Flea Bottom was the poorest slum district in the city of King's Landing, located on the eastern side of Rhaenys's Hill. It 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 district is full of tanneries (which makes the air stink due to the use of urine, dung, and animal brains to prepare leather), cheap brothels, low-class inns, alehouses, and pot-shops serving meager stews. Many of its inhabitants subsist primarily on a meager, slow-cooked stew containing meat of questionable origins known as "bowls of brown."
The slum does not extend all the way up the eastern side of Rhaenys's Hill, rather (proceeding downwards from the summit) it 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 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 smuggler.
- The famous hedge knight, Ser Duncan the Tall.
- 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 Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, 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 Stark 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 Petyr Baelish'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 Princess Myrcella Baratheon 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.
Lady Margaery Tyrell 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 Tyrell, 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 Seaworth 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.
Behind the scenes
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Flea Bottom was the home of the famous knight Ser Duncan the Tall, who ended up as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Davos Seaworth 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.
It 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.
Arya finds an establishment in Flea Bottom where she can take a pigeon and get half of it back cooked, in exchange for the other half. Before that she had to eat it raw. When Arya left the Red Keep she took a bundle of clothes and things to sell, but they were stolen the first night she slept in Flea Bottom (she was sleeping on top of Needle or would have lost it too).
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.
A large part of Flea Bottom burns down the night following the riot that Joffrey started. Cersei Lannister later recounted the riot during a dinner party in the Season 3 premiere, "Valar Dohaeris". This scene does not occur in the books and introduces a minor discrepancy: the docks of King's Landing are located on the south side of the city, along the Blackwater River (the books explicitly state that it is the Blackwater), while Flea Bottom is located north of the Red Keep. Thus when the royal party was returning from the docks, they actually didn't pass through Flea Bottom itself - the novel explicitly states that they took a road known as "the Hook" to start ascending Aegon's High Hill itself, which the Red Keep is located at the top of. Flea Bottom is located further north of this, on the southern side of Rhaenys's Hill. 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. The riot then spread throughout the city, and was particularly bad in Flea Bottom where so many angry and displaced people were. In the TV series, Cersei mentions being attacked "in Flea Bottom", which wouldn't be entirely accurate, though it can easily be reconciled that she meant to convey the more complicated statement "attacked by peasants from Flea Bottom, who at the time were swarming the road back from the docks and not actually in Flea Bottom" etc.