The Queen’s Gambit fan’s guide to Berlin
Photo: Vlad Yashin via Instagram (edited)
The Queen’s Gambit, a period drama mini-series created by Scott Frank and Allan Scott, was the intricate, glamorous, and impactful series that the world needed to make 2020 endurable and even – if at least for 6 hours – enjoyable. On a personal level, it kindled my interest in the identically-titled novel by Walter Tevis and served as the catalyst I needed to finally learn to play and appreciate chess, an idea that had been brewing at the back of my mind for several years.
On a global scale, the TV show reached #1 on Netflix in 63 countries and elicited overwhelmingly positive reviews from around the globe with a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Considering the spike in sales of chess sets and books about the game, Nick Barton (director of business development at chess.com) is entirely justified in calling The Queen’s Gambit “a cultural phenomenon for chess fans”.
In a show like The Queen’s Gambit, where every detail is thoroughly thought out, the importance of filming locations shouldn’t be brushed aside. Viewers well-acquainted with Berlin may have noticed the mini-series was largely shot in the German capital. For fans of the series who are looking to (re)visit the city, here are five locations to add to your sightseeing list!
1. Humana Secondhand Shop
In Episode 2, central character Beth and her mother Alma visit the Ben Snyder Department Store to buy the chess prodigy some new clothes. Although the exterior shots were filmed in Canada, the inside of the shop – where the stack of chess sets immediately catches Beth’s eye – were filmed at the secondhand clothes shop Humana at Frankfurter Tor 3. If you’re looking for a new outfit, why not use the chance to shop sustainably while visiting the filming location?
Photo: Humana Secondhand & Vintage via Facebook
2. Las Vegas Mariposa Hotel
In the third episode (1966 in the mini-series’ timeline), Beth travels to Las Vegas for the US Open and arrives at a fairly luxurious hotel. This space will prove to be a significant one as the episode progresses, with Beth navigating her relationship with the charming Townes and losing her first tournament to Benny Watts in the very same building. The scenes were shot at the unique Palais am Funkturm, Berlin’s largest ballroom, built in the late 1950s. The Palais at Hammarsköldplatz can easily be reached by bus, underground or suburban railway.
Photo: Messe Berlin by Till Krech via Wikimedia Commons
3. Mexico City Zoo
After getting tipsy on beer in Mexico City in Episode 4, Beth spends some time admiring orangutans in the zoo. She is surprised to notice Borgov – her intimidating Soviet rival – observing some gorillas with his family only a few feet away. This all takes place in the Berlin Zoological Garden (Hardenbergplatz 8), the oldest and most famous zoo in Germany, open to visitors daily 9.00-16.30.
Gorilla at the Berlin Zoo. Photo: fa.wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons
4. Paris Café
In the second last episode, Beth finds herself in Paris again, and at one point is enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate cake while reading when she is asked for an autograph by an excited French waiter. You can see the green marble tables and intricate black-and-gold railings yourself at the Bode Museum Café (Am Kupfergraben). Notice the equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia upon entering the museum – it also features in The Queen’s Gambit!
The exterior of the Bode Museum. Photo: Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons
5. The Moscow Tournament Hall
Although viewers were probably concentrating on the chess board as well as Beth’s and Borgov’s expressions during the ultimate championship tournament in 1968 Moscow, the dimly lit hall with a noticeably high ceiling can actually be found in the Altes Stadthaus in Berlin (Klosterstraße 47). The scene was filmed in the central Bärensaal or ‘Bear Hall’, an ornately decorated room laid out with red Verona marble that houses a 400 kg bronze bear sculpture created by Georg Wrba.