Flea Bottom is the poorest slum district in the city of King's Landing.
Flea Bottom is a maze-like warren of narrow streets, ramshackle buildings, and dark alleys. Survival on the streets of Flea Bottom is tough and hardening. The area is filled with cheap brothels, low-class inns, alehouses, gambling dens, and pot-shops serving meager stews. Tanneries are also located there, which makes the air stink. Many of its inhabitants subsist primarily on a meager, slow-cooked stew containing meat of questionable origins known as "bowls of brown."
The slum is located on the lower eastern side of Rhaenys's Hill, in the valley between it and Aegon's High Hill (which the Red Keep is atop). This is on the opposite side of Aegon's Hill from the docks. It doesn't extend all the way up the eastern side of Rhaenys's Hill, however: at the top are the Dragonpit and the Street of Silk, location of expensive brothels that cater to the nobility. "Flea Bottom" begins below the Street of Flour, which is the location of many bakeries. The worst sections are at the absolute bottom of the hill, where human waste flows down the pipes from both Rhaenys's Hill and Aegon's High Hill and into the gutters, which often overflow when it rains. The feces that flows down from the pipes on Aegon's Hill flow down Tanner's Row, down to Gin Alley, at the absolute bottom of the hill and the very worst part of Flea Bottom.
Notable people from Flea Bottom
- Ser Duncan the Tall, a famous hedge knight who died half a century before King Robert Baratheon's death.
- Ser Davos Seaworth was born in Flea Bottom, the son of a poor crabber, but escaped that harsh life as soon as he could by becoming a sailor and smuggler.
- Gendry was born to a tavern wench in Flea Bottom and spent much of his childhood there, which was made even harder after his mother died when he was very young. When royal agents discovered that he was secretly a bastard son of King Robert Baratheon, however, it was decided to look after the boy's well-being by secretly arranging for him to work as a blacksmith's apprentice for Tobho Mott. Gendry was happy to leave Flea Bottom, moving to the better district of the city near Tobho Mott's armory on the Street of Steel.
- Armeca the prostitute working at the high-end brothel in King's Landing owned by Littlefinger, feigns being unable to speak the Common Tongue in order to seem more exotic to her clients, but Ros pointed out that she's actually from Flea Bottom in King's Landing itself.
- Karl Tanner, a killer-for-hire from Gin Alley, later a ranger of the Night's Watch.
Arya takes refuge in Flea Bottom after fleeing the Red Keep. She kills a pigeon in the Street of Flour where the bakers ply their trade, as birds are attracted to the crumbs. When she tries to barter it to a baker for bread, he refuses. Arya is in Flea Bottom when she hears the crowd say her father is being taken to the Sept of Baelor.
While talking to Daisy, a new prostitute in Littlefinger's brothel, Ros identifies Armeca as being from Flea Bottom, but notes that she likes to pretend she is from more exotic climes and doesn't speak the Common Tongue of Westeros.
As the royal family is returning from the docks where they saw off Myrcella for her voyage to Dorne, the starving smallfolk of the city hurl insults at Joffrey, and ultimately someone hurls cow excrement in his face. Joffrey brashly shouts for his guards to "kill them all!", sparking off a city-wide riot. Flea Bottom is badly affected by the food riots (Flea Bottom is on the north side of the city, not where Joffrey initially sparked the riots coming back from the docks).
Margaery stops in Flea Bottom unexpectedly to visit an orphanage and interact with the children. Her servants pass out bread and toys, earning her the love of Flea Bottom's smallfolk. That evening, Joffrey and Cersei visit Margaery and her brother Loras, for a small dinner party. Cersei admonishes Margaery's boldness and reminds her that her impromptu charity work took place on the same streets where the royal party was assaulted weeks earlier.
Commiserating with Gendry, Davos explains that he was born in Flea Bottom just like him. Gendry is skeptical, so Davos proves that he knows the neighborhood well by saying that he lived below the Street of Flour, so far down that the shit from the pipes on Aegon's Hill flowed down Tanner's Row and past his front door on Gin Alley.
Karl Tanner says that he used to be a cutthroat for hire in Gin Alley, the worst part of Flea Bottom. As a successful hired assassin, Karl says he used to be a legend in Gin Alley.
Behind the scenes
The Flea Bottom scenes in Game of Thrones Seasons 2 and 3 were filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Flea Bottom is a dismal and disreputable place. The alleys are narrow and buildings lean toward each other. King's Landing was rapidly constructed within the first century of rule by the Targaryen dynasty, to serve as a capital city for their new unified realm. This rapid expansion didn't keep pace with organized "city-planning", resulting in numerous slums, of which Flea Bottom is the worst. Many of these slum districts are poorly organized, ugly, and filthy because their placement wasn't thought out during the rush to slap down new buildings. In contrast, the second largest city in Westeros, Oldtown in the Reach, is thousands of years old, but grew only in incremental steps which were well planned out beforehand, resulting in it being a much better organized and beautiful city without the squalid slums of King's Landing, while being only slightly smaller than the capital itself.
