For fans of shows like Game of Thrones and Outlander, this can be an especially difficult time. The long wait for these two shows—which both traffic in intrigue and inspiration taken from the history books—to make their return feels like an eternity. As you await the upcoming seasons, we advise you to tread unknown waters, and bravely cross the oceans to discover some excellent foreign TV series. From Europe to Asia, from Brazil to South Africa, here are 10 shows—some old, some new—to track down and start watching now.
This addictive historical fiction soap opera has taken Eastern Europe by storm, almost as much as its protagonist, Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, did in the 1500s. The show is based on the story of a Ukranian woman, Roxelana, who gets captured and taken to serve as a slave in Topkapi Palace in Constantinople. She’s forced to join the Sultan’s Harem, but once there, sets out to conquer more than his heart – and eventually displaces his wife, and takes her place next to the Sultan as his Sultana.
Canal + (French) and Ovation (US)
For those who love films shot in France but hate subtitles, you’re in luck! This Franco-Canadian production chose to film the show in English in order to make it internationally accessible. Set in the court of Louis XIV, the series focuses on the original intent for Versailles Palace—a gilded cage for King Louis to manage his courtiers. Versailles premiered last year in France and Canada, and is coming to the US’ Ovation Channel on October 1, 2016.
Based on the historical fiction series, The Saxon Stories, BBC’s The Last Kingdom brings to life a time before there was an England. Set in the 9th century, the show follows the various kingdoms on the British Isles and a young boy, Uhtred, who is born a Saxon but raised as a Dane. The plot itself isn’t based on the history of any single individual, but rather, on the birth of a nation.
Starring Greece’s legendary actress, Aliki Vouiouklaki, the series captures the life of the first Queen of Greece, Amalia. In the early 1800s, Greece fought and won its independence, ending the Ottoman occupation. Then came the question of who would rule the country. Only a person of royal blood could rule a kingdom, and as the Greek Royal bloodline had been exterminated, a foreign royal monarch was appointed to rule, King Otto of Bavaria, and his wife, Amalia of Oldenburg. The series follows the struggles of the Queen, who was at first beloved, and then bemoaned.
India is famous for its entertaining Bollywood films, but its TV series also have some golden nuggets. The series, Veer Shivaji, recounts the history of the Maratha Warrior King, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, of the 17th century. Familial bonds and love for country made up much of the plot, though the series did suffer after the lead actor was re-cast.
South African Broadcasting Company
In the early 1800s, Shaka became the monarch of the Zulu kingdom, mobilizing tribes into an empire. Starring Henry Cele, the South African series presents the tale of the almost mythical figure. Produced during apartheid and based on the writings of British Traders of Shaka’s time, the series has a unilateral perspective, and as a result, when portraying the Zulus, the tone of the storytelling often dips into mystical stereotypes.
For those who love mysteries and period pieces, look no further than the addictive Swedish series, Anno 1790. It’s the captivating story of an intelligent young man and atheist, Johan Gustav Dåådh, who joins the Stockholm police force, hoping to elevate it with inspiration from the French revolution and the new waves of ideas of his time.
Empresses in the Palace is another series set in a harem, although in a different country. The 2011 Chinese series follows the story of young Zhen Huan, who becomes a concubine in Emperor Yongzheng’s harem during the Qing Dynasty. Along with a huge fan following, the series has been praised for keeping the time period historically correct, even in the most minute of details.
Miyamoto Musashi was a legendary samurai in 17th century Japan. He had the brains to match his brawns, and wrote the still widely read Book of Five Rings. Several films and series have been made, based on his fascinating story, and this is the most recent one from 2014, starring actor Takuya Kimura. After suffering persecution, he sets out and begins traveling and training as a warrior. The show follows his adventures and encounters with many other masters of the sword.
Brazil is known for its telenovelas, and one of its most popular series was the Terra Nostra saga. Set at the turn of the 20th century, the show follows two Italian immigrants, who return to Brazil to work on a coffee plantation after the country abolishes slavery.
Madina Papadopoulos is a New York-based freelance writer, author, and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter.