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Skyrim map and guide to the best places to visit

skyrim map guide

The Skyrim map is big, that's kind of the point, but finding the best locations and places to visit can be tough as a result. Luck might lead you somewhere amazing in Skyrim, or you could miss incredible things just because a mudcrab distracted you as you walked past. Filthy creatures. 

It's not just about finding nice to look at places either, as the Skyrim map is littered with interesting quests, characters and rewards. You just need to know where to look. The world here is divided up into nine different Holds, each with a unique geography and appearance. If you want to see the more important places and save some time sightseeing then here are the best Skyrim map locations to check out. 

Whiterun

Skyrim map: Whiterun

Whiterun is probably the first big location you’ll encounter in Skyrim. It’s home to Dragonsreach, where Jarl Balgruuf the Greater is seated, and it’s got a vast array of shops and taverns. However, because Whiterun is an early area, there aren’t a whole lot of interesting dungeons to explore. The Companions are based here, which is a faction questline well worth following, and there are some other quests here involving runaway Redguards, family feuds and plenty more. However, Whiterun really is the starting blocks for the game and you won't miss much if you move on once the initial action has died down. 

Riften

Skyrim map: Riften

Riften is one of the most interesting towns in all of Skyrim, with some fantastic characters and it wastes no time grabbing your attention. The first time you get there some guards will try a bit of extortion and you’ll also see a famous thief called Sapphire threatening people outside an in called The Bee and Barb. You'll have plenty to do in no time. 

Perhaps the most important location is the the Ratway. This underground area is the heart and soul of Riften and where you'll find the Ragged Flagon, Thieves’ Guild’s hideout. It's a faction with some great missions and a life of crime can be quite lucrative. 

If you have the Dawnguard DLC as well, you'll find Fort Dawnguard to the east of Riften too. This old castle, tucked away in the mountains, is home to Isran, the famed vampire hunter who's reforming the Dawnguard. Just make sure you hear the vampires out before you make a decision as there are perks to both sides if you know what I mean...

Markarth

Skyrim map: Markarth

Markarth is a city of gold, surrounded by wilderness and waterfalls and teeming with character. The outskirts are filled with forts and home to the region’s indigenous Forsworn enemies. You can actually find one of the game's best quests here as you team up with them to escape from prison. Although no one will ever know about that, so you'll still get attacked afterwards as you explore the mountainous terrain of the wild Reach.

The town itself is huge, dominated by huge stairs that go the whole way up to Understone Keep. The area around Markarth is what makes it truly special though, boasting probably the most impressive open plains in the whole game. It’s very easy to get lost in The Reach, so make sure you’ve stocked up on supplies before braving the wilderness here.

Winterhold

Skyrim map: Winterhold

Winterhold is Skyrim’s most northerly area - a destitute place largely consisting of decaying buildings and snow-covered roads. However, its also home to the College of Winterhold. Which, if you want to be a mage, is here you can enrol as a student and begin a faction quest that ultimately ends with you becoming the Arch Mage of the college. Obviously, this is well worth the trek.

Septimus Signus’ Outpost can be found north of Winterhold. Go there and you'll find Signus was driven mad after studying the Elder Scrolls, but you'll need to pay him a visit during the main quest because of this knowledge.  Winterhold is a curious Hold for sure, but there’s a lot of intrigue to check out there. Also, simply scouring the sea it borders is captivating, as you’ll come across shipwrecks and hidden treasure in the most arbitrary of places.

Windhelm

Skyrim map: Windhelm

Windhelm is is home to Skyrim’s Stormcloak rebellion is based, where Ulfric Stormcloak, High King of Skyrim can be found. The Palace of the Kings is gargantuan, so it’s well worth exploring it thoroughly. If you’re sneaky, you might even be able to steal some valuables and make yourself some easy coin.

However, one of the most interesting places near Windhelm is the Sacellum of Boethiah. Here, you’ll be forced to take part in a battle royale in honour of the Daedric prince Boethiah. Win and you’ll become their champion; lose and you’ll, well… die. 

