Skyrim: The Main Quests Order (& When To Do Them)

Main story quest order skyrim
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Skyrim potentially has hundreds of hours of gameplay. It’s nothing new considering the fact that all previous Elder Scroll games had a similar number of main quests, side-quests, and activities to do in-game. Skyrim boasts one of the largest in-game worlds and a separate radiant quest system; those are limitless (mostly) randomly generated quests that appear as long as you play the game.

Taking that into account, you can play Skyrim endlessly, or at least until you get bored of the “fetch” quests. In today’s guide, however, we won’t be dealing with radiant or side quests, we’re going to be dealing with the main quests instead.

From waking up in a carriage scheduled to be executed to traveling to Sovngarde and taking down Alduin, we’re going to cover all main quests as well as give you some tips and tricks on how to deal with them more easily. Let’s see the main quest order in Skyrim and when to do them.

How many main quests are there in Skyrim?

There are seventeen main quests in Skyrim as well as two additional quests that are optional and don’t necessarily need to be done. In total, it’s going to take you between 15 and 30 hours to finish all main quests in Skyrim, depending on your level and your experience with the game.

The Main story is set in three acts and although there isn’t really a recommended level for any of the quests, some areas are likely to be better experienced if you are lover level as the game was designed with the main story being solved first.
Now, let’s see what is the order of main quests in Skyrim.

1. Unbound

helgen after alduin
Helgen after Alduin’s destruction

This is the first active quest you’re going to have in your journal, and it’s also the start of Act I. It starts with you being nearly executed, Alduin attacking Helgen, and you taking shelter in an old Imperial fort. This is among the most vital parts of the game as it allows you to create your character and decide on the skills that you will prioritize.

Also, you will learn the main mechanics of the game, such as looting, using weapons, magic, lock-picking, and consuming potions. During this quest, you’re going to encounter bears, Frostbite spiders, and Imperial and Stormcloak soldiers. You don’t really have to worry about performing excellently since you will have an escort for the most part.

The quest is officially over as soon as you leave the cave. Depending on who you decide to follow, either Hadvar or Rolaf will give you your next quest.

2. Before the Storm

riverwood
Riverwood is the first place you visit after Helgen

Before the Storm leads you to Riverwood, the main enemies encountered during this part of your journey are mostly rabbits and wolves. This is the part of the game where you learn how navigating in Skyrim works. Both your compass and map markers, and map, in general, will need to be utilized.

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After you speak to Alvor or Gerdur (depending on who you’ve decided to follow in Helgen), you will be sent to talk to the Jarl of Whiterun, Balgruuf the Greater. The quest ends after you talk to Balgruuf about the things that transpired in Helgen. You will be rewarded with a piece of leveled armor.

3. Bleak Falls Barrow

bleakfallsbarrow
Dragonstone can be found at Bleak Falls Barrow

After you’ve spoken to Jarl Balgruuf the Greater, he will point you in the direction of his court wizard Farengar. Farengar will send you to search a fabled map of dragon burial sites also called “Dragonstone”. This is the first legitimate action you will encounter, as your enemies will be slightly more complex and stronger than wolves and rabbits.

Traveling to Bleak Falls Barrow, you will encounter numerous Frostbite spiders, drugs, frost trolls, and other leveled nuisance enemies. This part of the game teaches you about traps, nordic ruins in general, and how Nordic puzzle doors and claws work.

You will also learn your first word of power or shout, Unrelenting Force. With Dragonstone in your hands, before you return to Farengar, it would be wise to sell most of the things you’ve looted and have no use for.

4. Dragon Rising

whiterun watch tower
Mirmulnir near the Western Watch Tower

When you return to Farengar with Dragonstone, you will likely be interrupted by Iritleth, Dunmer Captain of the guard in service of Jarl Balgruuf. This is the point in the game where you will learn all about dragon combat, absorbing dragon souls, and using shouts.

You will be recognized as Dragonborn (Dovahkiin), but not in the official sense. Consider purchasing additional supplies for the upcoming fight with Mirmulnir, as he is the hardest foe you will face at this point in the game. As soon as you defeat the dragon and make your way toward Whiterun, you will hear thundering shouts from the Throat of the World, Greybeards summoning you.

