Language: French

Currency: Euro

Calling Code: 33


France (French Republic) is a democratic, intercontinental unitary state in Western Europe with overseas territories on several continents.

Metropolitan France, d. H. the European part of the national territory stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. Its mainland is called Hexagone (hexagon) because of the shape of the country. France is the largest in terms of area and the second largest in terms of population (after Germany) in the European Union. It is the third largest national territory in Europe (after Russia and Ukraine). Paris is the capital and, as an agglomeration with the Métropole du Grand Paris and the surrounding areas of the Île-de-France region, it is the largest conurbation in the country ahead of Lyon, Marseille-Aix-en-Provence, Lille and Toulouse.

Emerging from the western part of the Frankish Empire, France expanded its cultural and military influence in Europe during the Middle Ages, mostly in rivalry with the Kingdom of England and the Holy Roman Empire, until France eventually assumed European leadership and power in the 17th and 18th centuries held supremacy.

The political and cultural charisma was significant: the court of Louis XIV became the model for absolutist states throughout Europe and the French Revolution with the declaration of human and civil rights, together with occupations by Napoleon Bonaparte, gave the prelude to the repeated von Setbacks interrupted development towards democracy.

Overseas, France twice built a colonial empire. The first included i.a. large parts of North America and was largely lost in the Seven Years' War in the mid-18th century; the second, centered in Africa, was the second largest in the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 21st century, France, together with Germany, is seen as the driving force behind European integration.

The French Republic is declared in its constitution as indivisible, secular, democratic and social. Its principle is: "government of the people, by the people and for the people". The United Nations Development Program ranks France among the countries with a very high level of human development. Measured by nominal gross domestic product, it is the seventh largest economy in the world. The standard of living, level of education and average life expectancy are considered high. As the most visited country in the world, France welcomes around 83 million foreign tourists a year.

The French armed forces are among the seven strongest in the world and are the third strongest in NATO. The country is the European Union's only nuclear power, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and in 2010 had the third highest number of nuclear weapons in the world. It is a founding member of the European Union and the United Nations, a member of the Francophonie, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Latin Union.



Metropolitan France is made up of 13 administrative regions which can be grouped into 6 major “cultural regions”:
Île-de-France — The region surrounding the French capital, Paris.
Hauts-de-France — A region where the world wars have left many scars.
Northeastern France — A region where European culture (and especially Germanic culture) has merged with French, resulting in some interesting results.
North-West France — An oceanic agricultural region with a culture heavily influenced by Celtic peoples.
South West France — A region of sea and wine with beautiful beaches on the Atlantic Ocean and the high mountains of the Pyrenees near Spain.
South-East France — The country's main tourist region outside of Paris with a warm climate and azure blue seas, contrasting with the mountain ranges of the French Alps.

The Overseas Departments and Regions (DROM) (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana, Reunion and Mayotte) and the Overseas Collectivities (COM) (French Polynesia, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre -et-Miquelon, Wallis-et-Futuna and New Caledonia) are treated separately given their geographical distance from mainland France.



1 Paris (Île-de-France) – Capital of France and love (last update Feb. 2018)
2 Bordeaux (Gironde) – A very dynamic Gironde city, it is the world capital of wine.
3 Lyon (Rhône) – Third largest city in France, it is often cited as the capital of gastronomy
4 Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) – Second largest city in France, and renowned for its port and its soap. There are the famous Calanques and there is a Provençal and cosmopolitan atmosphere.
5 Montpellier (Hérault) – Dynamic city near the Mediterranean famous for its opera, its gardens, its universities and its new districts of modern design.
6 Nantes (Loire-Atlantique) – Located at the mouth of the Loire, it was formerly the capital of Brittany.
7 Nice (Alpes-Maritimes) – Heart of the Côte d'Azur; its beach and its Promenade des Anglais are popular.
8 Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin) – Capital of Alsace and major center of the European Union, which mixes French and Germanic cultures.
9 Toulon (Haute-Garonne) – The “pink city” is home to typical South-West gastronomy and a really lively nightlife.



Altogether there are 18 administrative regions in France. Of these, 13 regions are in Europe – La France métropolitaine, i.e. the French “motherland” – and these are divided into 96 departments. 5 administrative regions belong to the French overseas territories. There are also other French overseas territories that are not divided into administrative regions. For better clarity and because the administrative regions often combine very different cultural and scenic areas, Wikivoyage uses travel regions that are largely based on the regional classification up to 2015.

The Île-de-France, with its capital Paris, is the political and economic center of France. With around 11 million inhabitants, the Paris metropolitan area is the largest in the country.
The north - the region in which the two world wars have left many traces
Hauts-de-France (Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie travel regions)

In the east one experiences the gradual transition of the French culture with the German-speaking area.
Grand-Est (travel regions Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne)

The West is a climatically and culturally Atlantic region where the ancient Celts left their mark.
Pays de la Loire

Central France is a mainly agricultural region with the Massif Central, river valleys, castles and historic towns.
Centre-Loire Valley
Burgundy-Franche-Comté (Travel Regions Burgundy and Franche-Comté)
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (travel regions Auvergne, Rhône Valley and French Alps)

Southern France – next to Paris, the country's most important tourist region. Here the blue sea abruptly alternates with the high peaks of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
New Aquitaine (travel regions Aquitaine with Dordogne and Basque Country, Poitou-Charentes and Limousin)
Occitania (Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon travel regions)
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Republic of France also includes five overseas regions that are heirs to the former French colonial empire. They are each congruent with a department:
Guadeloupe - archipelago in the Caribbean
Martinique - island in the Caribbean
French Guiana – mainland area in north-eastern South America
Réunion - tropical volcanic island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean
Mayotte - small island between Madagascar and the East African mainland

There are also the following overseas territories:
French Polynesia - archipelago in the South Pacific
New Caledonia - archipelago in the South Pacific
Wallis and Futuna - archipelago in the South Pacific
Saint Pierre and Miquelon - small group of islands off Newfoundland in the Atlantic
Saint-Martin - the north of the divided island of Saint-Martin/Sint-Maarten in the Caribbean
Saint-Barthélemy - Island in the Caribbean
Île Clipperton - uninhabited atoll in the Pacific
Saint Paul and Amsterdam
Crozet Islands
Îles Eparses


Important Numbers

2 Ave Gabriel, 75008 Paris
Tel. 02- 43 12 22 22
35 Rue du Faubourg
St.- Honore, 75008 Paris
18bis Rue d'Anjou 75008 Paris
Tel. 01- 44 51 31 00

35 Ave Montaigne, 75008 Paris
Tel. 01- 44 43 29 00
4 Rue Jean Rey, 75015 Paris
Tel. 01- 40 59 33 00

Emergency numbers:
Ambulance (SAMU): 15
Fire (Sapeurs Pompiers): 18
Police (Gendarmerie): 17


Getting here

Citizens of a Member State of the European Economic Area (European Union + Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) can move freely on French territory with a national identity card.

France is part of the Schengen area. There are no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty - the European Union (except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. There is therefore no border control between France and Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. Similarly, a visa granted by any member state of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. But beware, not all EU members have signed the Schengen Treaty, and not all members of the Schengen area are part of the European Union. This means that there may be customs checks but no immigration checks between France and Switzerland (travelling within Schengen, but from/to a non-EU country) or you may have to go through immigration checks , but not customs between Great Britain and France (travelling within the EU but from/to a non-Schengen country).

Obtaining a residence permit in France or Monaco allows foreigners to travel indifferently in the two States; visas valid for all Schengen States are also valid for Monaco; similarly, the visas required for entry into the territory of the Principality are issued by the authority empowered to issue visas valid for French territory.

Airports in Europe are thus divided into 'Schengen' and 'non-Schengen', which operate in the same way as the 'domestic' and 'international' sections found elsewhere. If you travel outside of Europe to one Schengen country and continue to another, you pass immigration and customs controls in a first country and then continue to your destination without further control. Travel between a Schengen member country and a non-Schengen country results in normal border controls. Note that it doesn't matter if you are traveling within the Schengen area or not, many airlines ask to see your identity card or passport.

Citizens of Switzerland and the European Economic Area which includes the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein only need a valid national identity card or passport. They do not need a visa to enter or move around the Schengen area and are generally allowed to stay as long as they wish.

(1) Nationals of these countries need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

(2) Serbian nationals with a passport issued by the Serbian Coordination Directorate (residents of Kosovo with Serbian passport) need a visa.

(3) Taiwan nationals need their ID card number (a letter followed by nine digits) to be stated in their passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to enter the Schengen area: Albania(1), Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina(1), Brazil , Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Costa Rica, Dominica, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, United States, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, North Macedonia(1), Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova(1), Monaco, Montenegro(1), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saint Marin, Serbia(1,2), Seychelles, Singapore, Taiwan(3) (Republic of China), East Timor, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela as well as holders of a Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR passport and all UK nationals (including non-EU citizens).

Visa-free travelers mentioned above who are not members of the EEA or Switzerland cannot stay for more than 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area as a whole and, in general, cannot work in the during their stay (although some Schengen countries allow certain nationalities to work). The counting of days begins once one enters one of the Schengen countries and does not return to zero when leaving one Schengen country for another.
Citizens of New Zealand can stay for more than 90 days, but without working if they do not have a work permit, in certain countries of the Schengen area, namely Germany, Austria, Benelux, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland

If you are not a national of the EEA or Switzerland, even if you are visa-exempt, unless you are Andorran, Monegasque, San Marino or Vatican, make sure your passport is stamped at the same time when you enter and leave the Schengen area. Without an entry stamp, you may be treated as overstayed when trying to leave the Schengen area. Without an exit stamp, you may be refused entry the next time you seek to enter the Schengen area as you may be deemed to have overstayed on your previous visit. If you cannot obtain a stamp in the passport, keep documents such as boarding passes, transport tickets, etc. which can help convince border control personnel that you have been in the Schengen area legally.

If you need a visa, always apply at the embassy. There is no chance of getting a visa at the French border, no matter how you enter or what your nationality is.

The Schengen area entry points in France are international airports, ports, Eurostar and Channel Tunnel terminals as well as the land border with Andorra. Customs controls are maintained between France and Switzerland and between France and Andorra.

By bus
This solution is not too expensive and often practical because the bus stops in the city center.

Many regular bus lines serve Paris and major French cities from all over Europe.

By plane
The main airports are those of Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Nice, Toulouse, Lyon, and Marseille.

Most international flights to Paris serve Roissy - Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport located near Paris. But many European or transatlantic flights or to North Africa also serve Orly airport.

Although some Air France domestic flights are from CDG airport, most of the company's domestic flights are operated from Orly, the second largest airport in Paris. Connections on the CDG platform are made using the CDGVAL shuttle (free) which serves all terminals, stations, car parks and hotels. Connections at Orly are provided (free of charge for AF passengers) by an AF bus. The two airports are also connected by the metro (RER), a little cheaper and faster but difficult to use with bulky luggage. AF also has connection agreements with certain TGVs (see below). The TGV station is located in terminal 2 and is on the free shuttle circuit. To go to Paris, click on Paris.

Other airports have international flights: Paris - Orly, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Nice, Toulouse and Toulon have some flights to Europe or North Africa; these airports allow connections to other smaller airports. Finally two airports are shared with Switzerland, that of Basel-Mulhouse and that of Geneva, they allow entry into one or the other of these countries.

Some low-cost companies including Wizzair, Ryanair use Beauvais-Tillé airport, located 80 km northwest of Paris. A bus service to Paris is organized by the airlines. See timetables and prices on their website.

The RER (regional express metro) and several bus lines (Orlybus, Roissybus, Air France coaches) connect Orly and Roissy airports to Paris.

For a table of French airports with flights to/from Great Britain and North America including Canada: Air links with France in English.

On a boat
The main ports where you can disembark are:

There are many exchanges with Great Britain, so there are many ports welcoming ferries all along the Channel coast: Roscoff, Saint-Malo, Cherbourg, Ouistreham (Caen), Le Havre, Dieppe, Dunkirk , Boulogne sur mer and Calais. Departures for cruises to Corsica, Sardinia or the Mediterranean basin departing from Toulon, Nice or Marseille. In addition, the ports of Corsica serve Italy.

By train
France has special lines to different countries:
Eurostar (from England) (the trip from Paris to London takes 2 hours 15 minutes).
Lyria (from Switzerland)
Thalys (from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands)
ICE (from Germany)

Attention ! International TGVs are subject to special pricing which can be high. For example, a Paris-London one-way ticket can easily cost €200.

Night trains connect Paris to a few other European cities, including:
Venice and Milan in Italy;
Vienna and Salzburg in Austria (from December 2021)

By car
Several European routes make it possible to arrive in France:
from Germany
European Route 50 (E50)
the European route 52 (E52), arriving in Strasbourg,
the European route 54 (E54), starting from Munich, arriving in Paris,

from Belgium
the European route 17 (E17), starting from Antwerp,
European route 19 (E19), passing through Brussels, arriving in Paris,
the European route 40 (E40), passing through Brussels, arriving at Calais,
European route 42 (E42), passing through Liège, arriving at Dunkirk,
the European route 46 (E46), starting from Liège, arriving at Cherbourg,
the European route 411 (E411),
the European route 420 (E420),

from Spain
European route 5 (E5), starting from Algeciras, passing through Madrid, Bordeaux and Paris,
European route 7 (E7), via the Somport road tunnel,
European route 9 (E9), starting from Barcelona,
the European route 15 (E15), starting from Algeciras, and following the Mediterranean coast,
European route 70 (E70), along the Spanish Atlantic coast,
European route 80 (E80), passing through San Sebastian,

from Italy
the European route 25 (E25), passing through Genoa,
the European route 27 (E27), starting from Algeciras, and following the Mediterranean coast,
the European route 74 (E74), starting from Alessandria, arriving in Nice,

from Luxembourg
the European route 25 (E25), passing through Luxembourg,
European route 29 (E29), passing through Luxembourg,
the European route 44 (E44), passing through Luxembourg, arriving in Le Havre,

from Switzerland
the European route 23 (E23), starting from Lausanne,
European route 25 (E25), passing through Geneva,
the European route 27 (E27), passing through Bern, arriving at Belfort,
European route 60 (E60), passing through Zurich and Basel,
European route 62 (E62), passing through Lausanne and Geneva,
the European route 712 (E712), starting from Geneva, towards Marseille,


Transport around the country

By plane

The main cities of France are linked together by internal lines but this remains expensive. It is often easier and cheaper to take the train, except to go through charter and low-cost companies and to book your ticket well in advance.


By train

France has an extensive rail network that allows you to get to where you want quite easily. The plane, however, often saves time, especially to connect regional capitals between them.

