Updated: 2017-11-12
facts about france featured photoThe Eiffel Tower. Delectable cuisine and the finest wines. Romantic Parisian strolls along the Seine.

Everyone knows France.

But do you really know France? From some basic trivia to more interesting and obscure details, here are a bunch of interesting facts about France and everything French, complete with sources and links to them so you know they’re legit.

General France Facts For Everyone

Here are some of the basic facts about France (population facts, size statistics, etc.):

  1. France is quite large – 640,679 km(247,368 mi2) when counting all of its overseas territories, making it the 42nd largest country by area.[Source]
  2. When you think of France, you probably imagine the nation right there in Western Europe, bordered by neighbors such as Spain and Italy. It’s true, but France also includes many overseas territories, such as islands in all oceans but the Arctic and territory in South America, among others.[1]
  3. Overseas France (la France d’outre-mer) is the term for the territories, regions, and collectivities of France outside Europe, collectively.[1] 
  4. Metropolitan France (France métropolitaine or la Métropole), or European France, is the term for the part of France in Europe. This includes the mainland, Corsica, and several nearby islands. This part without its overseas territories has an area of 551,695 km(213,011 mi2).[Source]
  5. With the Nazi arrival 1940 during WWII, France had to align its clocks an hour earlier with Germany. Prior, it was the same time as the UK to its north. This decision was not canceled.[source]
  6. France is the largest country in the European Union, even without its overseas territories (and 3rd in all of Europe, after Russia and Ukraine). But, if you calculate Greenland as part of Denmark, then France moves down to #2.

Want to learn more facts about France? For an overview, introduction, articles, history, statistics, and much more, check out the France Destination Guide »

flag of FranceSome Interesting Facts About the French Flag

  1. In 1790, when introduced, the colors of the French flag were in the opposite order: red, white, then blue. They were reversed to what we recognize today in 1794.[source]
  2. The nickname of the French flag is the Tricolor (tricolore).
  3. The hex color codes for the flag are #051440 (blue), #FFFFFF (white), and #EF4135 (red).
  4. The proportion of the flag is 2:3, and the color bands are equal in width. However, they used to be of the proportion 30:33:37.
  5. Blue and red are Paris’ traditional colors, while white has always been a French color.[1]

Want some more interesting trivia articles and lists of facts with sources? See our education category for other articles like this one »

Trivia and Facts about Nature and the Geography of France

Take a breath of fresh air with these facts about French natural resources, beauty, and geography.

    1. Russia is large, for sure, but thanks to its overseas territories, France spans 12 time zones, more than any other country in the world.[source]
    2. Which border is France’s longest? With Germany? Spain, perhaps? No. Actually, it’s with Brazil – which borders French Guiana for some 730km![source]
    3. West of the Caucasus Mountains, Mont Blanc (lit. white mountain) is the tallest point in Europe at 4808 m (15774 ft). It stands just on the border with Italy, so Italy claims it as its own as well (as Monte Bianco), and administration of the mountain is shared between Courmayeur (Italy) and Saint-Gervais-les-Bains (France); the larger portion of the mountain lies within the commune of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains.[source]
    4. France, because of its six-sided shape, is sometimes referred to as l’hexagone.
    5. France is slightly smaller than the size of the US state of Texas.[7]
    6. France has lots of green land area – more than 25% of its territory is covered with forest, and another 50% is countryside or farmland.[source]
    7. France, with all of its overseas territories, has the most unique maritime boundaries (53) and unique maritime neighbors (39) – first in the world for each.
    8. Out of its area, France has 52.7% agricultural land (arable land 33.4%; permanent crops 1.8%; permanent pasture 17.5%), 29.2% forest, and 18.1% other.[7]
    9. In Europe, France doesn’t share a border with the Netherlands. However, way over in the Caribbean, they share dominion over an island. Saint-Martin is the French northern half, while the southern part of Sint Maarten is a constituent country of the Netherlands.
    10. France has land borders with Suriname via French Guiana, as well.
    11. France has 18 regions divided into 13 metropolitan regions (Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comte, Brittany, Centre-Val de Loire, Corsica, Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France, Normandy, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie, Pays de la Loire, and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur) and 5 overseas regions (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion).[7]
    12. The 13 metropolitan regions are further subdivided into 96 metropolitan departments.[7]
    13. France has over 90 mammal species, 280 bird species, and 4,600 plant species.[source]
    14. Most of the major rivers (Meuse, Seine, Loire, Charente, Dordogne, Garonne) flow northward or westward into the Atlantic Ocean; only the Rhone flows south into the Mediterranean.[7]

Personable Facts about the French People

  1. The name France comes from the Latin Francia, referring to the “land of the Franks.” During this time, Francia included the whole Frankish Empire.[source]
  2. The origin of “Franks” is debated: some say it comes from the word frank meaning “free” in Germanic languages, while others say that it is the other way around.[source]
  3. The people of overseas France often call a mainlander métro, short for métropolitain.[1]
  4. France has had 16 people win the Nobel Prize in Literature, more than any other country.[source]
  5. France is the most ethnically diverse country in Europe.[1]
  6. Progressive AF (as France) – France remains a bastion of progress and human rights, and it isn’t hard to see why. Same-sex marriage has been legal in France since mid-2013, when they became the 13th country to legalize it.