The original novels didn't clarify why the slum district formed specifically where it did. Fire & Blood (2018) stated that the wealthy parts of King's Landing tend to be higher up on the three hills, while the poorest sections are the valleys at the bottom of them - because human and animal waste flows downhill. As for why the lower eastern side of Rhaenys's Hill is worse than the bottom of Visenya's or Aegon's hills, this was apparently due to various local factors of poor city planning.
It is unclear when the slum known as "Flea Bottom" first formed during the unplanned and haphazard growth of the new city, which was founded when Aegon the Conqueror began his reign in the year 1 AC. The earliest chronological mention of it in the prequel anthology Fire & Blood is in the year 49 AC, in the first year of King Jaehaerys's reign. During his long years on the throne Jaehaerys drastically improved the infrastructure of much of the city, redesigning the road network, establishing a system of pipes and drains to bring fresh water in and waste out, but even he could only do so much and Flea Bottom was still there by the time of his death in 103 AC. He was succeeded by his grandson Viserys I Targaryen, who put his younger brother Daemon in charge of the City Watch. Up to that point they had been a poorly equipped or trained assortment of lazy and disorganized guardsmen, but Daemon updated and reformed them into essentially a small private army: well-trained, well-armed, with uniform armor and golden cloaks (after which the watch was forever known as "gold cloaks"). Daemon led his gold cloaks on a brutal campaign to smash crime in Flea Bottom - after which he drank for free in its taverns, sampled whores for free in its brothels, and always "won" money in its gambling dens. This earned Daemon the nickname "Lord Flea Bottom". At one such brothel he met Mysaria, a foreign dancing girl who became his favorite.
Many decades later, Flea Bottom was the home of the famous Ser Duncan the Tall, who ended up as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Davos also grew up in Flea Bottom, the son of a poor crabber. He left as soon as he could by becoming a smuggler operating in Blackwater Bay and the Narrow Sea. The books do state that Gendry was born to a tavern girl in King's Landing, though they haven't specified that he lived in Flea Bottom before he came to work for Tobho Mott. Logically, though, as the son of a tavern girl he probably wasn't living in good conditions before he began to work for Mott as a teenager. In the first novel, Arya hides in Flea Bottom while on the run after her father is arrested, because Lannister guards are watching the city gates and the docks to prevent her escape, but wouldn't think to look for her in the slums. When she left the Red Keep she took a bundle of clothes and things to sell with her, but they were stolen the first night she slept in Flea Bottom (she was sleeping on top of her sword Needle, otherwise she'd have lost that too). For a while she hunted pigeons and ate them raw, until she found a pot shop which would take a pigeon and give her back half of its meat cooked (the TV series just showed her trying but failing to sell a pigeon she caught).
The Game of Thrones Season 3 episode "Valar Dohaeris" includes a line where Cersei says that the riot back in Season 2, when they were coming back from the docks to send off Myrcella, happened in Flea Bottom. This line is in error, as the books explicitly state that Joffrey's confrontation sparking the riot happened on a road called "the Hook", which directly leads from the docks to the Red Keep. Moreover, the simple geography wouldn't make sense, because Flea Bottom is on the opposite side of the city north of the Red Keep, while the docks are south of them - passing nowhere near Flea Bottom. That being said, the crowds of peasants and refugees lining the streets as the royal party passed were assuredly from the slums of Flea Bottom, they just weren't physically in Flea Bottom at the time. In the books, the riots spread across the entire city, and parts of Flea Bottom were set on fire by rampaging mobs.
In Season 3's "Mhysa", Gendry asks where Davos lived in Flea Bottom, by asking how far he lived below the Street of Flour. Apparently the alleys lower down the hill were poorer, because all of the human waste poured into the streets flowed downhill. Davos explains that he came from the worst part of the slum, Gin Alley, which is located so far down Rhaenys's Hill that it is in the valley between it and Aegon's High Hill, so that all of the shit from the Red Keep poured out of sewage pipes at the bottom of the hill, then down Tanner's Row and past his front door. In Season 4, Karl Tanner says that he used to be a professional cutthroat and dagger-for-hire in the most dangerous part of Flea Bottom, Gin Alley. While Flea Bottom is very dangerous, no specific mention of a street named "Gin Alley" has been made so far in the books.