Romance. Period Drama. A binge-able TV show. The perfect combination. If you’re a period drama fanatic like we are at The Silver Petticoat Review, then you know just how much fun watching period drama television is. However, if you’ve yet to embrace the joy of binging a romantic period drama TV series, then you’re in for a treat.
We’ve rounded up 20 of the best and most romantic period drama TV series to watch of all time. From popular period drama shows like Downton Abbey to underrated series you should put on your watchlist, these choices include heart-thumping romance for you to swoon over.
Now, this list only includes TV shows. So, no miniseries or limited series (including most K-Dramas) on the list. That’s for another day. So, without further ado, in alphabetical order, here is our list of some (not all) of the best romantic period drama TV shows ever! Enjoy…
Note: Availability of the shows is based on U.S. availability and is subject to change. There are no affiliates in this post.
Romantic Period Drama TV Series to Watch
Acorn TV Synopsis: This “instantly irresistible saga” (Wall Street Journal) is brimming with secrets, passion, romance, and intrigue. Over six addictive seasons, A Place to Call Home explores the ties that hold families together and the betrayals that can tear them apart.
Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV, Hoopla or buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: This underrated Australian series is fantastically written with a perfect cast. Romance fans will enjoy a few different romances, though the best, in my opinion, belongs to the love story between Carolyn and Jack, played by real-life married couple Craig Hall and Sara Wiseman.
Besides the romance, the stories and characters will grab a hold of your heart and never let go. Plus, it’s entertaining, addictive, and binge-able.
Content Note: Episodes range between TV-PG to TV-MA. There is brief strong language, brief nudity, a few scenes of violence, and a few sex scenes throughout the entire six seasons.
Netflix Synopsis: Newly qualified midwife Jenny Lee arrives in the East End to embark on a challenging career alongside an order of nursing nuns.
Where to Watch: You can stream most seasons on Netflix and one season on Hoopla. You can buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: If you enjoy heartwarming period dramas with amazing female characters, this British show is a must-see. While the series is heartbreaking at times, it’s also full of romance and female friendships.
Romance fans have romances between Chummy (played by the always wonderful Miranda Hart) and the PC Peter, a love story between a nun and a Doctor, the optimistic and kind Barbara with the handsome Reverend Tom, and more.
Whether you enjoy the happily-ever-after stories or the tragic romances, you’ll have plenty to love.
Content Note: TV-14 for intense birthing scenes and thematic elements.
Amazon Synopsis: Downton Abbey — a sprawling, lavish Edwardian mansion nestled in the Yorkshire landscape — needs an heir. Dame Maggie Smith stars as Violet, the stubborn Dowager Countess of Grantham matriarch of Downton. Hugh Bonneville stars as her son, the stoic, unflappable Lord Crawley. Elizabeth McGovern is his far-sighted American wife, Cora. From Academy Award-winner Julian Fellowes. This is the original un-edited UK version of the program.
Where to Watch: You can stream on Amazon Prime or PBS Passport. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: The British period drama TV series has become a pop culture phenomenon for a reason. The show is unabashedly romantic, entertaining, and fun to watch. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself becoming obsessed with it and even planning trips to go see the real Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle).
Also, you’ll want to be all caught up before the new movie comes to theaters later this year!
Content Note: TV-PG/TV-14 for implied sexuality, mild innuendo, and mild violence.
Amazon Synopsis: Dr. Michaela “Mike” Quinn, daughter of a doctor, leaves her stable life in Boston — answering an ad for a town doctor in Colorado Springs.
Where to Watch: You can stream on Amazon Prime or buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: One of the main reasons I watched this show as a kid was for the love story between Dr. Quinn and Sully! And while this show is on the cheesy side, it’s an enjoyable ’90s series the whole family can enjoy. Jane Seymour is always fabulous too. So, if you’re looking for good, old-fashioned entertainment with a female lead, this is a great choice.
Content Note: TV-PG for mild violence and suspenseful situations.
NBC Synopsis: Golden Globe winner Jonathan Rhys Meyers (“The Tudors”) stars in this provocative new drama as one of the world’s most iconic characters. It’s the late 19th century, and the mysterious Dracula has arrived in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian society.
He’s especially interested in the new technology of electricity, which promises to brighten the night – useful for someone who avoids the sun. But he has another reason for his travels: he hopes to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries earlier. Everything seems to be going according to plan…until he becomes infatuated with a woman who appears to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.
Where to Watch: You can stream for free at NBC.com. You can also buy the series on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: While the series was canceled after season one, it’s worth watching if you enjoy a mix of British period drama, romantic vampires, and steampunk. The love story is charming, Jonathan Rhys Meyers broods brilliantly as the Byronic monster, and the supporting characters are excellent.
Content Note: TV-14 for sexuality (though not too explicit), violence, and intense scenes.
Netflix Synopsis: When Julio Olmedo discovers his sister Cristina has vanished from the Grand Hotel under suspicious circumstances, he poses as a waiter to learn more.
Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix.
Why You Should Watch: Because it’s one of the best, most swoon-worthy romantic period dramas of all time! It has everything from the star-crossed romance to murder mystery to shocking twists and more. You won’t be able to stop watching this excellent period drama.