Be aware that at European level, French trains are far from holding the top spot, whether in terms of efficiency or quality. Many connections previously served by the coral train with optional reservation have now been replaced by the coral Téoz with compulsory reservation whose pricing is also different and more complicated. Be aware that in addition to the comfort level (in 2nd class) it is of a lower quality than the old classic corals. The extension of the TGV network is gradually removing services by normal trains, which often forces users to move towards the TGV, which leads to a higher cost and can also lead to detours (example of Nevers-Lyon via Paris or still Lille-Rouen via Paris), the rates being established per kilometer, the detour therefore leads to a price increase which can quickly be significant.

As for the pricing system, it works on a “first come” basis. That is to say that the earlier the ticket is taken, the less expensive it is (example of Paris-Toulouse at 17 €) and the later it is taken, the more expensive it is. A ticket taken at the last moment at the station can be extremely expensive for various reasons that are more or less valid for users.

If you have a reduction card, be aware that the regular timetable for blue and white periods (strong reduction in blue period and weak or not valid in white period) only applies to TER (regional trains which have nothing express). For Téoz and TGV, the number of places at the reduced rate is limited to a number unknown to the public. It is therefore impossible to organize yourself to get on the train which entitles you to the reduction (reduction most often granted by the prior purchase of a card) unless you consult the SNCF website beforehand (which can, again be difficult given the repeated bugs). Little tip, although for the prices there is only the website or the SNCF counter, if you only want to consult the timetables, you can go to the Swiss railways website (by typing SBB or CFF or FFS in the search bar of the browser) which gives you in a much simpler, clearer and more precise way the timetables of the trains. The SNCF's Gares en mouvement site allows real-time monitoring of train departures and arrivals (and therefore any delays). This information is also available on smartphones using the free SNCF Direct application.

But despite all these little inconveniences, the train remains a good way to move around the country (knowing that no bus connection is nationwide) provided you organize well in advance (for adventurers who like to leave on a whim, prefer hitchhiking. It's longer but much cheaper than a ticket taken just before departure...)

France has a high-speed train ( or ) with its own network on certain axes (the speed is then around 300 km /h). They can compete with airplanes.

Some travel times by TGV:
Paris - Lille: 1 hour
Paris - Lyon: 2 hours
Paris - Nantes: 2 hours
Paris - Strasbourg: 2h20
Paris - Saint-Etienne: 3 hours
Paris - Grenoble: 3 hours
Paris - Marseilles: 3 hours
Paris - Bordeaux: 2 h 10
Nantes - Lyon: 4h20
Paris - Nice: 5:20 a.m.
Paris - Aix-en-Provence: 3 hours

It is often simpler, cheaper and faster to choose the train rather than the plane for national travel.

The main lines of the country are:
Paris - Toulouse via Limoges by coral Téoz and Lunéa (night train) or via Bordeaux (geographically less direct but faster) by TGV
Paris - Marseille via Lyon by TGV (the connection via Clermont-Ferrand having been canceled in 2007)
Paris - Clermont-Ferrand by Intercités (the link to Béziers was canceled in 2007)
Paris - Nantes and Paris - Rennes by TGV
Paris - Bordeaux - Biarritz by TGV
Paris - Lille by TGV
Lille - Lyon - Marseille by TGV (without change in Paris)
Bordeaux - Toulouse - Marseille by Intercités
Paris - Strasbourg by TGV

Parisian stations
To cross France by train from one end to the other, you almost always have to change trains in Paris (heritage from the time when the network was divided into a few private companies, most of which each departed from Paris). It is therefore good to know before leaving which Parisian station serves this or that part of France:

Austerlitz station
The trains (Corail Téoz, Aqualys or Lunéa) serve the center and the south of France, the main connections being:
Paris-Etample-Orléans or Tours by Corail Aqualys with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned
Paris-Orléans-Vierzon-Limoges-Brive_La_Gaillarde-Cahors-Toulouse by Corail Téoz (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned (not all trains connect Paris to all the towns mentioned, the various terminals are Limoges, Brive, Cahors, Toulouse and Cerbère)
Paris-Orléans-Vierzon-Limoges- Brive-la-Gaillarde -Périgueux via Corail Téoz (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, different terminals are Limoges, Brive and Périgueux)
As for night trains, the Paris-Austerlitz station welcomes all trains coming and going from all cities in the south of France.

Attention, from Austerlitz, 2 trains can leave together and separate further on the route.

The main night connections are:
Paris-Toulouse/Rodez (separation of trains at Brive; does not pick up or drop off passengers between Orléans and Souillac/Figeac)
Paris - Latour-de-Carol/Cerbère (separation of trains at Toulouse; does not pick up or drop off passengers between Vierzon and Auterive/Villefranche-de-Lauraguais)

Lyon station
The trains (Corail Téoz, TER or TGV) serve part of the east and south-east of France, the main connections being:

Paris-Lyon-St-Étienne by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Lyon and St Etienne)
Paris-Lyon-Grenoble by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Lyon and Grenoble)
Paris-Lyon-Marseille-Nice by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here, in particular between Lyon and Nice. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Lyon, Marseille and Nice)
Paris-Valence-Montpellier by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here, notably Lyon Saint-Exupéry. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminals are Lyon and Montpellier)
Paris-Dijon by TER with a multitude of intermediate stops or by TGV with a few possible stops depending on the train.
Paris-Dijon-Dole-Besançon by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Dijon and Besançon)
Paris-Dijon-Lausanne/Zürich by TGV Lyria (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here.
Paris - Nevers - Vichy - Clermont-Ferrand via Corail Téoz (booking required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned) This route is no longer at Gare de Lyon but at Gare de Bercy (1 km from Gare de Lyon)

East Railway Station
Trains (TGV, Corail IC or TER) serve the eastern regions of France (Champagne and Alsace-Lorraine), the main connections being:
Paris-Strasbourg-Karlsruhe-Stuttgart by TGV (reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here.
Paris-Saarbrücken-Mannheim-Frankfurt by ICE reservation required) with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here.
Paris-Troyes-Chaumont-Belfort-Mulhouse-Bâle by Corail IC with, depending on the train, other stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned)

North Station
Trains (TGV, Corail IC or TER) serve the regions of northern France (Picardy; Nord-Pas-de-Calais), the main connections being:
Paris-Lille by TGV (reservation required) without intermediate stops
Paris-Arras-Lens-Dunkerque/Valenciennes by TGV (reservation required) with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. Be careful to get in the right car from Paris, Arras and Lens because there is a division of the train in 2 at Lens. One leaves for Valenciennes, the other for Dunkirk.
Paris-Longueau-Amiens-Abbeville-Boulogne_sur_Mer-Calais by Corail IC with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Amiens, Boulogne sur mer and Calais)
Paris-Beauvais by TER with many intermediate stops.
Paris-Brussels-Cologne/Amsterdam by TGV Thalys (reservation required) with the only stops mentioned here (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the various terminuses are Brussels and Amsterdam or Cologne depending on the train)
Paris-London by TGV Eurostar (reservation required) with no intermediate stop in France.
Paris-Liège-Cologne-Berlin by night train (reservation required)

Gare Saint-Lazare
The trains (Corail IC or TER) serve the Normandy regions, the main connections being:
Paris-Rouen-Le_Havre by Corail IC with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Rouen and Le Havre)
Paris-Evreux-Caen-Cherbourg by Corail IC with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned here)

Montparnasse Station
Trains (TGV) serve the entire Atlantic coast and part of the southwest, the main connections being:
Paris - Le Mans - Rennes - Brest by TGV (reservation required) with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Le Mans, Rennes and Brest)
Paris - Le Mans - Nantes - Le Croisic by TGV (reservation required) with other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Le Mans, Nantes and Le Croisic)
Paris-Tours (St Pierre des Corps)-Poitiers-La_Rochelle by TGV (reservation required) with from St Pierre des Corps, other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Tours and La Rochelle)
Paris-Tours (St Pierre des Corps)-Poitiers-Bordeaux-Toulouse by TGV (reservation required) with from St Pierre des Corps, other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminals are Tours, Bordeaux and Toulouse)
Paris-Tours (St Pierre des Corps)-Poitiers-Bordeaux-Biarritz/Tarbes by TGV (reservation required) with from St Pierre des Corps, other intermediate stops than those mentioned here. (not all trains connect Paris to all the cities mentioned, the different terminuses are Tours, Bordeaux, Biarritz and Tarbes)

Be careful, from Montparnasse station, 2 trains can leave together and separate further on the route (typically two TGV trains).