Flavorful Facts About French Food

From the yummy to the disgusting, here are a few morsels on the cuisine of France.

  1. France is the first country to ban supermarkets from discarding unsold food, forcing them rather to donate it to charities and food banks.[source]
  2. More than 10 billion baguettes are sold in France per year! That’s about 155 per person each year.[6]
  3. France leads Europe in agricultural exports, with over 70 billion euros per year.[source]
  4. French baguettes can only include three ingredients (and a yeast): “a mix of wheat flours suitable for making bread, safe water and cooking salt.”[Decree n° 93-1074]
  5. The French eat more than 25,000 tons of snails per year, equivalent to about 700 million of them; 2 out of every 3 snails are consumed in France.[source]
  6. French fries probably originated in Belgium.[source]

Details About the Cities of France

Random (but exciting!) tidbits about city life and the urban areas of France.

  1. There are 6 municipalities in France with a mayor but no inhabitants.[source]
  2. Marseille is the second-largest city in France, but the oldest French city – it was built by the Greeks and founded in 600 BCE.[2]
  3. Béziers (575 BCE) and Agde (525 BCE) are the second- and third-oldest cities in France, respectively.[source]
  4. Paris famously had just one stop sign, located in the 16th arrondissement, but it has now been taken away.[source]
  5. “Confident that their city stood at the very centre of the world, Parisians were once given to referring to their country as having two parts, Paris and le désert, the wasteland beyond it.”.[source]
  6. Y is a commune in the Somme department in Hauts-de-France with the shortest name; their residents call themselves Ypsilonien(ne)s.[source]
  7. France has some town names that will satisfy the teenager in any of us. There’s Le Tampon (Réunion), Anus (Yonne), Gland (Yonne), and many others (Chatte, Bibiche, Vulvoz, Corps-Nuds, etc.).

Captivating Facts on French History

France has had an illustrious past; here are some notable instances from the history of France.

  1. Heads of state from France, the United States, Italy, Spain, and Austria were all assassinated by anarchists in less than a decade, from between 1892 and 1901. In the French case, the president of France, Marie François Sadi Carnot, was assassinated in Lyon on 25 June 1894 by an Italian anarchist named Sante Geronimo Caserio.[3]
  2. Some historians give the title of the “world’s shortest-reigning monarch” to Louis Antoine of France, Duke of Angoulême. His father, Charles X of France, apparently abdicated his throne during the July Revolution in 1830, and Louis Antoine technically was King of France and Navarre for less than 20 minutes before he, too, abdicated.[source]
  3. The Cairn of Barnenez is considered the oldest mausoleum in Europe and the oldest known construction in France.[source]
  4. When Beziers fell during the Albigensian Crusade in 1209, the victorious army, sanctioned by the church, came up with a novel idea on how to distinguish the town’s heretics from the Christians – Someone suggested to “Kill them all, for the Lord will know his own.”[5]
  5. The Palace of Versailles, with more than 700 rooms, was originally lit by over 3,000 candles.[6]
  6. World War I officially ended in Versailles, as that’s where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.[6]
  7. France has no official date of independence, though many might count: 486 (Merovingian unification of Frankish tribes); 10 August 843 (Western Francia established from Carolingian Empire division); 14 July 1789 (Bastille Day, French monarchy overthrown); 22 September 1792 (First French Republic founded); 4 October 1958 (Fifth French Republic established).[7]

Want to learn more about the history of France? Take a trip in our time machine as we explore French history »

Thought-Provoking Details About Transportation & Travel in France

Amusing facts about French transportation, from roads and highways to rail and public transport.

  1. In 1662, France became the first country to introduce a city public transport system, in Paris, connecting several neighborhoods. Blaise Pascal (who died soon after) conceived of this connected, horse-drawn carriage system, which were known as “omnibus” or “five-floor carriages.”[source]
  2. The omnibus would only appear again over 150 years later, in Nantes, though it is this city that gave the common term bus its name – the omnibus would stop outside a hatter named Omnès, and the name got shortened from there.[1]
  3. Trains go on the left in France due to rail originating in England; however, in Alsace-Lorraine, trains run on the right, because the region was German from 1870 to 1918.[source]
  4. Paris was voted as having the best transportation system in the world in 2016, with 100% of residents having good access to metro system.[source]
  5. With 245 stations and 14 lines for an area of ​​just 87 km², the Paris metro is one of the densest in the world; and with over 1.5 billion passengers per year, it is one of the busiest.[1]
  6. Thought the British liked their traffic circles? France is estimated to have over 30k roundabouts – more than any other country.[source]
  7. France comes in first as far as international visitors, with 84.5 million tourists in 2015.[4]
  8. Paris, the French capital, perennially ranks in the top 10 most visited cities (by international arrivals).[4]
  9. In Paris, the Louvre retains the title as the “world’s most visited museum” (over 9 million).[4]
  10. The Eiffel Tower holds the distinction as the “world’s most visited paid monument” (over 7 million).[4]
  11. Air France is the flag carrier airline of France.

