King's Landing is the largest city on the continent of Westeros and is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms. It is located on the east coast of the continent, on the northern banks of the Blackwater Rush as it flows out into Blackwater Bay, and is built around three tall hills. The city is not located within the borders of any of the former independent kingdoms. The surrounding area, informally known as the Crownlands, are directly controlled from the city under the authority of the King on the Iron Throne.
The city is roughly square-shaped, sprawling across several miles and is defended by tall walls. There are seven gates through the walls: the River Gate (also called the Mud Gate) leading down to the river, the King's Gate at the south-western corner of the city, the Lion Gate located to the due west, the Gate of the Gods at the north-western corner, the Old Gate in the centre-north, the Dragon Gate at the north-eastern corner and the Iron Gate in the centre-east.
The city is identifiable from a distance by its three tall hills. Aegon's High Hill, surmounted by the Red Keep, is located in the south-eastern corner of the city and overlooks the bay directly, whilst Visenya's Hill to the west is topped by the seven-sided Great Sept of Baelor. Rhaenys's Hill in the north is capped by the derelict Dragonpit, which has not been used for more than a century and a half since the last dragon died.
Flea Bottom, located along the foot of Rhaenys's Hill, is a warren of narrow streets and alleys, and is the roughest part of the city. It is home to many beggars and the poorest part of the city's population.
Most buildings in the city are made of wood and plaster, with a few stone structures. Some of the noble houses maintain handsome manses with their own wells and stores within the city for when their members visit.
The city is too cramped to host tourneys, so instead a large tract of ground to the south-west of the city along the riverbanks has been set aside for this purpose.
The city has a population of (very) approximately half a million, although the city has a seasonal variation with more people taking shelter behind the walls during the long winters and leaving in the summer. The trade and harvesting seasons also affect the city's population, as do times of war.
In times of peace law and order in the city is maintained by the 2,000-strong City Watch, also called the 'goldcloaks' for their black armour and golden cloaks. The City Watch not only consists of peacekeeping militia, but also men at arms, crossbowmen and even a small mounted troop which functions as lancers. The King also maintains a small standing guard on permanant deployment in the Red Keep, as well as the Kingsguard. At any one time, there are usually several noble lords visiting the city, often with their own retainers and men-at-arms, and freeriders and mercenaries also tend to frequently visit looking for employment.
In times of war, the city's defences are amalgamated by the bannermen of the King's house, although the historical preference has been to force a decisive engagement far from the city's walls rather than withstanding a siege from within. There are also several houses who hold nearby castles and towns (such as Rosby, Stokeworth and Duskendale) which directly hold their allegiance to King's Landing, and will ride to its defence when needed.
Warships of the Royal Fleet patrol the Blackwater Rush and the bay. The entrance to Blackwater Bay is guarded by the fortified island of Dragonstone, where more warships from the Royal Fleet stand guard. Very few naval forces in the world are powerful enough to overcome the bay's naval defences by force of arms.
The area around King's Landing used to be territory that was disputed between the Riverlands, the Stormlands and the Reach, presumably a reason why no prior settlement existed here. Fisherfolk used to dwell in the forested hills overlooking the bay.
Three centuries ago, Aegon the Conqueror landed at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush with all his strength. He marched to the top of the tallest hill and built a fortified redoubt of wood and earth. He used this fortification as a base of operation whilst his armies and his dragons undertook their campaigns which eventually delivered all of Westeros north of the Red Mountains to his control. After accepting the surrender of Oldtown, he decided not to adopt the older city as his capital and instead elected to build a new settlement around his castle at the mouth of the Blackwater. Not only would this castle be more centrally located, it was also outside the borders of any of the former kingdoms, setting the king apart from his vassals.
Construction of the city began during Aegon I's reign and continued through those of his sons. The Red Keep was completed during the reign of Maegor the Cruel, whilst the Dragonpit was constructed to house the Targaryen dragons. The Great Sept was built to show the Targaryens' piety and adherence to the Faith of the Seven after giving up the old gods of Valyria, although it was not named as the Great Sept of Baelor until after Baelor the Blessed's death.
As the site of the Red Keep and the Iron Throne, King's Landing is the ultimate prize for many of the civil wars of Westeros. The Battle of the Redgrass Field at the conclusion of the Blackfyre Rebellion was triggered by an attempt by Daemon Blackfyre to march on the city, whilst the War of the Usurper was not won until the city fell to a treacherous assault by the forces of House Lannister. The Battle of the Blackwater fought outside the city walls was also the most decisive engagement of the War of the Five Kings.
King's Landing suffered its most grievous damage during the Great Spring Sickness, a plague that killed tens of thousands of people in the city in 209 AL. A fire was started to burn the dead and eventually consumed a quarter of the city, resulting in significant rebuilding afterwards.