Night trains

The night train network is reliable and serves a number of cities in the country and abroad.

There are several links to cross the country but they tend to disappear in the face of the extension of the TGV. All night trains in France are subject to reservation.

The main internal relations are:
Paris-Toulouse/Rodez (separation of trains at Brive; does not pick up or drop off passengers between Orléans and Souillac/Figeac)
Paris-Latour_de_Carol/Cerbère (separation of trains in Toulouse; neither picks up nor disembarks passengers between Vierzon and Auterive/Villefranche_de_Lauraguais)

In addition to the choice between a berth in 1st or 2nd class, you also have the choice of reserving a place in a reclining seat.

A place in a berth in 1st class therefore corresponds to a berth in a compartment with 4 berths and various more or less useful and important services depending on the train.

A place in a berth in 2nd class therefore corresponds to a berth in a compartment with 6 berths and various more or less useful and important services depending on the train.

A seat in a reclining seat corresponds to a seat in a wagon equipped with 2 rows of double seats for the entire length of the wagon (classic layout). There is no additional service and despite the possibility of tilting the seat you cannot lie down and are condemned to remain on your back the whole trip. However, if the train is only slightly full, by occupying the 2 seats, you are likely to get some sleep.

It should be noted that a ticket in a reclining seat costs 15 € less than a ticket in a berth, but if you want to sleep, prefer a berth.

On international connections and certain French connections, the trains are equipped with sleeping cars, the quality is even higher than in first class, these are individual or double compartments with small private bathroom and toilet for certain compartments . Very scenic but very expensive.

Tourist trains
France is rich in tourist trains managed by the SNCF or the private or associative sector:

Somme Bay Railways,
Corsican railway,
Cevennes train,
Rhune train,
Mure train,
Provence Railways,
Ardèche train,
yellow train...

Many tourist towns have their little train on tires.


By car

The speed limits in France are as follows:
Motorways: 130 km/h (110 km/h in bad weather and in the Alpes-Maritimes (06) and certain regions of France such as Lorraine)
Double lanes separated by a central reservation: 110 km/h (100 km/h in bad weather)
Roads with two lanes in the same direction sufficiently separated from the lane in the opposite direction, 90 km/h
Non-separated two-way lanes: 80 km/h since July 1, 2018 90 km/h before July 1, 2018 80 km/h in bad weather and for young drivers)
Agglomerations: 50 km/h is a national reference, but for several years municipalities have had the right to use other speeds, such as 30 km/h or 70 km/h, which are then subject to specific signage. In some cities, a speed limit of 30 km/h on all streets of the city may be present, while in other cities, zones 30 define a maximum authorized speed of 30 km/h per zone. Certain roads, whether or not equipped with sidewalks, may be limited to 50 or 70 km/h.

Motorways in France are often toll. Speed checks are frequent in built-up areas, both on the road and on the motorway.

Speed cameras are installed along the roads. The presence of the radar is no longer signaled by a panel but by a device indicating your preventive speed. Other radars are installed at the front or at the back of unmarked gendarmerie cars (on the motorway or in the countryside and in the city). If you are "flashed", you will receive a notice of violation by mail within 2 days to 2 weeks. This is valid for motorists in the European Union.

Although France produces a lot of wine, drunk driving is prohibited and severely punished. The authorized limit is 0.5g/l, i.e. about 2 glasses, but beware, these are glasses served in a bar (25 cl of beer, 4 cl of spirits). From 0.8g/l of alcohol in the blood, it is a crime.

In town, pedestrians have priority over cars. A pedestrian on a passage has priority even if the light is green for you. If a pedestrian has started to cross the road (he has one foot on the road), you must let him pass even if he is not on a marked crossing. These rules are often not respected by motorists. It is normal to stop to let a pedestrian cross, but when you are a pedestrian, do not cross without making sure that the cars will stop for you. Penally, any pedestrian has priority over all vehicles to cross a lane, provided that he is more than 50 meters from the nearest pedestrian crossing (otherwise he is at fault in the event of an accident). In fact, the pedestrian is almost systematically considered to be within his rights.

Except for markings on the ground (and signs in some cases), priority to the right is required. Depending on the region, this rule is more or less respected. Respect it, but if you have priority, make sure the other vehicle stops to let you pass.

France is the country with the most roundabouts in the world: the one arriving at the roundabout does not have priority. You will sometimes also find more rare roundabouts where right-hand priority applies. This is the case of the Place de l'Etoile in Paris.

Driving in France requires a three-part driving license or an international driving licence, the vehicle papers and the green insurance card.

In the event of a car accident, you must complete an accident report. In the event of a dispute or a hit-and-run, call the police or the gendarmerie so that they draw up a report.

To find out where rental agencies are located, consult the sites of the main, regional or local companies. The renters are very attentive to small collisions or scratches. Be vigilant before leaving: go around the vehicle and ensure that all damage is noted.

For long-term parking, in Paris, for example, opt for underground car parks or on the outskirts, near the terminus of metro lines or RER stations. In the regions, more and more cities have also set up car parks next to bus or tram line terminals.

Entry to a toll motorway section involves stopping at a terminal which issues an entry ticket, which must be returned to the exit barrier where a fee is paid depending on the distance traveled and the type of vehicle. Payment can be made in cash, with a credit card or a check. A receipt is issued upon request. It is possible to pay at automatic machines which read the information contained on the entry card, announce the price to be paid, accept payment in cash or by card, give change and issue a receipt on request.

Road signs
France has adhered to the Vienna Convention on road signs and all road signs in the territory comply with it.

By carpool
Carpooling is a very economical transport alternative that consists of sharing a car trip with several people. Gasoline and toll costs are shared between drivers and passengers as well as all the terms of the trip: meeting, luggage, possible detour, etc. There are many carpooling websites where you can search or post an ad, such as BlaBlaCar and Mobicoop. There are more and more carpooling areas in cities and in rural areas.

By car sharing
The car-sharing system provides "customers" or members of the service with one or more vehicles, according to three possibilities: - "loop" car-sharing, - car-sharing between individuals, - full self-service car-sharing . Most large and medium-sized cities in the Paris region and in the region have adopted this service, mainly "in a loop"; but more and more individuals, companies and associations are getting involved. There are many car-sharing websites where you can search or post an ad.

