The Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones, ranked from most horrifically unlivable to least

The fantastical continent of Westeros is comprised of Seven Kingdoms...but you certainly wouldn't want to live in all of them.
Game of Thrones - Ramsay Bolton
Game of Thrones - Ramsay Bolton /

HBO's flagship fantasy series Game of Thrones is remembered for many things: its spectacular battles, its backstabbing politics, its huge cast of characters and unpredictable twists and turns. The series has a long list of virtues. One of the many things Game of Thrones did well is that it introduced us to a living, breathing fantasy landscape that felt as real as anything in our own world. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin has a knack for creating those sorts of immersive settings, and the television series rose to the challenge.

Of course, just because Thrones' world felt real doesn't necessarily mean you'd want to pack up your bags and move there. Yes, it was cool to watch people traverse the Riverlands or the streets of King's Landing, but considering how many of them met with grisly ends, Westeros isn't exactly the most inviting of places.

Today we're scoping out each of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and ranking them from the most horrifically unlivable, to the best spots to lay down roots and build a noble house. We'll start with one of the country's more war-ravaged lands...

Game of Thrones Brienne of Tarth Gwendoline Christie Podrick Payne Daniel Portman Brynden Tully Blackfish Clive Russell
Photograph by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO /

9. The Riverlands

I'm sure that under the right circumstances, the Riverlands are great. In the spring, they probably have lots of delicious Tully trout swimming around in the streams, and flowers that bloom along the riverbanks, and idyllic ponds which reflect the moonlight. The problem is that the people who live in the Riverlands hardly get to experience that, because the damn place is located smack dab in the middle of the other kingdoms...which means that whenever any of them go to war, the Riverlands turn into a battlefield. It's hard to appreciate the flowers when you can't smell them over the stench of unburied corpses.

The Riverlands are ruled by House Tully of Riverrun, but they're far from the only notable house there. The Brackens and Blackwoods with their long-standing grudge, the Freys of the Crossing (who also love a good grudge, as we saw at the Red Wedding), the Mallisters and Pipers and Mootons; since the Riverlands are so centrally located, many powerful families have staked a claim there.

Unfortunately there's also quite a bit of turnover. The cruel despot Harren the Black once ruled from Harrenhal, before Aegon the Conqueror melted the castle to slag with his dragon Balerion. House Strong commands the ruined castle in the days of the prequel series House of the Dragon, but since they're no longer around by the time of Game of Thrones, their days are obviously numbered.

To top it all off, the weather in the Riverlands is often pretty dreary. Lots of rain, lots of gray skies. It's like England, if it were being ransacked every few years by invading armies. Suffice to say, there are probably more comfortable places to live in Westeros.

Gemma Whelan, Michael Feast Game of Thrones Ironborn
Photograph by Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO /

8. The Iron Islands

Next up on our tour of Westeros are the Iron Islands, which are by no means a bad place to long as raiding nearby fishing villages to make ends meet is a lifestyle that appeals to you. "We do not sow" are the words of House Greyjoy, and while that often comes off like a cool catchphrase used to convey that they capture most of their worldly goods from their enemies, it's also quite literal. The Iron Islands has rocky and fallow land which is terrible for farming; the Greyjoys and their vassals "do not sow" because plants don't like growing there, which is a large part of why they take to the sea for most of their worldly needs.

If you've ever wanted to live as a medieval ocean raider, this probably has some appeal. I'm not saying there aren't great ways to pass the days on the Iron Islands, and you certainly have to give them credit for having a more democratic leadership system than most Westerosi houses with their Kingsmoot. But it's easy to die on the Iron Islands. Mess up in battle, piss off the wrong warrior, or just fail your Drowned God baptism and you're likely to find yourself feeding the fishes.

There are probably safer, if less exciting, places to live in Westeros.

House of the Dragon Episode 10 /

7. The Stormlands

Aside from border disputes, it's a relatively stable region thanks to the long-running rule of House Baratheon, who has watched over the land from their castle at Storm's End since they were installed as ruler. But in terms of trade, cities, and general things to do, the Stormlands has far less to occupy its residents than its neighbor to the north, King's Landing.