Word of mouth made this Spanish series so popular, numerous remakes have popped up around the world including a new contemporary American version. But don’t miss out on watching the original – it’s by far the best!
Not to mention, romantic leading man, Yon Gonzalez could give Aidan Turner a run for his money!
Content Note: TV-PG for brief sexuality, sensuality, and suspense.
Acorn TV Synopsis: Set in the 1950s, this Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated BBC drama delves into the high-stakes world of TV news. Ben Whishaw (Spectre), Romola Garai (Emma), and Dominic West (The Affair) headline an all-star cast that includes Anna Chancellor (Ordeal by Innocence) and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who). “Among the best of [its] genre…with a style and intelligence all its own” – The New York Times.
Where to Watch: Stream on Acorn TV or buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: The slow-burn romance between Bel and Freddie builds to an epic climax, showcasing the undeniable chemistry between Garai and Whishaw. And while The Hour was unfairly canceled after season 2, the brilliance of this series can’t be understated. This is the romantic period drama TV series to watch if you enjoy thinking shows.
Content Note: TV-14 for sexuality, violence, and language.
BritBox Synopsis: Rich, funny and emotional, the first season follows the relationship of two contrasting communities. Seen through the eyes of young Laura, their inhabitants endure many upheavals and struggles as the inexorable change comes; their stories by turns poignant, spirited and uplifting.
Where to Watch: You can stream on Hulu, BritBox, or BritBox on Amazon Channels. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: Because it will become your one weakness! (This reason will become clear once you’ve seen the series.) Kidding aside, this is one of the best period drama TV shows due to the memorable romances, the interesting, layered characters, and brilliant emotional stories. With a top-notch cast including popular period drama favorites and excellent writing, you can’t go wrong with this series.
Content Note: TV-PG. Safe viewing for the entire family.
Amazon Synopsis: Based on real events, Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of a distinctive cast of characters – doctors, nurses, contraband laborers and Southern loyalists – realizing the chaotic world of Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia, and the Mansion House Hospital in the early years of the Civil War.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, PBS Passport. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: While the series starts a little slow, it picks up the pace and includes a few different intriguing romances. It’s also got a great story with a good cast and the series has a fantastic ending.
Content Note: TV-14 for implied rape, violence and intense medical scenes, and brief strong language.
IMDB Synopsis: A female sleuth sashays through the back lanes and jazz clubs of Melbourne in the late 1920s, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger sharp wit.
Where to Watch: Netflix, Hoopla, Acorn TV. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: For Miss Fisher’s wit, her incredible costumes, and for the synergistic romance between Detective Jack and Phryne Fisher! There’s also a cute romance between her assistant, Dot, and the adorable Hugh Collins. This romantic murder mystery series became an international hit because it’s fabulous! It was so popular, in fact, fans from around the world recently crowdfunded a new movie coming out sometime this year or next.
Content Note: TV-14 for sensuality, innuendo, brief strong language, and intense situations.
IMDB Synopsis: Centers on the real-life story of the flamboyant and visionary American founder of Selfridge’s, London’s department store.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, PBS Passport. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: While many feel Jeremy Piven was miscast as the lead, the series as a whole is superb. With romance and engaging drama, you can’t go wrong with this romantic period drama TV show.
Katherine Kelly and Amanda Abbington are scene-stealers and the romance between Agnes and Henry is passionate and charming.
Content Note: TV-14 but overall series is mild.
IMDB Synopsis: An English combat nurse from 1945 is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743.
Where to Watch: Starz and Netflix. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: For the epic Claire and Jamie romance! While I personally find the show too explicit, the amazing love story across time is undeniable and the writing is excellent.
Content Note: TV-MA for explicit sexuality, violence, nudity, and language.
Amazon Synopsis of The Paradise: Made homeless by the death of her father and with nothing to live on but her wits, Denise comes from the country to work in the spectacularly glamorous Ladies Paradise, England’s first department store. So begins our rags-to-riches story of a young girl who falls in love with the intoxicating and dangerous charms of the modern world.
Acorn TV Synopsis of Il Paradiso Delle Signore (The Ladies’ Paradise): Italian with English subtitles. Based on the same Emile Zola novel that inspired the hit series The Paradise, this Italian-language import follows Teresa Iorio, a young woman who leaves her rural Sicilian hometown for Milan. Teresa finds work–and much more–at a newly opened department store: The Ladies’ Paradise.
Where to Watch: The Paradise is available to buy on digital or DVD. You can stream the Italian series on Acorn TV.
Why You Should Watch: Both shows are based on the classic French novel. One series is a British adaptation, the other Italian. While there are some similarities between the two shows – they both tell unique stories separate from the novel and from each other.
While the British one is my favorite of the two due to the fantastic Moray and Denise romance, the Italian series is also good – though the leading man is a bit more roguish.
Content Note: The British series is TV-PG-like while the Italian series feels closer to TV-14 with some episodes in the TV-MA range due to sexuality.
