least the wealthy ones), well, not until season 5 and the sparrows. The church does remember the inquisition, but no such occurrences were noted in Dubrovnik, there were no witch hunts or women being burnt in public. Since Dubrovnik was such a pious city, pleasures of the night were not sought out, right? Wrong!

Fun Houses

Who could forget the lively Lord Baelish and his ladies? Ragusa did not have a declared “red light district”, but some old scriptures talk about a certain Castelleto and a lot of taverns and bars located around that specific part of the town. Since prostitution was a very notorious occupation, there is not a lot of paper evidence about it – Ragusa liked to keep their shameful activities under the rug and probably never ever wrote them down. There are some notions of prostitutes being chased out of the city in the 15th century, but it was because syphilis started spreading and city authorities didn’t take long to put two and two together to figure out what causes this nasty disease. Of course, such actions did not mean that the prostitution was terminated; it probably only made the participants more slick. Since the sparrows demolished Baelish’s brothel in season 5, it is only for us to wait and see if Littlefinger is going to move those occupations elsewhere in season 6.

Don’t put that raven to sleep just yet – another article is coming up very soon.