Whiterun is the center of Skyrim, both geographically and in terms of its story. It's here that everything begins as you start your journey from Helgen, through Riverwood, all the way to this big city. Whiterun is economically one of the most vibrant cities, even if it holds no competition against Solitude. Still, there are plenty of merchants and quests to keep you occupied within the city.
As the ultimate starter city, it's also in Whiterun that you'll most likely become a Thane for the first time, get your first Housecarl, and perhaps even purchase some property. The Companions might well be the first faction you join on your journey through Skyrim. With how much Whiterun provides, especially early on into the game, it's good to know what to look out for when setting foot in Skyrim's most important and politically ambiguous city.
The only faction residing in Whiterun city is the group of Companions living in Jorrvaskr. The Companions are a band of warriors who share the ideals of Ysgramor, and contrarily to one's expectations, are quite the diverse group of people. While most Companions are warriors in the traditional sword and shield sense, some favor the bow and arrow as well.
It doesn't matter what one's specialization is, so long as you have the willingness to fight. The Companions will welcome almost anyone open-armed, as proven by how easy it is to get an invitation into their ranks. Just walk past Pelagius Farm on your way to Whiterun the first time around to see a few Companions fighting a giant. Whether you help them or not doesn't matter, since Aela will run over to you regardless to extend you an invitation to the faction.
Joining the Companions is a smart idea for some early game leveling, mainly because many of the rewards gained from the questline aren't that great compared to some other factions. You also get your own bed and chest very early on, which helps quite a bit if you're low on money and looking to complete some simple bandit killing jobs, which this faction is initially full of.
Of course, if you're interested in becoming a werewolf, then joining the Companions is a must. Following the linear quest line of the faction will eventually force you to drink beast blood and become a werewolf yourself while fighting off the faction's natural enemies, the Silver Hand.
The main rewards of joining the Companions and completing the quests will be access to a bunch of followers and spouses that are quite strong early in the game. Aela the Huntress, Farkas, and Vilkas are just a few great examples of followers from the faction worth taking along, especially if you specialize in ranged combat such as magic or archery yourself.
Finally, the big unique weapon gained from the quest is the Wuuthrad, which will serve to open Ysgramor's tomb in the final quest. You also get to keep this two-handed battleaxe, which does 25 base damage and extra damage to any elven enemies.
In terms of shopping, Whiterun is one of the best cities in the entirety of Skyrim due to how centralized everything is, and how close the marketplace and the shops are to the player's home. Especially for players looking to buy weapons and smithing equipment, Whiterun is a dream come true.
- Skyforge: located left of Jorrvaskr, Eorlund Gray-Mane will sell various weapons and items made specifically at this legendary forge.
- Warmaiden's: there are actually two merchants at this shop, which makes it convenient. You can trade with both Adrianne Avenicci, who usually works outside the shop just by the city gates, or with Ulberth War-Bear, found manning the register inside.
If your specialty lies elsewhere, rest assured there's also a place for all your archery and alchemy needs, as well as a court wizard to consult for some magic skill books and soul gems.
- The Drunken Huntsman: also an inn, you can buy arrows, bows, and other hunting gear here.
- Arcadia's Cauldron: a classic alchemy shop with an alchemy station located just opposite of the Whiterun marketplace.
- Farengar: the court wizard of the Jarl, you'll find him at Dragonsreach in a room on the right as you walk into the main hall, for all your magic and enchanting needs.
Additionally, the marketplace stalls and the general goods store offer a pretty wide variety of items and great spots to sell chunks of your bloated inventory from your quests.
- Belethor's General Goods: the go-to general store in Whiterun, next to Arcadia's Cauldron and facing the marketplace.
- Anoriath: sells food items on the marketplace for cooking purposes.
- Carlotta Valentia: also sells food at the marketplace.
- Fralia Gray-Mane: sells gems and jewelry at the marketplace.
- The Bannered Mare: find some food and drinks here, as well as a bed for the night.