5. The Way of the Voice

high hrothgar
High Hrothgar

As soon as you talk to Jarl Balgruuf he will send you on your way to High Hrothgar to speak to Greybeards, he will also reward you with the title of Thane of Whiterun and appoint Lydia as your personal Housecarl and a follower.

I encourage you to make use of her immediately. This part of the game will teach you how to use road posts and additional navigational signs scattered across Skyrim. The ascent to High Hrothgar is perilous, and Frost Trolls are the toughest enemies you will encounter. Still, it’s worth it since you will learn more about Shouting.

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6. The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller

ustengrav
Horn of Jurgen Windcaller returned to Ustengrav

When your training with the Greybeards is over, they will point you in the direction of Ustengrav, to retrieve the ancient Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. In Ustengrav you will learn how to deal with spellcasters as you will face necromancers conjurers and various other elemental mages.

This is also the first time you will fail at an objective, since the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller is not there, in its place, there is a note which starts your next quest A Blade in the Dark.

7. A Blade in the Dark

kynesgrove
Sahloknir near Kynesgrove

This next quest leads you once again to Riverwood to Sleeping Giant Inn. Where you need to talk to Delphine. She is the one that has the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller. You will learn that Delphine is a member of the Blades, an ancient organization in the service of the Emperor. You will need to prove to her that you are the Dragonborn by slaying a dragon.

As soon as you have the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller in your inventory, return to High Hrothgar to wrap up the quest The Way of the Voice. After you’ve been formally recognized as Dragonborn, if you have Dragonborn DLC installed, this is the point in the game where cultists from Solstheim will start attacking you.

Make your way to Kynesgrove near Windhelm to deal with your next objective. Your target is dragon Sahloknir; you need to slay him to prove to Delphine that you are indeed the Dragonborn. In order to deal with the dragon in the most painless way possible, attack him and deal with him as much damage as you can while it’s in skeletal form.

With the slaying of Sahloknir Act I ends.

8. Diplomatic Immunity

thalmor embassy
Thalmor Embassy

Act II begins with you infiltrating Thalmor Embassy in order to gain information on Thalmor and the return of the dragons. There are several ways how to solve this quest, my advice to you is that you don’t rely on combat alone and try to use deception and speechcraft as much as you can.

If you play as an Altmer, get your hands on Thalmor robes in order to postpone fighting with Thalmor for as long as you can. After you’ve successfully infiltrated Thalmor Embassy you will be on your way to Riften.

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9. A Cornered Rat

ratway
Ratway serves both as a hideout for Esbern and Thieves Guild


After you’ve reported everything you’ve found at Thalmor Embassy Delphine will send you on your way to Riften to find Esbern a chronicler of the Blades. This is a straightforward rescue action, but you will face Thalmor, so prepare yourself accordingly.

This is also an opportunity to explore Ratway, the main hangout of the Thieves Guild. After you’ve rescued Esbern, pick up some supplies if needed since you have a long and difficult trek ahead of you.

10. Alduin’s Wall

alduins wall
Alduin’s Wall at Sky Haven Temple

This part of the game will introduce you to Forsworn, an extremely aggressive faction of Daedra worshiping Reachmen. Forsworn come in all shapes and sizes and are equally proficient at facing you with ranged and melee weapons as well as with magic.

The main point of this quest is to find out all about Alduin’s prophecy and how to stop him. You will need to clear out Karthspire before you can gain access to Sky Haven Temple.

11 The Throat of the World

Paarthurnax near Word Wall at the Throat of the World

In Sky Haven Temple, you will find out that ancient Nords managed to defeat Alduin by using a specific shout. Since shouts are the specialty of Greybeards, the Blades will send you to High Hrothgar again.

First Arngeir will be reluctant to help you, however, he will send you to talk to the leader of Greybeards, Paarthurnax. Paarthurnax will be very glad to help you, but he is unable to; he does not know the shout that was used to defeat Alduin since it’s unknowable to him due to him being a dragon.

He, however, has a solution to your problem, and it involves using an Elder Scroll.

