Game of Thrones Studio Tour

A 'must-do' for all GoT fans

For Game of Thrones fans, and that is apparently more than 40 million of us(!), the new Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge, just south of Belfast, is an absolute must do. The tour is a three-in-one experience, taking you on a sentimental trip down memory lane while giving you ‘aha’ moments as you get to see how some of the special effects were carried out, all while getting to play with special effects yourself.

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The Game of Thrones Studio Tour is the first and, so far, the only official HBO licensed Game of Thrones studio tour, and is located in the original Linen Mill Studios where much of the studio filming was done over the eight seasons. More recently, the tour has been nominated as one of 13 top-ranking attractions for the title of Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2023 in the World Travel Awards.rThe GoT Studio Tour is Right up there with The Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis and The Collosseum. Our fingers are crossed for the new kid on the block!

To be frank, although I spent about 10 years of my life watching Game of Thrones, I was a bit ‘meh’ about the studio tour as I expected it to be a walk through of a series of static sets with nicely dressed mannequins, however it just shows the limits of my imagination and how wrong I could be.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour Greenscreen Fun

The magic starts before you even enter Westeros with some green screen special effects fun. The camera operator asked us to do two poses againsts the green backdrop – look happy, look scared – which we did, cluelessly, and the results are hysterical. At the end of the tour you get an option to purchase a series of photos of yourself dropped into various scenes. Judge for yourself!

The journey begins – Westeros and the land beyond The Wall

The tour experience starts in an antechamber where you are shown a short video on a massive screen welcoming you to the magical world of Westeros. And of course there is the theme tune. Welcomes over, you are free to start your journey passing through the ice tunnel of The Wall before you enter the frozen land beyond. You will then spend the next couple of hours or so walking through Westeros: Castle Black, Winterfell, Dragonstone, the Hall of Faces, King’s Landing and the Destroyed Throne Room, and having fun.

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

As you move through the familiar sets, you get to see video clips of relevant scenes reminding you of key moments from the series. What is especially fun is that many of the video clips also show the camera and support crew, giving an indication of how the magic was created. Remember the scene where Arya leapt through the air to kill the Night King? Rubber bands! Northern Ireland’s firemen even got a moment in the spotlight as it appears they were on standby for many of the more fiery scenes.

Get to play with the amazing tech and effects

Adding another level of engagement, you will find interactive hotspots along your journey where you can try out some of the tech or just play. How about sticking your ghostly face up on the wall in the Hall of Faces, being transformed into a wight (those things that scrambled up The Wall) using motion capture, designing your own sigil (aka family crest), and perhaps beating the high score of 3506 slayed wights? We had a lot of fun!

Game of Thrones Studio Tour - Wight Killer
High scoring wight slayer

Get to see how it was done

As well as the sets, there are also areas where you get to learn more about the costume design, which is incredible, especially when seen up close; the skill behind and time needed for prosthetics to be applied, and removed; how green screen was used to shoot many of the ship scenes, and how the scenes are developed from storyboard through paper models to the real thing. The special effects section is of course super interesting and the guy in charge must have had one of the best jobs ever creating dragon fire, gigantic direwolves – and weather!

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Possibly one of the most unsettling displays was that of the mannequins of Cersei and Jaime Lannister and Maester Qyburn. These are so lifelike that it gives you goose bumps and I’d hate to be working a security night shift with these for company. The mannequins were used for scenes where the real actors could not be used, such as when Cersei and Jaime were buried beneath the rubble of the Red Keep, and when The Mountain killed Qyburn in the Red Keep, tossing him down the stairs into a pile of rubble.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour - Prosthetics, Costumes and DummiesWhile you may opt to have an audio tour, there are explainer boards throughout the exhibition and the attendants are also very happy to answer questions and provide all sorts of information about the show and its filming. Many of them had been extras, so know a thing or two.

As you finish the tour you have a last green screen experience sitting on the Iron Throne. See below for our before and after. It really is magic.

Game of Thrones Studio Tour - Green Screen Throne
Green screen magic – where we sat and the result

Just 5 of the things we learnt

  1. To create the illusion of height for the giants, the already tall actors’ body suits were designed to be larger at the bottom, and smaller at the top.
  2. The prosthetics could take almost half a day to apply with actors having to show up for work at 12 midnight so they would be ready to start work at 10am in the morning.
  3. All the music – equivalent to composing for a 70 hour movie – was composed by one man, Ramin Djawadi
  4. The dragon’s fiery breath was created using a 50ft flamethrower mounted on a robotic crane.
  5. Powdered coffee creamer is a good snow substitute

Tickets and getting there

  • Because access to the studio is down very narrow country roads the studio does not allow access to the studio directly, whether it be on foot, bike or car. Instead you are directed to the free car park in Banbridge where you can pick up the free shuttle bus which takes you the short ride to the studio. Exceptions apply for those with special needs, and you would need to contact the studio to arrange access.
  • Tickets must be purchased online ahead of time as you need to show your ticket before boarding the free shuttle bus.
  • You can also buy Belfast or Dublin transfer tickets on the website.
  • The ticket price for an individual is from £29.63 – £39.50 with discounts for seniors and students. There are various family offers where children aged between 5–15 are free when accompanying a paying adult. While these might seem pricey when compared with something like the Titanic Experience, if you are a GoT fan, this is a small price to pay for a once in a lifetime immersive GoT experience. Prices correct September 2023

Author: Katie McGregor

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