Trainers And Followers
Whiterun is one of the best cities to go to if you're looking to increase your skill level. There are nine different trainers located all around the city, with a heavy specialization in all things combat thanks to the presence of the Companions. Keep in mind the Companions will need you to join the faction to train you.
- Expert-level Alchemy trainer: Arcadia, at Arcadia's Cauldron
- Expert-level Archery trainer: Aela the Huntress, at Jorrvaskr
- Expert-level Block trainer: Njada Stonearm, at Jorrvaskr
- Master-level Heavy Armor trainer: Farkas, at Jorrvaskr
- Adept-level One-Handed trainer: Amren, wandering around Whiterun
- Expert-level One-Handed trainer: Athis, at Jorrvaskr
- Master-level Restoration trainer: Danica Pure-Spring, at the temple of Kynareth
- Master-level Smithing trainer: Eorlund Gray-Mane, at Skyforge
- Master-level Two-Handed trainer: Vilkas, at Jorrvaskr
As for NPCs who can be recruited as followers or gained as followers through various quests or completed favors, Whiterun is also filled to the brim with options.
- Lydia: after becoming Thane of Whiterun.
- Most Companions: Aela the Huntress, Farkas, Vilkas, Torvar, Ria, Njada Stonearm and Athis are all available if you join the Companions.
- Jenassa: at the Drunken Huntsman, can be hired for 500 gold.
- Uthgerd the Unbroken: at The Bannered Mare, after winning a brawl against her.
If you already have your hands on the Amulet of Mara and have received the explanation on how marriage works from Maramal in Riften, you're eligible to look for a spouse while wearing the amulet. Here's who's available in Whiterun.
- Most Companions: Aela the Huntress, Farkas, Vilkas, Torvar, Ria, Njada Stonearm and Athis are all available if you've joined the Companions and completed the entire quest line.
- Jenassa: a Dunmer mercenary, you need to hire her first before marrying her.
- Lydia: your Housecarl after becoming Thane.
- Uthgerd the Unbroken: beat her in a brawl and she can be married.
- Ysolda: complete her quest and get her a Mammoth Tusk, after which she can be married.
Becoming Thane And Benefits
Reaching the status of Thane in Whiterun is perhaps the easiest task in the game, given that this status can be achieved extremely early on with very little effort. In fact, it's recommended to do this before you proceed with the civil war questline and have the Stormcloaks take over the place, since after that becoming Thane will be significantly more difficult.
Following the steps of the main quest from Helgen to Riverwood, you're tasked with informing the Jarl of Whiterun, Balgruuf, of a dragon threat approaching the city and its nearby towns. After your quest at Bleak Falls Barrow, return to Dragonsreach to find out a dragon attack is in process. Join Irileth and her soldiers at the Watchtower and defeat your very first dragon. Return to Balgruuf once more and you will be gifted the status of Thane automatically.
The benefits of becoming Thane of Whiterun are moderate. If you have some gold saved up, you might already be able to purchase your very own first home, Breezehome, which is located right next to Warmaiden's near the entrance of the city. Breezehome is a small property that has some decent storage space and an alchemy table. It's close to the marketplace and the forge as well.
On the flipside, it has no arcane enchanter, and very little space to actually showcase any armor and weapons. It's definitely a budget living option for players, but works well as a first home. The home itself costs 5000 gold, and to get all the upgrades you'll need an additional 1800 gold. You'll also receive Lydia as your Housecarl, and like most Housecarls, she's a decent follower.
Whiterun is a city with an abundance of small and major quests. Tiny favors and odd jobs aside, the main quest and some of the game's major secondary quests will undoubtedly lead you to and from Whiterun.
Most of the quests in Whiterun have quite a bit to do with either the main quest line of Skyrim or the Companions questline, which can be started by walking into Pelagius Farm outside of the city and helping the Companions take down a giant. As for the main quest, you'll fight your first dragon here, as well as trap a dragon into Dragonsreach later on.
Around level 20, and so long as you've completed the quest Dragon Rising, a Daedric quest will pop up for you in Windhelm. The Whispering Door is a sinister quest that has Jarl Balgruuf ask the Dragonborn for help regarding one of his children, who seems troubled. It turns out Nelkir is speaking to a mysterious voice behind a door.