That's not to say it doesn't have its appeal. The main feature of the Stormlands is its ecology, from the namesake storms which wrack its southern cape to the lush rainwood and barren marches. There are many notable noble houses there, such as House Tarth, Selmy, Dondarrion, and of course the Baratheons. If you want to live in a place that has beautiful but temperamental nature, armed conflicts along its borders that never quite escalate to the degree they do in the war-ravaged Riverlands, and a proud history as a key ally to the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms, then the Stormlands may be just the ticket. It's not our first pick for where to live in Westeros, but it's a big step up from some of its rivals.

Photograph by Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO /

6. King's Landing and the Crownlands

Yes, I know I said this tour was of the Seven Kingdoms, but in reality, there are actually nine major kingdoms in Westeros by the time of Game of Thrones. The reason the country is called the "Seven Kingdoms" is because that's how many there were when Aegon the Conqueror invaded Westeros, roughly 300 years before the events of the series. At that time, the Riverlands and Iron Islands were technically being ruled as one kingdom under King Harren the Black, and King's Landing and its surrounding Crownlands hadn't been founded yet. Which brings us to our next destination!

If you want to be where all the important things happen, then King's Landing is the place. This bustling city is relatively young in the overall history of Westeros, having only been founded during the Conquest of King Aegon I Targaryen. But since then it's grown to become not only the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, but a hub of trade, culture and politics unrivaled in Westeros.

There's plenty to do and see in King's Landing no matter where you stand in Westerosi society, from seeing sights like the Great Sept of Baelor and the Red Keep to the edgier attractions of Flea Bottom. There's something for everyone here! Just make sure that no despot rulers are out to bomb their enemies on the day you plan your visit.

That's the catch to King's Landing. Yes, it is a gorgeous city with all the right connections, but being near the seat of power in Westeros is volatile. There's a reason that King's Landing has been the sight of riots in both Game of Thrones and, soon, House of the Dragon season 2. When rulers err, it's the people in King's Landing who feel it first.

But hey, if you want to take advantage of the city's delights, it's nice weather, and it's cultural importance, but don't necessarily want the downsides, you could always take up residence in the surrounding Crownlands! That way you can have a back yard and the most important city in Westeros within an easy commute.

Game of Thrones Arya The Hound
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) and The Hound (Rory McCann) in Game of Thrones season 8. /

5. The North

Look, I know you might be confused to see the North so high on the list, given that it has by far the harshest weather conditions of anywhere in Westeros. I get it: winter isn't for everyone, and winter is always coming if you live in the North. If you don't like cold weather, this one is obviously going to belong much lower on your personal list of Westeros real estate.

But you have to balance that con against all the pros! Aside from the rare uprising by a bloodthirsty vassal like the Boltons, the North has great leadership that has allowed its many houses — like the Glovers, Karstarks, Manderlys, and Mormonts — to thrive. And if you lived there, you could too, with the reassurance that you had a ruler who would actually hear out your petitions in an honorable fashion!

The North also has space aplenty; it's roughly the size of the other six kingdoms combined. Don't want neighbors? The North is the place for you! Want to roam the wilderness and work the land? Well, you can do that here and encounter naught but the odd wolf or bear. It's a nature lover's paradise — just don't live too close to the Wall, or you might find yourself having to deal with the occasional wildling raid.

House of the Dragon episode 5 /

4. The Vale of Arryn

The Vale of Arryn is a beautiful land of dramatic hills and valleys to the east of the Riverlands. The Vale has a lot of natural beauty, and a long history that goes back to the original kingdom of the Andals. The most notable feature of the Vale is that it's almost entirely ringed in by the towering Mountains of the Moon. Getting to the Vale isn't easy, which means that invading it isn't either. There's a reason that most wars in Westeros hardly touch its rich soil.

Of course, the seclusion can also be a drawback, depending on how inclined you are to journey out to other lands. The Vale is a perfect spot if you want to leave your life behind and go cosplay as a Stardew Valley character, building a home without fear of the schemes of great lords and ladies destroying your life's work. However, there are hill tribes from the Mountains of the Moon that love to go raiding, so life isn't all rainbows in the Vale either. But on the whole, it's a solid choice if you have to live in Westeros.