By bike
In France, cycling is more of a hobby than a means of transport. There are few cycle paths but their number is growing steadily. In summer in tourist areas and large cities, it is possible to rent bikes by the day, week or month. Note that most French cities offer bicycle rental services and some large cities have a bike-sharing system.

On horseback
France is one of the countries where horse riding is practiced the most and specific routes, marked or not, to discover the country on horseback. Contact tourist offices or equestrian centres.

Hitchhiking is a good way to get around but you shouldn't be in a hurry. On the other hand, it offers great opportunities such as meeting the motorist and we are often surprised by the person who picks us up.

Hitchhiking involves little risk, but it is true that you have to trust the person who picks you up. You have to be careful, especially if you're a single girl hitchhiking.

On a boat
France has a navigable river network of around 9,000 km and it is very easy to rent a barge or a boat without a licence. Car ferries run to Corsica from Marseille, Nice and Toulon. Saint-Malo and the Norman ports of Granville, Barneville-Carteret and Diélette are connected to the Channel Islands. For guided tours, commented tours, cruises, you can walk, take a boat trip in Paris, Strasbourg, …, and, by boat or other craft in the region, where there are marinas and piers.



French is almost the same everywhere, but each region can have its expressions and a particular accent (the southern accent, the Lyonnais dialect, the northern dialect, Creole, etc.). If you want to speak another language, however, it is advisable to ask beforehand if your interlocutor knows the language. You will usually find someone who will help you. Some foreign languages are very well understood in some regions. For example, Italian is very well understood in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, particularly in Marseille and Nice, due to a large part of the population of Italian origin, as is Spanish in the south-west or German in Alsace and in the department of Moselle. English is better and better understood in France, especially by the younger generations and in tourist areas. In general, the French are very friendly and sociable people, and you can approach them on the street to ask them for information. Usually if you are polite, they will be happy to help you. You could also meet regional metropolitan and overseas speakers speaking minority languages such as Basque, Breton, Corsican, Catalan, Occitan, Flemish, Alsatian, Melanesian, Polynesian,...

France uses the International System of Units (abbreviated SI) inspired by the metric system. However, there are some exceptions such as the use of the degree Celsius instead of the Kelvin or that of the fraction of an inch in gas plumbing. The majority of French people do not know how to convert either to Anglo-Saxon units of measurement, or to degrees Fahrenheit or Kelvin. In writing, the times are generally indicated over 24 hours, but in speaking we can say "6 p.m.".



France uses the euro. It is one of many European countries that use this common currency. Euro banknotes and coins are legal tender throughout the country.

One euro is divided into 100 eurocents or eurocents abbreviated cents or centimes.

The official euro symbol is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for eurocents.

Euro banknotes are the same in all countries.
Ordinary parts
All Eurozone countries have issued coins with a distinctive national side on one side, and a common standard side on the other side. Coins can be used in all countries, regardless of the country of origin of the coin used, for example a one euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal.

Two euro commemorative coins
They only differ from normal two-euro coins on their “national” side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country can produce a certain amount of it as part of their normal coin production. There are also commemorative two-euro coins “on a European scale”. They are produced to commemorate special events, such as the anniversary of important treaties.

Withdrawal of money
Cash withdrawals from ATMs are billed at the same price as a cash withdrawal in the country of origin for holders of a bank card with an account from a country in the euro zone. Money transfers between two accounts are also considered by banks as a transfer between two accounts in the same country.

Prices are inclusive of all taxes (TTC). So there are no surprises at checkout unlike Canada. Retail prices are non-negotiable. Servers appreciate being tipped, but it's never a requirement.

Be careful, depending on the country you come from, France can be an expensive country. For example, a dish of the day at the restaurant costs between 9 and 15 € or sometimes more depending on the dishes and the restaurants. What is called a 'demi' when ordering a beer but is actually only a quarter liter (half a pint) sells in bars for between €2 and €3.5. To get a real half-litre, you have to ask for a pint and the price is around €5 (more or less depending on the establishments and the times). A kebab costs between €3 and €7, a cinema between €5 and €10, a metro ticket around €1.5 (more or less depending on the city).

Leisure and catering are on average 33% more expensive in Paris than in the rest of France.

For the traveler, accommodation is one of the main expense items. Paris has the reputation of being quite an expensive city all year round. Elsewhere prices fluctuate depending on the season. To give you an idea in 2018, the tightest budgets have a minimum of 60 euros per day and per person in summer, favoring camping or youth hostels and light catering. With a daily budget of 100 to 120 euros per person, you can stay in a small hotel or homestay, dine in a small restaurant or table d'hôtes and enhance your days with cultural visits. From 150 euros per day, it's the good life: charming hotel, elegant restaurant, visits…. In season, do not expect to spend less than 80 euros for a double room in a hotel or a bed and breakfast with locals, especially in very touristy areas. It's easier to save on food than accommodation, unless invited by family or friends. An advantageous solution consists in getting supplies on the markets, in supermarkets or mini-markets, directly from producers and catering trades or fast food stands. If you avoid the summer season, so much the better! Your visiting conditions will only be better and you will benefit from more attractive rates for the intermediate seasons. The high tourist season is in full swing from July to early September on the coast and in Paris. Winter holidays see French and foreign skiers storm resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees and the French mountains are increasingly crowded in the summer.

Local products from the "Eating" section.
For the House :
-crockery and pottery from Brittany, Provence, Alsace, Savoie, Charente... -lace from Normandy, the north and Haute-Loire, -linen from Provence, the Vosges and the Basque Country, -knives from Thiers, Nogent, Corsica , Laguiole, Maurienne, Périgord... - furniture and objects from Queyras

To wear :
- handkerchiefs from Cholet, - Breton and Norman sailor clothes, - wooden clogs, - Basque espadrilles, - Tropezian sandals, - slippers, - berets from Béarn and the Basque Country, - perfumes, lavender and derivatives, - artisanal cosmetics

For kids :
- wooden toys from Alsace, Jura, Queyras - Christmas decorations

Christmas markets in Alsace.



You can eat all the products of the world everywhere in France: directly from the producers, from the food trades (bakery-patisserie, butcher-charcuterie, caterer, cellar), supermarkets, mini-markets, grocery stores, markets, auctions in the ports , snacks, stands (to take away), "food-trucks", cafes, brasseries, fast and traditional restaurants serving French and foreign cuisine. By having your main meal in the restaurant at noon rather than in the evening, you will be able to take advantage of the most advantageous formulas.

French gastronomy has been part of UNESCO's intangible world heritage since November 2010. The French often spend time at the table and meals are one of their favorite occasions for conviviality, in restaurants or at home. Business meals are also a French institution that often confuse Anglo-Saxon and Asian visitors.

First, a few vocabulary notes:
breakfast: served in the morning upon waking;
lunch: midday meal (served around 11.30 a.m. - 1 p.m.);
snack: optional, served around 4 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.: cakes, tea, coffee...;
dinner: evening meal (served between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.).

In the restaurant, the prices mentioned on the menu include taxes (7%) + service (15%). Although there is therefore nothing to add to the final bill, it is however common practice to leave a coin or two if one has appreciated the service.

In most restaurants, you can ask for a carafe of water for free. The water served is then that of the tap which is often of very good quality. Bread is often provided free with the meal. It is possible to ask for a carafe of water or bread.

France is rightly famous for being the country of gastronomy all over the world. Here are some specialties:


Bakery pastry

In France, it is not uncommon to see bakeries in most towns, even the most remote ones, even though supermarkets have got the better of many small businesses, bread making remains a very much alive craft in France, and it's good for our taste buds! With regard to pastries and other pastries, it is advisable to be wary, certain craftsmen allow themselves to sell industrial products without informing the customer.

