Picture this: you’re strolling along, a hot coffee from a quaint local coffee shop in hand, a flowing river beside you, you’re surrounded by beautiful, classic architecture and, all of a sudden, you’re face to face with Elizabeth Moss. Or James Franco. Or Morgan Freeman. Or Bruce Willis – this list of potential celeb sightings goes on and on. While this may sound like a common scene in Hollywood, California, did you know that it’s also one that’s likely to happen in a small city in Ontario? Welcome to Cambridge – even if you’ve never been here before, you may very well recognize it as the backdrop of some of your favourite movies and TV shows. 

The Queen’s Gambit

Beth Harmon’s journey to becoming a Grand Chess Master takes her all around the world. From her home in Kentucky, to a friend’s apartment in New York City, to chess tournaments in Las Vegas, Paris, Mexico, and Russia, Netflix’s 2020 smash hit, The Queen’s Gambit, tells a very international tale. In reality, however, Cambridge, Ontario laid the stage for Beth’s home life. The neighbourhood of Galt, a community within the city, depicts a picture-perfect suburban setting, with tall trees, beautiful homes, and quaint lampposts punctuating the streets – all of which combined laid the perfect groundwork for the protagonist’s teen and young adult years.

The Handmaid’s Tale

The gothic architecture of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, and the stone arches of the Main Street bridge set the ominous tone of the Republic of Gilead from the award-winning series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. During filming, Handmaids clad in red robes can be seen throughout the downtown in various locations, including the Mill Race Park, overlooking the Grand River, and Queen’s Square. In addition to many outdoor scenes, Cambridge’s City Hall council chambers was featured as a courtroom setting in an early episode of the series, while the famed downtown Farmer’s Market interior and exterior both appeared in later seasons.


The Cruickston Park Estate sits on almost 1000 acres of land, just a short distance from downtown Cambridge. The manor and estate boast a very rich history: rebuilt in the 1850’s as a summer home for a wealthy couple from New York City, the estate remained within the family for more than 100 years, passing from Matthew Wilks and his wife Eliza Astor Langdon, the original purchasers, to their daughter, and then finally to her nephew, who left the estate to the University of Guelph in his will. In the 1990’s, the University sold the manor and its acreage to the current owners, who aspire to preserve the land and manor. Luckily for film buffs, they have allowed the estate to appear in several different productions – most notably, perhaps, as the exterior of the home of Richard Dreyfuss’ character, Alexander Dunning, in the 2010 star-studded movie RED, which also featured Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich. Talk about some fancy house guests!

Murdoch Mysteries

The beloved Canadian series Murdoch Mysteries has also turned to the streets of Cambridge to bring its story to life. The city’s classic architecture transports viewers to Toronto in the late 1800’s, showcasing various houses in Galt, and iconic elements from the downtown, including the Main Street Bridge and Farmer’s Market, as William Murdoch unravels the truth behind the city’s grisliest crimes. The Riverside Bluffs Park, Mill Races Park, and Trinity Cemetery also all feature throughout the series, further setting the stage for Murdoch’s adventures. The same show creators also recently introduced the world to a new character and set of stories with the new Canadian hit (also partially filmed in Cambridge!), Frankie Drake Mysteries.

As they say in the movies, that’s a wrap on this quick preview of some of the star-studded movies and series that use Cambridge to help set the brilliant stage on which to tell their stories. But gorgeous architecture and beautiful backdrops aren’t all Cambridge has to offer. Just over an hour’s drive from Toronto, this city in Ontario has a rich history, expansive outdoor space, delectable restaurants, and tons of local businesses offering everything from home-made treats to one-of-a-kind treasures, all with cozy, small town hospitality.

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