House of the Dragon is set in Westeros, which Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin based mainly on medieval England; take a look at a map of Westeros next to a map of England sometime and see what I mean. Naturally, House of the Dragon is mainly filmed in England, but it sprawls everywhere.
In particular, a lot of filming was done in Spain, including at the Italian Renaissance-style Santa Clotilde Gardens in Lloret de Mar, the 16th-century castle of La Calahorra in Granada, the town of Trujillo and the city of Cáceres. “There’s a kind of distinct look about U.K. medieval,” production designer Jim Clay told Variety. “It’s a heavier sort of architecture. Once you’re into Spain or obviously Italy, there’s much more of this sort of Renaissance, slightly more romantic, slightly more detailed feel to the architecture.”
Cáceres in particular is somewhere that HBO has been returning to for years; it also stood in for King’s Landing during the heydey of Game of Thrones, and will do so again in the second season of House of the Dragon. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so Clay and his team can’t do too much to alter it. “Obviously, we can’t change the stonework, but the authorities cooperated as much as they could and we were able to put a ground covering throughout all of the streets,” he said. “That was partly for the look, and it was partly for horses being able to maneuver over wet cobblestones without tripping.”
How The Last of Us turned Canada into a ruined United States
Meanwhile, on a different HBO show, The Last of Us ended up filming in Alberta, Canada, which had the geographic flexibility the zombie apocalypse story needed. “We had to get so many different architectural looks and landscapes, and the weather changes through all of the seasons, so we needed a place that accommodated all of that, and Alberta seemed tick off all the boxes,” said co-executive producer Jacqueline Lesko.
Set pieces like Ellie and Riley’s doomed frolic in a mall was filmed at the Northland Village Mall in Calgary. The place was already going defunct, so turning into a post-apocalyptic wonderland wasn’t that big a challenge.
You might not think that a zombie show would attract tourists, but according to Travel Alberta marketing officer Tannis Gaffney, you’d be surprised. “I was doing an interview with one of our TV networks on the Canmore Engine Bridge, and a couple walked past us and asked if this was the bridge in episode four because they’d flown from Brazil to see it,” she remembered.
Both House of the Dragon and The Last of Us are up for Emmy awards for their production design. The Emmys were going to air in September, but have been delayed to January on account of the actors and writers strikes. We’ll see if that date sticks.