Although The Handmaid's Tale is set in what was once the USA, now known as Gilead, these severe locations are actually filmed in the place that is meant to a safe haven in the show – Canada – which has been made to look similar to Massachusetts. They have also used key institution settings in Toronto including the Church of St Aidan, which is used as the site of the Red Centre, where a scene involving the children of Gilead was filmed at the Fairmount Royal York Hotel.
Much of the series is also filmed in Hamilton, a town in Canada, which is where Serena Joy and Commander Waterford's house is based. Other locations including Mill Race Park, Cambridge and the Galt neighbourhood are used as exterior shots.
In season three, the world of Gilead expands when the Waterfords and June travel to Washington DC, where the severe rules of the government are taken to another level, and many handmaids have their mouths pierced shut. Much of the filming for these episodes did indeed take place on location in the capital of the USA. Speaking to Harper's Bazaar, executive producer Warren Littlefield said: "You start with the Washington Monument and turn that into a Gilead cross—that one visual says it all. Then we go to the Lincoln Memorial, which of course is about freedom and emancipation. We destroy Lincoln, we rip him in half, we tear him out of the chair. We're left with a sense that those values, and what's on those walls, are no longer relevant… It was, I think, two of the most powerful days I've ever had working as a producer on this show."
He continued: "It was chilling and awe-inspiring, watching the sun come up two mornings in a row on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with runners going about their morning routine with their earbuds in, charging up the steps, only to look up and find us there. It's a national monument, it's not closed even though we're shooting there, so we had a lot of engagement with the public."