If you have the Dragonborn DLC installed you can also get the boat to Solstheim from Windhelm. It costs 500 gold, but Solstheim is an incredible place located in Morrowind that you should absolutely visit. Just make sure you’re a decent level before making the voyage across, as the enemies there are a lot stronger than most you’ll encounter in Skyrim.

Falkreath

Skyrim map: Falkreath

Falkreath is an underappreciated gem in Skyrim, and close to some of the darkest places in the game, such as the Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary and the Twilight Sepulcher. However, it's also home to Lakeview Manor, a beautiful house you can purchase if you have the Hearthfire DLC.

It’s located in the south of Skyrim and it’s much less built-up than several of the other Holds, but there’s a real charm to Falkreath. Also, if you venture eastward for a few minutes, you’ll come across a place called the Ancestor Glade, which is one of the most extraordinary places in the whole game. If your planning on doing some digital tourism, Falkreath’s got it all, providing the quintessential 'Skyrim' experience. 

Dawnstar

Skyrim map: Dawnstar

Dawnstar isn't maybe the prettiest place in the game but it’s an incredibly intriguing place. There’s a Mythic Dawn museum here for starters , which instigates the Mehrunes Dagon questline. While the whole town is plagued by terrible nightmares you might want to look in to. However, Dawnstar’s links to the Daedra are pretty much all it has going for it. Aside from that and the ancient Dark Brotherhood Sanctuary hidden nearby, there’s not a whole lot here. Hearthfire adds a house to Dawnstar, and it’s nice, but the location isn’t ideal. You’re much better off living in Falkreath and checking out Dawnstar whenever you get curious about demonology and nightmares. 

Morthal

Skyrim map: Morthal

Morthal is basically just a place between places - as if the whole point of this town is to be a place in the middle of nowhere. However, there is one place in Morthal that’s essential for any aspiring Dragonborn to visit: Movarth’s Lair. This is located just north of the town, and is home to a powerful ancient vampire. After discovering that a resident of Morthal has quietly been turning some of the townsfolk into creatures of the night, you can visit the lair and pay Movarth a visit. However, once you’ve done this, it’s probably best to get out of Morthal and head northwest to Solitude. 

Solitude

Skyrim map: Solitude

Of all the locations in Skyrim, Solitude is probably the one with the most to do. The Imperial Legion is based here, so if you’re thinking of joining up, Solitude is where you’ll need to go. It’s also home to the Blue Palace, previously ruled by the High King Torygg before he was killed by Ulfric Stormcloak. There are some great quests to pick up in Solitude. You can do Sheogorath’s Daedric quest here by visiting an abandoned wing of the city’s palace, which will send you hurtling headfirst into the demon prince of madness’ mind-bending domain. You can also sneak through the East Empire trading company, pull off a heist with some shady Argonians, and even sneak onboard the Emperor’s private ship. Solitude is the richest place in Skyrim, so here you’ll get to use diplomacy instead of violence… sometimes. When words don’t work in your favour, you’ll see that sometimes the pen isn’t mightier than the sword, so you’ll have to compromise. Like most rich places though, there’s lots of subterfuge and espionage in Solitude, so a conniving Dragonborn will fit right in.

These are just some of the best places to visit and pick up quests in Skyrim - the places you want to target first as you explore. That said, the best way to experience the world is to make your way to a hold on foot, check out the places mentioned above, and then move on to the next one. That way you’ll see the more minor areas in Skyrim too - the unnamed gems hidden off the beaten track. Just be sure to keep your sword at the ready, lest you be ambushed by ancient vampires or malevolent necromancers.

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Cian is a freelance journalist based in Ireland. He's written for numerous publications including USA Today, TheGamer, The Guardian, Washington Post, Verge, Vice, Polygon, Eurogamer, and GameSpot. He's a huge fan of The Witcher and other RPGs like Dragon Age.