12. Elder Knowledge

tower of mzark 1
Dwemer puzzle at the Tower of Mzark

After talking to Paarthurnax you can either talk to Arngeir or Esbern, both of them will set you on a path toward the College of Winterhold. Once there, you will need to start the College of Winterhold questline in order to gain access to the Librarian Urag gro-Shub. Once there, Urag gro-Shub will point you in the direction of Septimus Signus, and this starts a long way toward obtaining an Elder Scroll in a Dwemer ruin called Alftand.

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If you’ve followed the order of main quests, this is likely the first time you’ve visited the Dwemer ruin. This part of the game will teach you about traps, layouts, and various enemies you can encounter in them.

You will also gain access to the underground city of Blackreach. While you’re solving the quest Elder Knowledge, it’s a good idea to complete Daedric Quest Discerning the Transmundane, as it grants you Oghma Infinium, a special book that can increase your magic, melee, or stealth-oriented skills.

13. Alduin’s Bane

time wound
Time-wound at the Throat of the World

Once you have the Elder Scroll in your inventory, make your way toward Throat of the World again. After using the Elder Scroll at the time wound and learning Dragonrend shout you will have the opportunity to test it as well since Alduin will attack you.

You will not be able to kill him since Alduin can only be killed in Sovngarde, don’t worry if he manages to escape.

Your fight with Alduin marks the end of Act II.

14. The Fallen

odahwiing 1
Odahviing at Dragonsreach

This next quest is a tricky one since you’re going to have to talk Jarl Balgruuf the Greater into doing something terribly stupid, like trapping a dragon inside Dragonsreach.

The order of quests now depends on whether you have played the Civil War questline. If you haven’t started the questline at all, you have one additional quest to complete before you can continue further with the quest.

Season Unending

You need to travel to High Hrothgar and negotiate peace between Imperials and Stromcloaks; otherwise, Balgruuf won’t let you trap a dragon inside Dragonscreach. The choices you make here will reflect on the rest of Skyrim, depending on the faction in the war you decide to favor.

Paarthurnax

Paarhurnax is one more optional quest that you can refuse to do. If you decide to kill Paarthurnax, Greybeards will excommunicate you. If you, however, refuse to kill him, The Blades will no longer consider you their ally, and you will not be able to take part in their radiant quests.

15. The World-Eater’s Eyrie

skuldafn
Portal to Sovngarde at Skuldafn

After you’ve negotiated the peace and Balgruuf has given you permission to trap Odahviing inside Dragonsreach, you can move forward with the main quest.

By defeating Odahviing and setting him free once again, he will take you to Skuldafn. In Skuldafn, you will face your first Dragon priest – Nahkriin. Any item with shock resistance will be helpful during the fight with him.

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Most other enemies you will encounter at this point are draugrs and a couple of dragons in the Skuldafn courtyard. The quest finishes as soon as you activate the portal to Sovngarde.

16. Sovngarde

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Whalebone bridge and Hall of Valor in Sovngarde

Your main objective at this point is to locate Alduin and defeat him once and for all. To do that, you will have to explore Sovngarde – a Nordic afterlife. Make your way to the Hall of Valor in order to gain three followers: Gormlaith Golden-Hilt, Hakon One-Eye, and Felldir the Old. Before the actual fight begins, the three of you will need to clear out the mist surrounding Sovngarde

17. Dragonslayer

alduin
Alduin the harbinger of the apocalypse

This is the final fight against Alduin, and this time, you will defeat him for good, even though you will not be able to absorb his soul. It’s recommended that you try to put off this fight until you’re at least level 24. You can utilize Gormlaith Golden-Hilt, Hakon One-Eye, and Felldir the Old to the max, but you will need to be the one to deliver the killing blow.

Alternate between using Dragonrend shout and whatever your strongest weapon (or skill) is at the moment. As soon as Alduin is slain, the quest finishes.

Epilogue

After Alduin has been slain, you need to talk to Tsun in order to return to Skyrim. Once you leave Sovngarde, you will not be able to return. Take as much time as you need to explore it fully. After leaving Sovngarde you will appear at the Throat of the World where you will be greeted by numerous dragons. Some dragons will mourn Alduin, and some will celebrate his demise. It’s an overall epic scene that marks the end of Act III and the main story in general.

After Epilogue, you are free to do whatever you want. Join factions, complete civil war, undertake Daedric quests, or simply help people of Skyrim.

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