I don’t know whether winter is still coming, if it’s here, or if it’s already gone because I can’t watch Game of Thrones, Season 8. The first episode of the final season has just aired, and I’m in a (gorgeous) hotel room in Belfast and can’t find a way to watch it.
Luckily for me, I got my GoT fix big time today. As fate would have it, my visit to Belfast coincided with the debut of Game of Thrones: The Touring Exhibition in Northern Ireland’s capital city. It’s making a temporary home of the Titanic Exhibition Centre (April 11- September 1, 2019), across the street from Titanic Studios (where many GoT scenes were filmed) and down the road from the Titanic Museum and the building site of–you guessed it–the Titanic.
My visit happened on the fourth day it was open. Many flocked here on the first few days, but most crowds show up earlier in the day. I got here at 5:45 pm and had the whole place to myself–just the way I like it. It gave me time to linger where I wanted, take as many photos and videos as I liked without worrying about holding someone up, and I got to thoroughly immerse into the experience.
The experiences starts with a video that recaps the past 7 seasons. My adrenaline coursed through my body, reliving dramatic scenes and seeing faces who are no longer part of the show and faces of those who will play crucial roles in the 8th and final season.
Dramatic lighting, wisps of foggy smoke, and a pulsing soundtrack set the mood as you walk from room to room, learning about the key families, marveling at the authentic and incredibly intricate costumes, and admiring the artifact-like props used by your favorite, and most hated, characters.
Set design props feature prominently, too, including Stark statues from the Crypts of Winterfell and a dragon skull pit (both are exclusive to the Belfast leg of the tour).
Interactive opportunities are scattered throughout the exhibit. You can express your inner Arya with “Needle,” her trusty sword. You can climb–or fall from–The Wall. And your face can (temporarily) join the collection of dozens of faces of the dead in the Hall of Faces.
While there is helpful and informative signage in each room, I found the £5 audioguide to be essential. Featuring the voices of prominent production staff like costume designer Michele Clayton and production designer Deborah Riley, the audioguide provides fascinating insight into technical and psychological aspects of creating these mythic worlds within worlds that comprise and shape the visual landscape of Game of Thrones.
The piece de resistance for many is the chance to sit on the Iron Throne. You can even hold a dragon egg or wield the sword of your favorite character as you claim your power perch, made from the swords of vanquished enemies of the first king of the Targaryen dynasty, Aegon the Conqueror. [Spoiler alert: that’s Jon Snow’s AND Daenerys Targaryan’s ancestor. But you knew that already, you GoT geek].
Since I was the last one there, I had quite a bit of fun with the staff and did several variations of photos–with and without a dragon egg, with staff member Gavin (who reportedly was a stand-in for Kristian Nairn, the actor who portrayed the beloved Hodor), with my legs hanging over the arm of the throne, and with all the swords because, why not?
Was this worth the £15 entry fee I paid (and let’s not forget the €35 for 6 digital photos)? Absolutely. Would it be worth it to you? Depends.
This tour is a proper HBO production, and the high caliber is evident. It’s curated with the thoughtfulness and discernment of a distinguished museum. It’s organized and explained with the reluctant non-viewer and the faithful viewer in mind. And it’s presented with the theatricality and drama of, well, an HBO production.
Check out this video and wander with me virtually through this stellar exhibit:
If you have even the slightest interest in Game of Thrones, this is a worthwhile exhibition. And if you’re a GoT diehard, you are seriously going to geek out over this…and you should. Bend the knee. Allow yourself to suspend disbelief, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the mythical world of Game of Thrones.
April 11-May 31, daily 9:00-19:00
June 1-Sept 11, daily 9:00-20:00
McComb’s Coach Travel offers a discount when booking their Game of Thrones tour in combination with the GoT Touring Exhibition ticket.