Traditional bakeries usually sell, in addition to bread, pastries and pastries as well as sweets. In urban areas, bakeries also sell sandwiches made from baguettes (see Breads below).

Supermarkets also sell bread, sandwiches and pastries. These are made industrially and often do not have the same quality or the same freshness. Nevertheless, the French being quite fussy about the quality of bread, it is now possible, in some supermarkets, to be able to buy bread that is still hot from the oven in the middle of the day.



The best known and most consumed French bread is the baguette. There are two main types of baguette: the classic that can be found everywhere, and the tradition, a little more expensive, made by hand without additives, the manufacture of which requires know-how to guarantee its quality. We can find the tradition among artisan bakers, but also behind large bakery brands such as Rétrodor, Banette, Baguépi and others. There are also variants of the baguette such as the ficelle, finer and crisper, or conversely the flute (or "restaurant" in the south), wider and softer.

Other breads are also popular from time to time, including:
Country bread: large bread made from wholemeal flour which keeps relatively well and can be found everywhere;
Cereal bread: there are all kinds (rye, poppies, walnuts, olives, sesame, etc.);
Sourdough bread: demand real natural sourdough bread without baker's yeast, preferably organic; flavor and conservation will be there, trust the creativity of the bakers;
Storm bread, mina bread, work, pumpkin bread, nettle bread, garlic bread for discerning taste buds, etc.



Viennese pastries are normally eaten for breakfast, but are also sometimes eaten as a snack or a snack:
croissants: made from puff pastry, this is the most popular pastry in France because it is the only one, along with brioche, that can be eaten “plain”. However, many French bakeries also offer almond croissants, ham and cheese croissants, which allows you to vary the pleasures;
pain au chocolat (or “chocolatines” in the southwest): contrary to what the name suggests, it's not bread at all, but rather a croissant with one or two bars of chocolate inside;
brioches: the most delicious, you can find them everywhere;
pain aux raisins: again, it's not bread at all, but a brioche coated in pastry cream and raisins; in some regions they are spiral and are called snails;
apple turnovers: made from puff pastry, it is a derivative of the croissant, filled with mashed potatoes or apple compote inside;
shortbread and their many variations: fig, blackberry, raspberry, rum-grape, cavados grape, date palm, rose petal, damaskina, orange, lemon, grapefruit...
Note: Freshly baked pastries are the best.

Pastries and confectionery
Pastry is a particularly creative area of catering in France: there are hundreds of pastry products. Their names are sometimes quite curious, even with colonial hints like the negro in a shirt.

Here are the main ones:
chocolate, coffee and fruit eclairs;
Pets Of Nun
Madeleines ;
Vendée brioches;
rum babas;
salambos, also called acorns;
Paris Brest ;
Pithiviers ;
marvellous ;
thousand sheets ;
fruit tarts (strawberries, raspberries, lemon, apricots, mirabelle plums, cherries, plums, apples, pears...), chocolate, vanilla, tatin, tropézienne...;
macarons ;
cat language ;
beggars ;
Breton kouign-amman;
paving stones;
creme brulee.

The main sweets are:
nougat (Montélimar);
Calissons (Aix-en-Provence);
fruit jellies (Auvergne);
candied fruits (Apt, Auvergne);
cartons (Carpentras, Nantes);
bergamot (Nancy);
sugared almonds (Verdun);
Vichy pastilles;
anise from Flavigny;
angelica (Niort);
honey candies (Vosges);
nonsense of Cambrai;
caramels (Isigny);
pancakes (Pont-Aven);
crackers (Saint-Malo);
violet sweets (Toulouse);
grisettes (Montpellier);
fluted (Bordeaux);
chocolates (Bayonne, Biarritz);
nougat (Basque Country);
gingerbread (Alsace, Dijon);
pink biscuits from Reims;
prunes (Agen);
jams (Itxassou, Corsica).



National gastronomy
Soups and soups of all kinds (asparagus, potatoes, leeks, bacon bits, onion, lobster bisque, cotriade, fish, garbure...)
Blanquette of veal (last update May 2020)
Rooster in wine
Turkey with chestnuts
Rabbit with Mustard <<hunter>>
Pot-au-feu (last update May 2020)
Various terrines
Financial vol-au-vent

Regional gastronomy
Each French region has its own dishes. These dishes differ according to the resources (hunting, fishing, agriculture, etc.) of the region, the vegetables (cabbages, turnips, endives, beans, etc.) that are grown there. Here is a small list of regional dishes that you can easily find in France. Regional dishes generally constitute a single and very hearty dish (because it was generally the dish of the poor):
Carbonade flamande (Carbonnade à la flamande) (last updated May 2020)
Cargolade of Roussillon
Cassoulets from Castelnaudary and Toulouse
Breton pancakes and pancakes
Duck confit
Amiens duck pâté
Duck breast
Duck cricket
Duck à la Rouennaise, with orange, with turnips
Boiled chicken
Roasted chicken or “Vallée d’Auge” or basquaise
Duck and goose foie gras
Pork trotter from Sainte-Menehould
Marseille feet and packets
Caen-style tripe
Tripoux from Cantal and Aveyron
Lyon sapper apron
Head of veal
Head cheese or snout salad
Alsatian sauerkraut, seafood sauerkraut
Stew, wild boar stew, sautéed Corsican pork
Stew from Avignon
Alsatian Baeckeofe
Fondue (Savoyard, Burgundy, Bresse, Winegrower)
Lorraine and Auvergne stews
Beef bourguignon
Tournedos Rossini
Lamb from Sisteron
Lamb with mojettes
Veal stew
Leg of seven hours or brayaude
Small Provençal stuffed animals, Nice stuffed animals
Country ham and mojettes
Raw ham from the Ardennes, Auvergne, Lacaune, Bayonne, Corsica,...
Ham of Paris
Sausage from Strasbourg, Morteau, Montbéliard, Corsica...
Alsatian Knacks
Dried sausages, rillettes and gratons from Auvergne
Corsican coppa, pancetta and lonzu
Savoy diots
Andouille de Vire, Cambrai, Guéméné, Jargeau,...
Andouillette from Troyes, Clamecy, Chablis, Alençon,...
Black pudding from Mortagne-en-Perche, Paris, Oise
Le Mans rillettes
Coppa and Figatelli from Corsica
Camargue Gardiane
Stew of Provençal vegetables
Snails (Burgundy style,...) and frog legs
Bouillabaisse Marseille, Provencal
Catalan anchovies
Marmite Dieppoise
Aziminu of Corsica
Bourride of Provence
Armorica Lobster
Lobster in beautiful view
Pike with Nantes white butter sauce
Trout with almonds, bacon
Tuna with Basque piperade
Norman sole
Seafood from Brittany and Normandy
Gard brandade, cod brandade
Aveyron Aligot
Tartiflette Savoyarde
Auvergne truffade
Nicoise salad
Gratin dauphinois, Savoyard gratin, potato gratin
Pan-fried mountain, Auvergne, Parisian,...
Potato pie, potato pie or potato pie or potato cake from Berry, Bourbonnais, Auvergne and Sologne
Stuffed tomato
Eggplant au gratin
Pancakes to the bordele
Pepper with goat cheese
Vichy carrots
Kig ha farz
Dumplings of Lyon
Pike dumplings
Quiche Lorraine
Tome pie
Cheese soufflé
Alsatian Flammekueche
Flamiche Logo indicating a wikipedia link (last update May 2020)
Picardy string
Eggs In Meurette, ...
Omelets of all kinds
Various gougères
Nice Panbagnat
Hot manure in salad
Provencal tapenade

Frogs and snails
Contrary to popular belief, we do not eat snails and frog legs every day in France. However, quality restaurants sometimes offer it on their menu: for lovers of curious dishes, don't hesitate. And for those who don't really want it, know that many French people don't really like to see these little beasts on their plate anyway, but that said, these meats are interesting to taste because they are original, that of frog being halfway between fish and chicken, and that of snail with a very concentrated flavor.