French Language & Culture Facts

Some delightful facts on the language and culture of France.

  1. Catholicism is the predominant religion of France, with 64% of the population identifying as Roman Catholic.[IFOP 2009]
  2. Paris is where many of the world’s most renowned artists, including Monet, Degas, and Pissarro, sought inspiration.[source]
  3. Bastille Day is a big holiday in France, taking place ever 14 July to celebrate the date in 1789 when tyrannical rule ended.[source]
  4. December 26, or the 2nd day of Christmas, is a public holiday only in Alsace-Moselle.[source]
  5. Fete de la Federation is often incorrectly referred to as Bastille Day, as it is celebrated on 14 July (1790), as well.[7]

Interested in the French language? For free phrasebooks, pronunciation guides and more, visit our French Language Guide »

Facts About French Law & Government

Here are several oddities and trivia about French government and the law in France.

  1. Wallis and Futuna, an island territory of France, actually is comprised of three kingdoms, each with a king – so monarchy still exists in France even today.[source]
  2. France is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (along with the US, Russia, the UK, and China.[source]
  3. It’s forbidden to name a pig Napoleon in France.[source]
  4. You can marry a corpse. That’s right. Back in the 1950s, France legalized posthumous marriage (or necrogamy). A recent example of this was in May 2017, when Étienne Cardiles married his civil partner, FNP Captain Xavier Jugelé, more than five weeks after he died in a terrorist attack on the Champs Élysée.[source]

French Technology Facts

Take a look at some France facts on technology.

  1. France is a very nuclear country: it comes 2nd in the world for both number of nuclear reactors and gigawatt-hours supplied. However, it comes first in nuclear reactors per capita, and also first in total electricity produced by nuclear (74.8%).[source]
  2. Le Viaduc de Millau (the Millau Viaduct), located in southern France, holds the distinction of being the tallest bridge in the world, with the summit of one of its masts at 343 m (1125 ft) above its base.[source]
  3. The Eiffel Tower held the title of the “world’s tallest manmade structure” for over 40 years until the Chrysler Tower in NYC overtook it.
  4. In the French Navy, their radar ship le Monge is so powerful that it can detect a 2-euro coin up to 800 kilometers away.[source]

Originating in France

Facts about people, products, and other items of French origin.

  1. Nimes, in the south of France near the Mediterranean Sea, is the origin of denim (as in jeans). The fabric was originally termed serge de Nîmes, meaning serge (twill fabric) from Nîmes.[3]
  2. Jules Verne is one of the most beloved French authors, and the second most-translated author in the world after Agatha Christie.[UNESCO]
  3. Nicéphore Niépce developed heliography used to create the world’s oldest surviving product of a photographic process (1825); he is often called the “father of photography.”[source]
  4. Bernard Devauchell performed the world’s first partial face transplant on a living human on 27 November 2005.[source]
  5. Jean Baptiste Jolly offered a new service known as nettoyage à sec which became dry cleaning.[source]
  6. Tobacco didn’t originate in France, but nicotine is named after the tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum, which is named after the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot de Villemain, who sent tobacco to Paris in 1560.[8]

Famous Quotes on France from Famous People

“I am no more modern than I am ancient, no more French than Chinese; and the idea of la patrie, the fatherland—that is, the obligation to live on a bit of earth coloured red or blue on a map, and to detest the other bits coloured green or black—has always seemed to me narrow, restricted, and ferociously stupid.” – Gustave Flaubert

“England is an empire, Germany is a nation, a race, France is a person.” – Jules Michelet

“Only peril can bring the French together. One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.” – Charles de Gaulle


Liked these quotes? We’ve got some great travel quotes for inspiration right this way »

France Facts Citations

[1] Please note: Some sources were used more than once, so I chose not to link to them each time (I heard Google will only crawl the first 100 links or so, so I didn’t want to add some that would cause problems). Also, some sources might be unlinked because they are written texts (e.g., a state constitution).
[2] Ebel, Charles (1976). “Transalpine Gaul: the emergence of a Roman province”.
[3] O’Neill, Michael. The Best Bar Trivia Book Ever: All You Need for Pub Quiz Domination. Adams Media, 2014.
[4] WTO Tourism Highlights 2016
[5] Asimov, Isaac (1979). Isaac Asimov’s Book of Facts
[6] The Lonely Planet Kids Travel Book: Mind-Blowing Stuff on Every Country in the World (2015)
[7] CIA World Factbook
[8] Goldstein, Jack. 101 Amazing Facts About France.


So! What do you think of these French facts? Got any more to add to this list? If you do, leave a comment below, and if it checks out, we’ll gladly add it to the list! If you’re interested in further learning about France, check out the destination guide on our site for stories, photos, information, and even more facts.

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