Since its release in October 2020, Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit has stirred up some serious hype — in Berlin and beyond. Based on the 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, director Scott Frank and screenwriter Allan Scott developed the drama mini-series into a plush vintage sensation. The seven episodes revolve around unexpected chess prodigy Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Harmon — from her childhood in an orphanage, where she learns her first moves, to her ascent to the elite ranks of a male-dominated sport.
Beth Harmon is played by Anya Taylor-Joy, star of US psychological thriller Split and its sequel Glass, as well as UK series Peaky Blinders. Although The Queen’s Gambit is set mainly in Lexington, Kentucky, many of the backdrops might seem a little…. familiar. Most of the series was, in fact, filmed in Ontario, Canada and Berlin. Our beloved city masquerades as the US, Paris, Moscow and Mexico at various points throughout the series. So, without further ado, here are 12 Berlin locations featured in The Queen’s Gambit. *(Spoiler alert!)*
Paris 1967… or Berlin 2019. In the opening scenes of The Queen’s Gambit, Beth Harmon is in a Parisian hotel. However, the film was actually shot in Berlin — in Haus Cumberland, a grand hotel on Kurfürstendamm built in the early 1920s.
Until the end of 2019, the ground floor was home to Café Grosz, a meeting place for celebrities, business types and Berlin’s high society. With its many old mirrors, ornate picture frames and gently worn accessories, the café has a special charm reminiscent of a Viennese coffee house or Art Nouveau brasserie. The perfect setting for a luxury French hotel.
The filming location for Methuen Home, the Christian girls’ orphanage where Beth lives after the death of her mother, is Schulzendorf Castle. The old manor house from 1889 is located in the Brandenburg district of Dahme-Spreewald on the outskirts of Berlin.
The Renaissance-style square tower that juts out of the building was digitally reworked for the series, as it looked too much like medieval Europe.
In the second episode, Beth visits Ben Snyder’s Department Store with her adoptive mother Alma (Marielle Heller). The exterior shots of the shop were filmed in Toronto, but the interior shots feature vintage clothes store ‘Humana’ at Berlin’s Frankfurter Tor.
Although there’s also a real-life Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky, the Max Taut School in Berlin-Rummelsburg was used as the setting for the series. The educational complex, built between 1927 and 1932 to the designs of German architect Max Taut, is one of the largest school buildings from the Weimar era.
To participate in an open chess tournament, Beth travels to Cincinnati with her mother Alma three times in a row. However, the hotel scenes were actually filmed in Berlin, not Ohio. Berlin-Spandau, to be precise. The shots for the hotel lobby were filmed in Spandau town hall.
The room with the wood-panelled ceiling is the Meistersaal, a listed chamber music hall dating from 1910. In 1976, Meisel Musikverlage (Meisel Music Publishers) acquired the property on Köthener Straße where the hall is located. The Meistersaal, renamed Studio 2, became the headquarters of the Hansa recording studios and was used by artists including David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Iggy Pop, Jon Bon Jovi, Nick Cave and many more. Today the historic hall in Kreuzberg, near Potsdamer Platz, is a popular venue for events.
Hotel Mariposa in Las Vegas is the venue for the US Open in episode three of The Queen’s Gambit. However, the location was also shot here in Berlin — at the Palais am Messe-Funkturm. The exhibition complex from the 1950s had to be modified slightly for the scenes — palm trees were placed at the entrance, as seen from the summer garden, and another building was added digitally.
The Palais am Funkturm houses Berlin’s largest ballroom, complete with extendable staircase and height-adjustable chandelier. The perfect backdrop for an opulent hotel in the city of casinos.
Episode four, The Aztec Palace Hotel in Mexico — or the foyer of Friedrichsstadt-Palast in Mitte. Built in 1984 and listed since 2020, the Palast has evolved from circus to playhouse to variety theatre. Today, the show palace stages all-singing, all-dancing spectacles with over a hundred performers and cutting-edge lighting.
It’s here that Beth Harmon first meets the young Russian, Georgi, and maestro Vasily Borgov.
In episode five, Beth participates in the US championships in Ohio, 1967. The scenes were filmed on the grounds of the Evangelische Hochschule Berlin in Zehlendorf. The EHB is a training and research institution in the fields of social work, health and education. In 2004 the university celebrated its centenary and is thus one of the oldest training centres for social professions in Germany.
In the penultimate episode of the series, Beth returns to Paris. Apart from Haus Cumberland, which served as a location for the first episode, the shots for the sixth episode were filmed mainly in the Bode-Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island. This magnificent gallery specialises in Byzantine art, sculptures, medals and coins. The entrance hall of the museum, featuring an equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm I, was used as a backdrop for the Parisian café-restaurant.
The championship tournament of 1968 — Beth is in Moscow. Or not. The scenes weren’t actually shot in the Russian capital, but in the Bärensaal of the Altes Stadthaus in Berlin. The administrative building in Berlin-Mitte was built between 1902 and 1911. In the past, the town house served as the registry office headquarters for Mitte — today the city administration for interior affairs is based here.
The façade of the Moscow hotel is actually a block of flats on Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin, which runs from Alexanderplatz to Frankfurter Tor, where it turns into Frankfurter Allee. The architecture of the Friedrichshain section is dominated by Soviet classicism — with the Prussian influence of Karl-Friedrich Schinkel.
The Panorama Bar of Kino International, also located on Karl-Marx-Allee, serves as the hotel restaurant. The cinema opened in 1963 and hosted glamorous premieres in the GDR until 1990.
In the final scene, Beth walks through the streets of Moscow and meets her chess-playing peers. The scene was also shot on Karl-Marx-Alle, in the Rose Garden. The park in Friedrichshain was laid out in the early 1950s. On June 16th, 1953, a protest by construction workers began here, which eventually led to a nationwide popular uprising with strikes, demonstrations and protests throughout the GDR.
Berlin is overflowing with historical locations — from Flughafen Tegel and its unlikely reign as Berlin’s favourite airport, to Prenzlauer Berg with its surprisingly dark and murky past. And don’t forget Berlin’s abandoned hospitals, ballrooms and other spooky locations fit for a horror film.
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