France is one of the cheese countries with between 1,200 and 1,800 different types. We can compare and distinguish between cooked and raw cheeses, and the original milk: cow, goat, sheep. Here is a list, far from being exhaustive, of what you can find:

Avesnes dumpling
Bishop's Bridge
Saint Moor of Touraine
Murol Selles-sur-Cher
Crottin de Chavignol
Brie de Meaux
Bresse blue
Laguiole Fourme d’Ambert
French Emmental
Blue Auvergne
Saint Marcelin


Tea, Coffee, Cookies

The snack, which is optional, is mainly practiced in Paris and around Paris. There are plenty of tea rooms where people sit, chat and eat cookies with tea or coffee (juice or syrup for the kids).

In some large French cities, for afternoon tea, you will also find "cereal bars", places (quite rare, still) where you will be sold breakfast cereals (of well-known brands) in a small wooden box. cardboard (pasta box type) with small accompaniments (milk, chocolate, biscuits or sweets) for around €5, as if it were a gastronomic speciality.



Tap water is drinkable everywhere in France, you can drink it all your life without worrying about it. Its taste can vary a lot from one region to another depending on the geology.

France is a country that produces many spring waters or mineral waters, still or sparkling. Some are of international reputation (Evian, Perrier, Vichy, Badoit, Vittel, Contrex, Cristalline, etc.), but many only have local or regional distribution. Thus, the Colmar region in Alsace has several springs (Carola -Ribeauville-, Wattwiller -Cernay-, Lisbeth -Soulzmatt, Metzeral, etc.) and that of Bordeaux, Gironde, has natural mineral spring water which is drawn from the Bassin d'Arcachon (Abatilles).



Apart from gastronomy, France is also known for the diversity of its alcohols.



France is famous for its wine, indeed, each region has its own vineyards with its specificities:
Alsace vineyard: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Pinot gris, white and black
Armagnac vineyard
Auvergne vineyards: Saint-pourçain, Côtes-d'auvergne
Beaujolais vineyards: Morgon, Brouilly, Juliénas, Saint-Amour, Chénas, Fleurie, Moulin-à-vent, Chiroubles, Régnié, Côte de Brouilly
Bordeaux vineyards: Médoc, Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Graves, Sauternes, Entre-deux-mers, Fronsac, Margaux
Burgundy vineyards: Chablis, Mâconnais, Côtes-de-nuits, Côtes-de-beaune, Mercurey, Rully, Givry...
Bugey vineyard
Camargue vineyard
Champagne vineyard: Champagne wines
Cognac vineyard
Vineyards of Corsica: wines of Corsica
Jura vineyards: Arbois, Château-Chalon, yellow wine, straw wine
Reunion vineyard
Languedoc-Roussillon vineyards: Costières-de-Nîmes, Côteaux-du-Languedoc, Saint-Chinian, Corbières, Fitou, Minervois, Muscat (from Lunel, from Rivesaltes, from Frontignan, from Mireval), Banyuls, Maury
Limousin vineyard
Lorraine vineyards: Côtes-de-Toul, Moselle wines
Normandy vineyard
Vineyards of Provence: Bandol, Baux-de-provence, Bellet, Côteaux varois, Côtes-de-provence, Côtes-du-ventoux, Cassis wines, Côteaux d'aix-en-provence, Palette
Savoy vineyard
South-West vineyards: Madiran, Jurançon, Irouléguy, Tursan, Béarn, Cahors, Bergerac, Monbazillac, Pécharmant, Côtes-de-Buzet, Saint-mont, Marcillac, Gaillac, Fronton, Pacherenc du Vic Bilh, Corbières, Minervois, Faugéres
Tahiti vineyard
Vineyards of the Loire Valley: Muscadet, Saumur-Champigny, Côteaux-du-layon, Quart de Chaumes, Bourgueil, Chinon, Valençay, Sancerre, Pouilly-sur-loire, Pouilly-fumé, Vouvray, Touraine, Anjou, Jasnières, Vendée Fiefs
Vineyards of the Rhône Valley: Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, Condrieu, Saint-Joseph, Hermitage, Crozes Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Grignan les Adhémar (formerly Coteaux du Tricastin), Côtes-du-Rhône

Many shops offer wine. There is a wine section in most grocery stores and supermarkets. Wine merchants specialize in the sale of alcohol. In specialty shops and supermarkets, the store (or department) manager is often good advice. Do not hesitate to tell him how much you are ready to spend because there is wine at absolutely all prices.



Each region generally produces its own beer, but the North and East of France often remain the benchmarks. Here are some kinds of beer:
Large breweries (Kronenbourg)
Local or regional breweries, with limited distribution;
Beers from the North, with a wider distribution but only available from specialists.
Be careful all the same, although there are many very good quality beers, and especially in the North region (Lille, Lens, Valenciennes...), the most accessible beers, the easiest to find on the whole territory are not of very good quality: the Kronenbourg (or "Kro") is the subject of many jokes. France is more the country of wine than that of beer, and imports a lot from Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Eire and the United Kingdom, among others...



Almost every region produces its own farm, artisanal or industrial cider, but especially Normandy and Brittany, Pays de Loire, Hauts-de-France, Champagne-Ardenne, Limousin, Pays Basque and Brie often remain the references. Here are some kinds of ciders:

Industrial cider factories in Brittany and Normandy (MDD, Loïc Raison, Ecusson, Kérisac, Val de Rance, Le Brun)
Local or regional artisanal cider houses, with limited distribution
Farmhouse cider houses mainly for family or friendly consumption.


Liquors and spirits

triple sec
Royal Combier
Noilly Prat
Grand Marnier
Poissy core
Pineau des Charentes
Floc de Gascony
Crème de cassis, strawberry, blackberry, etc (used in kir with white wine)
Fruit brandy (differs by region)
Gentian liqueur
Pommels from Brittany and Normandy
Breton Chouchen
Breton whiskey, ....
Rum (French West Indies, Reunion Island)


Soft drink

Beyond the usual sodas and common drinks (Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Ice-Tea, Fanta...), some French specificities:

Many syrups (blackcurrant, grenadine, strawberry, lemon...) that you can consume with water or with milk. Often less expensive than other drinks, syrups are also less sweet and therefore healthier.
Well-known industrial fruit juices and artisanal ones.
A variant is diabolo, a syrup with the addition of fresh lemonade. A diabolo-mint is made from mint syrup.
Alternative French colas (Breizh-Cola, Auvergnat-Cola, Meuh-Cola...) more and more numerous, in the regions, the departments, in rural areas...
Coffee refers to espresso or filter coffee depending on the context. Barring exceptions, the coffees served in the restaurant are espressos. In bars and cafes you can order: a “coffee”: an espresso, a “double espresso” an “elongated”: a more diluted coffee, an “American”: even more diluted, a “hazelnut”: with a drop of milk, a "cream": a coffee with milk, a "big cream": with a lot of milk.


