Skyrim is absolutely littered with quests. Though you're introduced to the game through the main story, it can be ignored entirely almost from the off for you to find adventures in any direction you choose.
That said, it's worth paying attention to certain quest lines to get the most out of the game, many of which belong to varius Skyrim guilds and factions, such as The Dark Brotherhood, the Thieves' Guild and College of Winterhold, each with their own cast, playstyles and rewards, so if you're stuck for choice, we recommend picking up one of these questlines.
Though you'll hear whispers about them from townsfolk across Skyrim, they aren't the easiest to locate. Here's where and how you can start each major faction's quest lines. While we'll briefly describe what each one is about, from there we'll leave you on your own...
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How to join Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, College of Winterhold and other Skyrim guilds and factions
Here is where to join each of the game's factions. Note there is also Dawnguard, which was added part of the game's first expansion of the same name, which we describe as part of our how to join Hearthfire DLC page.
A faction with only a handful of quests, joining a group of bards and scholars is at least a little different to what else there is in the game. Just don't expect a lot of 'lute' in it for you.
To join, go to Solitude and find the Bards College - it's in the centre of the city, on the fork headed towards the bridge, next to one of Skyrim's Houses, Proudspire Manor.
Inside, you should be greeted by headmaster Viarmo when you enter, who will give you your first quest.
This is faction of dragon hunters that you'll encounter as part of the main story. When you do, there's the option to do a couple of additional quests for them - chat to Delphine to learn more.
Introduced to you at the very start of the the game, Skyrim is a battleground for the Imperial and Stormcloak factions. Technically one questline, you have to choose between either side and play your part in it unfolding. Feel free to start either, but note 'The Jagged Crown' is by which you point you must pick either one.
Stormcloaks: Go to Wildhelm, and head to the Palace of Kings - it's the huge structure more of less straight ahead as you enter the city - and watch the conversation unfold between Ulfric and Galmar in the hall. When it's over, speak to Ulfric, then Galmar, to get the ball rolling on this faction.
Imperials: Head to Castle Dour in Solitude - you can find it more or less straight ahead when you first enter from the overworld, then enter a door on the left - and chat to Legate Rikke inside. She'll test you by going to Fort Hraggstad, kicking off the quest line.
One of the first factions you'll come across, if you're following the story, this is more aligned with fighting-type character roles. What makes them notable - spoilers incoming - is along the questline you'll also have the chance to become a werewolf.
To join, visit the Jorrvaskr in Whiterun (it's up the steps next to the giant tree in the middle of the town) and locate Kodlak Whitemane - we found him downstairs in the Living Quarters chatting to Vilkas.
College of Winterhold
Based in the northern most city of Winterhold, these have you helping a guild of mages and, as such, helps to have some magick-skills at hand. You'll have to interact with this faction as part of the main story, but you can obviously ignore it and join at your own request.
To join, head to Winterhold and go to stone bridge in the middle of the town and attempt to enter. Faralda will stop you and say only those who can offer something to the College can proceed. She'll require you to cast a spell to prove your worth; if you say you don't know it, she'll sell it to you for 30 Gold. Cast it on the ground next to her and she'll let you in.
If you're unfamiliar with magick, equip it like a weapon (go into your main menu, then Spells) and attach it to your left or right hand. If you don't have enough Magicka (if you aren't a high enough level, for example) then you can try unlocking Skills in that discipline to make it cheaper, equip a Magicka boosting item, or consume a Magicka increasing item - such as Elsweyr Fondue - to let you cast it and go on through and get the ball rolling.
Want more help with Skyrim? Find out how to join every guild and faction, how to earn Gold fast, learning about XP and levelling to 100, max Crafting skills, max Warrior skills, max Thief skills and max Mage skills, how to get married, where to buy a house, how to start Dawnguard, Hearthfire and Dragonborn DLC expansions. If you're on PC, we have a list of console commands and cheats, and you can learn about the remastered version and how to install mods with our Skyrim guide. Finally, with Switch owners, we have Skyrim amiibo support explained to help unlock special Zelda-themed items.
The Dark Brotherhood
This fan-favourite faction is a guild of secretive assassins that you may hear about on your travels, and is one well worth joining. While any character can join, it perhaps favours characters with stealth builds.
To join, go to Windhelm, and walk round the streets until you hear about Aventus Aretino trying to contact the Dark Brotherhood.
Head to the Aventus Residence - the easiest way to get there is to take the passage on the right before you enter the Palace of Kings - and lockpick your way into the easy Novice lock. Speak to Aventus Aretino inside to start the 'Innocence Lost' questline.
As the name suggests, expect to join an underground band of thieves that specialise in a variety of illegal activities.
To join, find Brynjolf in Riften. He can usually be found outside by the market stalls in the centre of the city. He should approach you automatically when you get near, and will start the 'A Chance Encounter' quest that involves a spot of pickpocketing to kick off the Thieves' Guild questline.