The voice is actually Daedric Prince Mephala, who will ask the Dragonborn to fetch her Ebony Blade and charge it with deceit. This isn't a requirement, but without killing someone who trusts your character, the blade won't return to its previous glory. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Whiterun is also the center of civil war politics, tearing families and friends apart. The quest Missing in Action is available almost immediately as you enter Whiterun, if you speak to Fralia Gray-Mane at the marketplace. She'll let you know she believes her son Thorald is alive and in need of rescue.
After finding proof on Thorald's fate, you need to head to Northwatch Keep up north in Skyrim to rescue him from the Thalmor. This can be pretty tough early on, since the Thalmor or both excellent warriors and spellcasters, so make sure you have a follower with you.
If you've already started the quest Dragon Rising, chances are you'll meet two Alik'r Warriors at the entrance of Whiterun, asking around about a missing Redguard woman. This will lead you to the quest In My Time of Need. The two are actually after Saadia, a young woman working at The Bannered Mare, but both sides will give different stories regarding who she is and why she's being chased.
Siding with Saadia will grant you with 500 gold once you've killed Kematu, leader of the Alik'r. Similarly, if you side with Kematu and his men, he will offer you the same amount of gold for luring Saadia to Whiterun stables, where she'll be paralyzed with a spell and carted off.
Visiting the Temple of Kynareth in Whiterun will grant you another major side quest, The Blessings of Nature. The Gildergreen is slowly dying in Whiterun, but Danica asks you to retrieve Nettlebane and harvest some of Eldergleam's sap for her. This is a pretty tough task for early levels due to Orphan Rock, where Nettlebane is located, being guarded by hagravens and spellcasters.
Once you have Nettlebane, travel to Eldergleam Sanctuary, with or without Maurice Jondrelle. If he's along with you, you can take an alternate route to avoid a tough battle with Spriggans, but Danica won't be as pleased. To access the tree, slash its roots with Nettlebane until you can reach the sap at the very top. Danica will reward you with Restoration training.
The city has a ton of skill books to discover, found in the following locations and catering to quite a few different skills.
- Smithing skill book: The Armorer's Challenge, located at Skyforge
- Alchemy skill book: Herbalist's Guide to Skyrim, located at Arcadia's Cauldron
- Speech skill book: Biography of the Wolf Queen, located at Belethor's General Goods
- Archery skill book: The Black Arrow, Book II, located behind the counter of the Drunken Huntsman
- Heavy Armor skill book: Hallgerd's Tale, located in the first floor of Jorrvaskr
- Archery skill book: The Marksmanship Lesson, inside a locked display case in Jorrvaskr's basement
- Two-Handed skill book: The Song of Hrormir, inside Jorrvaskr's basement floor
- Two-Handed skill book: Battle of Sancre Tor, located in the House of Clan Battle-Born, on the second floor
- Illusion skill book: Before the Ages of Man, located in Dragonsreach, within the Jarl's Quarters
- Block skill book: The Death Blow of Abernanit, located in the catacombs of Whiterun, deeper in the Hall of the Dead
- Enchanting skill book: Enchanter's Primer, located in Carlotta Valentia's House
For some random loot and secrets worth uncovering, head to Ysolda's house and make sure to take a peek in Farengar's personal library in Dragonsreach to start several worthwhile secondary quests.
- A thief cache with random loot, located next to Ysolda's house
- Three books that will begin quests: Lost Legends, The Legend of Red Eagle, and The Aetherium Wars if Dawnguard DLC is installed, all found within Farengar's library
The No Stone Unturned quest will have you chasing after these pesky Unusual Gems, which turn out to be stones of Barenziah's crown. There's a total of three of them located in Whiterun.
- A stone of Barenziah, in the Jarl's bedroom on his nightstand
- A stone of Barenziah, in the Hall of the Dead
- A stone of Barenziah, in Kodlak Whitemane's room on his nightstand
Amouranth scored a blue check after a series of bans elsewhere.