Game of Thrones Lands as SF Neighborhoods
At long last, Game of Thrones: Season 4 premieres this Sunday! From the looks of it, it's going to be one killer season (sorry). It might not be obvious at first glance, but San Francisco shares quite a few parallels with Westeros; for starters, San Francisco's motto "Gold in Peace, Iron in War" is remarkably similar to the common Westerosi query, "Did you pay the gold price or the iron price?" (As in, did you buy it, or did you kill someone for it?) As a huge fan of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire – I even named my scrappy-yet-loyal rescue cat after Arya Stark – I jumped at the chance to draw similarities between the kingdoms of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world and the neighborhoods of San Francisco.
Civic Center / Tenderloin = King’s Landing
In Westeros, King’s Landing features the ruling palaces in the middle, surrounded by juxtapositions of affluence and poverty. The natural counterpart here in San Francisco is the Civic Center, with its gilded City Hall and several grand theaters, all situated around two large plazas. Similar to King’s Landing, the Civic Center is currently characterized by new Mid-Market wealth butting heads with the Tenderloin’s Flea Bottom.
Financial District = Casterly Rock
Casterly Rock sits atop a gold mine, and is the seat of wealthy House Lannister. (“A Lannister always pays his debts.”) Similarly, the Financial District is where all of the banks are, and it is fitting that so many banks have lions in their logos. People of Lannister blood tend to be attractive, haughty, clever, and ruthless – all appropriate traits for finance employees. If FiDi is Casterly Rock, then the Embarcadero is the bustling harbor of Lannisport, specializing in the trade of luxury wares.
Castro = Highgarden
Like Highgarden, the Castro is colorful, flamboyant, romantic, and stylish. Highgarden is ruled by House Tyrell, which includes the beautiful Ser Loras, whose late lover Renly Baratheon was attended by his own order of knights known as the Rainbow Guard; the fashionable Lady Margaery, Renly’s former “fruit fly”; and the sassy Lady Olenna, Westeros’ best answer to a Golden Girl. Plus, House Tyrell’s words are “growing strong,” which aptly describes the LGBTQ movement.
East Bay = Essos
Essos is across the Narrow Sea from Westeros, and the East Bay lies beyond the Narrow Bay from San Francisco. Just as Daenerys Targaryen sweeps through Essos, bestowing peace with her melting-pot army and trio of dragons, the East Bay is up-and-coming, diverse, chaotic, and vibrant. And, of course, the East Bay is also known for its growing array of artists, musicians, free spirits, and fire-breathing creatures.
Mission = Winterfell
Like the Northmen, the Mission’s inhabitants love beards, craft ales, and canines. They worship the “old gods” of vintage and artisan, tend to be counterculture, and are obsessed with change and the weather. The Northmen love their old weirwoods, just as Mission establishments love their reclaimed wood. But like the Mission, Winterfell just keeps getting taken over by new blood, and it just hasn’t been quite the same since.
Outer Sunset = Pyke
The Iron Islands are inhabited by the Ironborn, the Westerosi equivalent of pirates, and are ruled from Pyke by the tough, surly Greyjoys. Like the Ironborn, the people of the Outer Sunset are a distinct, tight-knit community that worships the salty sea. The Outer Sunset’s leathery surf culture, weathered architecture, and independent spirit all correspond well with the characteristics of the Ironborn, and both always seem to be up for some trouble.
Dogpatch = Dorne
Like Dogpatch, Dorne is an isolated region of Westeros, separated from the rest of the continent by a set of hills. Both are bordered by sea, known for sunny, dry climates, and are more recently settled areas with stronger ties to their eastern neighbors than to the landmasses they are attached to. Dorne is culturally similar to the Free Cities of Essos, and Dogpatch shares the industrial past, warehouse culture, and creative vibe of Oakland. Dorne is also well known for its wine production, and likewise, wineries are popping up all over Dogpatch lately.
Silicon Valley = Beyond the Wall
Silicon Valley lies beyond the wall of fog that separates the San Francisco peninsula from the South Bay. The “kings” Beyond the Wall, like those in Silicon Valley, are the type of people who make their own rules, have libertarian values, and don’t answer to tradition. Just as winter is coming to Westeros, San Francisco is feeling the effects of Silicon Valley rapidly seeping into every corner of the city. And the white walkers? They’re the Google buses, of course.
SOMA = Dragonstone
If Beyond the Wall is Silicon Valley, the other disrupting force in the city hails from SOMA, or our equivalent to Dragonstone. Stannis Baratheon, the lord of Dragonstone, is the most notable Westerosi pioneer of a strange yet powerful new religion, just as SOMA is the city’s hotbed of innovation and new wealth. And SOMA innovators are also marching steadily into the Mission’s Winterfell to stake their claims.
The Presidio / Sea Cliff / Lands End = Storm's End
Storm’s End, the seat of House Baratheon, is a mighty fortress on a seaward cliff, so our equivalent is the Presidio, which was historically fortified and home to many now-defunct military bases. Much like the Presidio and neighboring Sea Cliff and Lands End, the Stormlands are rugged, beautifully forested, and often shrouded in fog.
Twin Peaks = The Eyrie
The Eyrie is an impenetrable landmark of a castle atop one of the highest peaks in the Vale, so the San Francisco equivalent is also one of the highest points, Twin Peaks, with its own notable local landmark nearby, Sutro Tower.
Golden Gate Park = Riverrun
The Riverlands are technically not one of the Seven Kingdoms, just as Golden Gate Park is technically not a neighborhood, but both are important regions of their respective lands. Situated in the middle of Westeros, the Riverlands serve as a borderland between several strong kingdoms, whereas Golden Gate Park borders the Richmond, Sunset, and Haight. Both are lush areas of fertile land veined with bodies of freshwater. The Riverlands are ruled from Riverrun by House Tully, whose sigil is a leaping trout; aptly, Golden Gate Park is home to the Angler’s Lodge and Casting Pools.
Berkeley = The Citadel
Though not in San Francisco, Berkeley is the best analogy for the Citadel in Oldtown, as both are notable for landmark high towers and academic prestige. Similar to UC Berkeley, the Citadel is a university-like complex of buildings that was founded to promote learning and knowledge in Westeros. It is the seat of the Order of the Maesters, the scholars who advise lords, and it is where all young maesters go to receive their training.
The Armory = The Dreadfort
The Dreadfort is ruled by House Bolton, whose sigil is a flayed man. This is where Theon Greyjoy is held by Ramsay Bolton and is tortured over the course of the past season. Naturally, our own equivalent is the Kink Castle, though the one big difference is that we believe in safe words here.
Napa / Sonoma = The Arbor
Like our own Napa Valley and Sonoma County, the Arbor is famous across much of the Known World for exporting high-quality wines.
Alcatraz = Harrenhal
Both Harrenhal and Alcatraz are old, massive, once-abandoned structures often believed to be cursed and/or haunted.