14. Poldark (2015-2019)
Amazon Synopsis: It’s 1783 and Ross Poldark returns from the American War of Independence to his beloved Cornwall to find his world in ruins: his father dead, the family mine long since closed, his house wrecked and his sweetheart pledged to marry his cousin. But Ross finds that hope and love can be found when you are least expecting it.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime, PBS Passport. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: For the epic romance between Ross and Demelza! Plus, Aidan Turner as a period drama leading man is one of the best. He broods like Heathcliff and brings his best acting to the performance. Besides Turner, the rest of the cast also shines. Overall, it’s a brilliant romantic period drama series based on a series of popular novels.
Content Note: TV-14 for sensuality, mild violence, and intense scenes.
15. Reign (2013-2017)
IMDB Synopsis: Mary, Queen of Scots, faces political and sexual intrigue in the treacherous world of the French court.
Where to Watch: Stream on Netflix or buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: If you prefer historical accuracy, this is not the show for you! However, if you enjoy YA romance, historical fantasy, and Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables), then this is a fun, entertaining show.
Megan Follows as Catherine de Medici and Craig Parker as Narcisse play the sympathetic villains/heroes and steal the show with their conniving plotting and zippy one-liners. Trust me, if you miss these two actors on screen together, you’re missing out.
But what about the romance? Well, this show is by definition a romance – the most important romance between Mary and Francis. But there is plenty of love to go around.
Content Note: TV-14 for sexuality, violence, and mild profanity.
Official Synopsis: A young girl (Sarah Polley) is sent to live with her mother’s relatives in Prince Edward Island. Set in the early 1900’s, the series follows her adventures, as well as that of her family and the town’s people as she grows up in Avonlea.
Where to Watch: Buy digitally from Gazebo TV. You can also buy the series on DVD.
Why You Should Watch: If you loved the ’80s Anne of Green Gables, then the spin-off TV series is a must-see. The show is sweet, inspiring, and nostalgic. It’s also well-written with fantastic romances (Gus and Felicity!), amazing characters, and memorable stories. It’s my personal favorite show of all time. Whenever I need to de-stress, this is the show I watch!
Content Note: TV-G/PG. It’s safe for the entire family.
Viki Synopsis of Scarlet Heart: After a terrible car accident, 25-year-old Zhang Xiao (Liu Shi Shi) travels from modern-day China back to the 18th century. She is incarnated as one of her previous lives – that of 16-year-old Maertai Rouxi, the daughter of a Manchu general, during the Qing Dynasty.
Wikipedia Synopsis of Scarlet Heart Ryeo: During a total solar eclipse, a 25-year-old 21st-century woman, Go Ha-jin (Lee Ji-eun), is transported back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty. She wakes up in the year of 941 in the body of Hae Soo, among the many royal princes of the ruling Wang family.
She initially falls in love with the gentle and warm-hearted 8th Prince Wang Wook (Kang Ha-neul), and later Wang So (Lee Joon-gi), the fearsome 4th Prince who hides his face behind a mask and is given the derogatory label of “wolf dog.” As the story develops, Hae Soo finds herself unwittingly caught between the rivalry and politics among the princes over the fight for the throne.
Where to Watch: Watch Scarlet Heart on Viki. Currently, you can only buy Scarlet Heart Ryeo on DVD due to the shutdown of Dramafever. But, hopefully, the show will become available again in the near future.
Why You Should Watch: If you enjoy time-travel romance and/or historical romance both the Chinese and Korean adaptations are excellent. I personally prefer the Korean one but it’s all dependent on your personal taste! The Chinese series has two seasons while the Korean only one. The latter has a cliffhanger and no word of a season two has yet happened. So, it’s unlikely to at this point. Thankfully, it’s not hard to guess what happens next.
Content Note: TV-14 for violence.
IMDB Synopsis: The love story of Kurt Seyit, an army major, and Sura, a Russian woman.
Where to Watch: Netflix.
Why You Should Watch: For the epic love story! This Turkish series is both romantic and entertaining. It’s also inspired by a true story. So, if you’re looking to dip your toes into a foreign period drama TV series, this is a fantastic choice.
Content Note: TV-14
Amazon Synopsis: Created by Daisy Goodwin, this ambitious drama presents the early years of one of history’s greatest monarchs.
Where to Watch: PBS Passport and Amazon Prime. You can also buy on digital and DVD.
Why You Should Watch: This is one of the better romantic period drama TV series. No one does period drama better than the British and this is a great example of that. With gorgeous costumes, unforgettable romances, and an entertainment factor, this is a must-see series.
Content Note: TV-PG for sensuality and intense scenes.
IMDB Synopsis: Elizabeth Thatcher, a young school teacher from a wealthy Eastern family, migrates from the big city to teach school in a small coal-mining town in the west.
Where to Watch: Netflix. You can also buy on digital or DVD.
Why You Should Watch: If you enjoy Hallmark romances, then you’ll likely enjoy their romantic period drama series! While it’s on the cheesy side, it’s a fun show to watch with the whole family. And the romance is good too.
Content Note: TV-G
What is your favorite romantic period drama TV series? Do you have other recommendations? Let us know in the comments!
Photo credit: BBC, Acorn, ITV, Antena 3, STARZ