We all remember–and rewatch–Game of Thrones for its epic battles, political intrigues, and jaw-dropping, heartbreaking twists. But amidst the machinations of the Seven Kingdoms, there lies a softer, more intimate core–the romances weaved through the series and tempering its edge (at least a little). That said, love in King’s Landing can be as treacherous as its politics. Below, we revisit Westeros, trekking like The Hound and Arya Stark through each season of the series to rank the ten best couples gracing the realm of dragons and direwolves.
10. Oberyn Martell and Elarria Sand
They epitomize both Dorne’s free-spirited approach to love and its passionate quest for justice with their robust, hot-blooded bond utterly unconfined by the conventions of the stuffier sections of Westeros. A power couple, if you will.
And in the seedy heart of Roman court-esque King’s Landing, their thirst for sweet revenge resulted in the dramatic, high-stakes duel between top-tier baddie Gregor Clegane and Martell. Which, of course, ended tragically—in Oberyn’s agonizing, heart-rending death. While devasted, Ellaria’s grief ballooned into a lethal vendetta, emphasizing the perilous cycle of revenge traversing the Game of Thrones narrative.
9. Samwell Tarly and Gilly
Samwell Tarly and Gilly’s relationship is a heartwarming emblem of love’s transformative power. Meeting under dire circumstances at Craster’s Keep, Sam—the self-dubbed “coward” of the Night’s Watch—is drawn to Gilly’s tenacity and hopes for her son’s future.
Their bond deepens as they weather challenges, from escaping the dangers of the North to confronting societal norms in Oldtown, and their love only strengthens. Their journey leads Sam to discover, in himself, unexpected courage—eventually standing up to his father and pursuing legendary maester knowledge.
For her part, Gilly blossoms intellectually, even uncovering pivotal historical secrets. Thus proving not every Game of Throne romance need end in bloodshed!
8. Robb Stark and Talisa Maegyr
Amidst the tumultuous conflict plaguing Westeros, the courtship, then engagement between Robb Stark, the Young Wolf, and Talisa Maegyr, a healer from Volantis, represented a welcome respite. Yes, his hand was already promised to House Fray for tactical reasons born only of realpolitik.
But when young Robb saw Talisa on the battlefield, her compassion and conviction captivated him. It would prove their doom–in typical Game of Thrones fashion. Who, after all, can forget the Red Wedding? But it’s still inviting to dwell, if only bittersweetly, on their blossoming romance, before that secret and fateful marriage—an eye in the storm.
7. Tyrion Lannister and Shae
Betrayal, betrayal, betrayal. It abounds in George R. R. Martin’s world, as we all know. But among the most painful instances of betrayal capped the romance between Tyrion Lannister, perhaps the show’s most beloved character, and Shae, a sex worker turned confidante.
Their steely-eyed but bonafide love, their shared compassion, seemed a buffer between themselves and the intrigue-laden courts of King’s Landing. But the Landing’s corruption always finds a way in. And Shae’s devastating betrayal—plus the Freudian, Oedipal violence it commenced—still makes every Game of Thrones fan wince, which says a lot, as Westeros involves a lot of wincing.
6. Ned Stark and Catylyn Tullu
Although emerging from a mere political arrangement and problematized by infidelity, the marriage between Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully nonetheless blossomed into one of sincere love and abiding, mutual respect. Yes, their union initially amounted to duty—following the death of Ned’s brother Brandon.
But both the patriarch and matriarch of House Stark grew to value and trust one another deeply. That isn’t to say that the presence and existence of Jon Snow, Ned’s purported bastard, didn’t test their relationship. And the intrigues of King’s Landing weren’t exactly a cakewalk, either.
But their airtight commitment to each other and their children remained unbroken until the end. These two are simply an iconic Game of Thrones couple.
5. Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo
One of the last things you’d say about Viserys Targaryen is “this guy would make a good matchmaker!” And yet he brought Khal Drogo and his sister, Daenerys, together, albeit through a strictly business joining of houses. Cultural clash and lack of consent initially tainted their marriage, as young Daenerys was catapulted into a world radically different from hers.
But in time, Daenerys embraced her role as Khaleesi, navigating and influencing the Dothraki culture. And her relationship with Khal, one of the best-loved in Game of Thrones, transformed from dominance to a genuine connection, forged in mutual respect and augmenting affection.
4. Missandei and Grey Worm
In the layered web of George R. R. Martin-penned relationships, the love story between Missandei and Grey Worm is singularly moving. Both characters were victims of slavery–Missandei, as a translator, and Grey Worm, a brutally, horrifically conditioned, and initially unfeeling soldier in the Unsullied.
Their joint history—of bondage and newfound freedom under Daenerys Targaryen— forges the foundation of their connection. And what begins with subtle glances and soft exchanges evolves into a powerful emotional and physical romance.
For Grey Worm, it amounts to wrestling with emotions his “training” forbade him from having. For Missandei—a chance to find love after a life in chains. It all translates to a Game of Thrones romance fans still treasure.
3. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen
Ah, The King in the North and the Mother of Dragons. In a way, we all should have seen it coming—if only due to their degree of similarity. From disparate beginnings, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, two significant power players in Westeros, share common ground.
Jon’s rise from perceived bastard to King in the North mirrors Daenerys’s journey from far-off exile to Dragon Queen. But challenges assailed their romance—the revelation of Jon’s Targaryen lineage, for example, and Daenerys’s… extreme behavior–all of which culminates in a heartbreaking decision, i.e., a very Game of Thrones breakup.
2. Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth
He, her prisoner; she, his steely warden. Indeed, when Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth first cross paths, disdain and mockery, if anything, characterize their “relationship.” But a deep mutual respect emerges throughout their journey as they face and surmount various, serious perils.
Brienne’s challenges to Jaime’s notions of “honor” commence his transformative redemption arc (conveyed masterfully by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). While at Winterfell, their relationship develops from comrades-in-arms to outright lovers.
But Jaime’s past loyalties sadly complicate matters and eventually undo their connection.
1. Jon Snow and Ygritte
Could five words be more romantic than “You know nothing, Jon Snow”? These tragically star-crossed lovers encountered one another beyond the Wall, in the northern wastes and on opposite sides in the conflict between the Night’s Watch and the Wildings.
Yet their romance–as fiery as Ygritte’s red hair–proved love can blossom in the harshest conditions. There’s nothing like a lover who makes fun of you, after all–a good roaster like Ygritte is a catch and a half. Undeniably, the winsome blend of humor, passion, and (it’s Game of Thrones, after all) heartbreak constituting their romance ensures no fan will forget them any time soon.