House of the Dragon episode 3 /

3. The Westerlands

The Westerlands are the domain of House Lannister of Casterly Rock, and it's a pretty good option for where to build your keep. With verdant fields and rolling hills, rich natural resources that range from mines to broadleaf forests filled with game, a strong economy and port at Casterly Rock that connects it to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Westerlands seem to have it all. Even the weather's pretty mild and temperate, without being as balmy as the southern regions or as cold, damp or miserable as the North and Riverlands.

The main drawback to living in the Westerlands is knowing you're on the wrong side of history pretty much all the time. The Lannisters don't have a reputation for being the most noble of noble houses, often serving their own monetary interests above all else. Sometimes that makes for canny rulers like Tywin Lannister, who was indisputably good at his job. At other times, you end up with power-hungry fops like Jason Lannister. That mixed bag is part of the contract when you move in to the Westerlands, but since the Lannisters generally keep things pretty stable and you're not in the direct path of travel from any one kingdom to another, it's a relatively safe place to live. So long as the Ironborn of the nearby Iron Islands aren't feeling up to raiding, that is.

Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9 The Dance of Dragons Dorne Ellaria Sand Myrcella Baratheon Prince Doran Martell Sand Snakes
Photograph by Macall B. Polay/courtesy of HBO /

2. Dorne

Ah Dorne, the country which lies at the very southern edge of Westeros. Dorne was famously done quite dirty on Game of Thrones, which cut out many of the cultural nuances and complexities that make the nation so rich in George R.R. Martin's written works...but just like the North, we remember. Dorne is made up of sandy deserts, mountain passes, and majestic castles set in dramatic locales. It has spicier food, more forthright people, and societal norms that are miles ahead of the rest of Westeros. If you like the idea of living in a fantastical medieval society, but maybe don't want to deal with quite as much misogyny as the rest of the kingdoms, then Dorne is where you want to live.

The main thing that makes Dorne so appealing are its people and culture. Unlike the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Dornish were never conquered by Aegon the Conqueror, and their traditions have held for thousands of years in spite of the Iron Throne. A huge part of this is how remote Dorne is; the majority of the country is made up of desert. Dorne doesn't have any true cities of the sort we see in other kingdoms, instead having populated holdfasts and villages. The closest thing it has to a city is the Planky Town, which lies at the mouth of the Greenblood River on its southeastern edge.

Dorne is very different than the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and its people prove that's a good thing. Life may not always be easy in Dorne, but you can be sure you'll be living it to the fullest.

Game of Thrones Jaime Lannister and Olenna Tyrell
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) in Game of Thrones season 7. /

1. The Reach

The Reach is the home to House Tyrell, and if anywhere in Westeros can be said to resemble a storybook fantasy kingdom, it's here. Situated between the Westerlands and Dorne, The Reach is the most populous and powerful kingdom in Westeros. From its immense natural resources to its cities, the Reach is known as a hub of culture and trade, and as a breadbasket for the entirety of the Seven Kingdoms. By the time of Game of Thrones, it has even eclipsed the Westerlands as the wealthiest kingdom.

The Reach simply has it all; a pleasant subtropical climate, cities like Oldtown which are hubs of culture, music and knowledge, gorgeous landscapes, trade routes which connect it to a number of other locations, and more. If you want to open up a vineyard, or simply forget about your worries by basking in the sun in relative security, there really is nowhere better in Westeros than the Reach. And with both Oldtown and Highgarden providing lots of opportunity for metropolitan excursions, the Reach is not only a beautiful place, but a happening spot as well!

Drawbacks? The Reach really doesn't have any. Why wouldn't you want to live there?

And so concludes our tour of Westeros. May it help you when you next imagine your fantasy home in this wonderfully rich fantasy world.

Next. All the hidden secrets in the House of the Dragon season 2 final trailer. All the hidden secrets in the House of the Dragon season 2 final trailer. dark

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and Twitter account, sign up for our exclusive newsletter and check out our YouTube channel.