Country bistros

Gastronomy is one of the biases of the association of local bistros – , in order to maintain a commercial and social life, in municipalities with less than 2000 inhabitants, to contribute to the conservation and animation of the economic and social fabric in rural environment by maintaining a place of village life. This network of bar-restaurant establishments is present in many French regions.



Independent or chain hotel rooms, from zero to 5 stars. Tourist hotels are classified, approved and controlled by the administration. They usually offer breakfast or buffet, and half board or full board at their restaurant.
Para-hotel residences where the apartments are fully equipped and offer various additional services (sports activities, babysitting, entertainment).
Holiday villages with entertainment, often managed by social tourism associations, offer either rental, half board or even full board.
Guest rooms with breakfast, with or without a label, and rooms without breakfast, homestays, are an excellent way to discover urban and rural France. Some, more and more rare, offer the table d'hôtes in the evening.

The farm inns have a warm welcome and it is also a good way to discover the specialties of the region. It may be advantageous to stay in a farmhouse in the vicinity of a major tourist town, even if it means traveling a few extra kilometres.
Urban lodgings and rural lodgings, labeled or not.
Refuges in the mountains, which can be found at prices that are sometimes more attractive than campsites. They usually offer half board.
Unusual accommodation: tree houses, yurts, tepees, igloos, trailers, troglodytes, etc...
Accommodation of certain religious institutions, as in certain neighboring countries.
There are many campsites, at all prices, all over the territory. Wild camping is authorized in France, subject to the agreement of the owner of the land, if it is private, but with the exception of beaches, roadsides, classified sites, reserves and natural parks (except pitches furnished).
The youth hostels. With more and more comfort, they will allow you to spend one or more nights at a very affordable price, including in the city center of major French cities. Also remember to consult the websites of the establishments for all the promotional offers.

One of the best solutions is to contact the tourist offices of the city or region concerned so that they can direct you to the establishments that can accommodate you.

The house or apartment exchange formula is the most advantageous if you wish to stay in the same place. Consult the websites, and

Some accommodations offer free internet connections as well as wifi connections.

Many websites also allow you to compare the prices of accommodation, their availability and take advantage of last-minute offers. You can usually book directly online.

United Federation of Youth Hostels



In many universities, you will find foreign student support organizations that will allow you to learn French, if you are not yet up to date with this language. In most universities, there is also a section dedicated to learning French, find out more on the website of the university that interests you. Associations exist in large and medium-sized towns to learn or improve in French, find out at the town hall.



There are often staff shortages in seasonal trades (accommodation-catering, grape harvesting, trades related to snow and the sea, etc.). There are also shortcomings, among others, in the medical field, personal assistance, cleanliness, safety and in construction and public works.


Festivals and public holidays

January 1, 2024 New Year's Day: First day of the year.
March 29, 2024 Good Friday: Additional Christian holiday specific to the departments of Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.
April 10, 2023 Easter Monday: Easter
May 1, 2023 Labor Day: Commemorates the ratification of the 8 a.m. workday; traditionally the day of many union and political demonstrations in France. (The name "Labor Day" was formalized on April 29, 1948).
May 8, 2023 Victory Day: Commemoration of Nazi Germany's "unconditional surrender" ending World War II in Europe (1945).
May 18, 2023 Ascension Thursday: Christian holiday celebrating the ascent of Jesus into heaven
May 29, 2023 Whit Monday Holiday: Monday (only Sunday retains special religious significance).
July 14, 2023 National Day: Commemoration of the Federation Day of July 14, 1790 (itself the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789).
August 15, 2023 Assumption: Catholic holiday celebrating the ascent of the Virgin Mary into heaven
November 1, 2023 All Saints Day: All Saints Day of the Catholic Church
November 11, 2023 Armistice of 1918: Commemoration of the armistice ending the First World War
December 25, 2023 Christmas: Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth
December 26, 2023 Saint-Étienne (first martyr) Additional public holiday specific to the departments of Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin


School vacation

School holidays are the periods during which schools are closed, with the exception of weekly periods such as weekends. The dates and lengths of these periods vary considerably across France.

School holidays generally start on Friday evening or Saturday morning after classes and end two weeks later on Monday morning when classes resume. They include:

the All Saints' Day (or autumn) holidays: in 2012, reduced to two weeks, the All Saints' Day holidays are generally located at the end of October and the beginning of November. They lasted a week and a half between 1981 and 1996 and between 2003 and 2012, and a week between 1997 and 2002.
Christmas (or end of year) holidays: lasting two weeks and also common to all zones. They include Christmas and New Year's Day and leave a few recovery days at the beginning of January.
winter holidays: located in the months of February until March. They are divided into zones and last two weeks.
spring vacation: the last vacation of the school year, it is also divided into zones and lasts two weeks.




You will have no trouble finding a cybercafé in major cities to connect to the Internet.

WiFi access is also increasingly developed: it is often free in bars and restaurants, and included in the price of rooms in most hotels and bed and breakfasts (but not always present in budget hotels). Please note that some top-of-the-range hotels provide WiFi access that is generally chargeable (but cheap because not taxed by volume but on a flat rate valid for 1 hour or 24 hours from the time of activation).

Internet access by mobile network is still often quite slow (even in areas where theoretically 3G or 3G+ networks are deployed) and it can be expensive on your operator's bill because French telephone operators charge roaming charges (roaming) high enough for entry into their network, both for foreigners coming to France and for French people abroad. It is advisable to find out about roaming charges (especially the price per megabyte). Also favor WiFi access that is easy to find.

In train stations and airports WiFi access is generally chargeable (online payment on the home page displayed in the browser). There is also a high density of Internet boxes shared by French fixed Internet subscribers, allowing access to the Internet via an identification page (Fon subscribers can use the WiFi access shared by French fixed Internet subscribers at SFR, one of the 4 main mobile operators). However, on many paying WiFi access points, it is possible to choose to connect with the identifiers of one's own national operator from a list, by paying roaming charges that are often much lower than those applicable to mobile access and less still expensive than the Internet access offered by the access point operator.

WiFi is most often offered in the IEEE 802.11b or g standard, but not in 802.11a (beware of American laptops and WiFi keys that use 802.11a). In France, frequencies offer on most access points channels 1 to 13 for WiFi b/g/n. Fast 802.11n WiFi is quite rare in public access points (hotspots). The range of WiFi accesses is legally limited by their power and hardly exceeds ten meters from buildings, so this WiFi solution cannot be used everywhere (or otherwise with fairly low speeds).



France is now very well covered by 4 main mobile phone operators (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free). Second (GPRS, Edge) or third generation (3G: UMTS, 3G+: HSDPA) networks are already present throughout the territory, 4G (LTE) networks are deployed in certain large cities and are beginning to spread elsewhere.

Please note: the three incumbent operators (Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom,) constituting an oligopoly, have maintained very high prices for a long time. This is no longer the case since the arrival of Free on the market which has allowed the proliferation of a large number of low-cost packages. However, to subscribe to it with a package at the price offered to French people, you may be asked to prove your address in France, otherwise they may ask you to pay an advance of consumption or a security deposit (which will be returned once your subscription ended), and these rates are often accompanied by a 2-year commitment period, and therefore not accessible to visitors.

Apart from packages sold by these operators, it is also possible for visitors to buy at a low price a temporary SIM card offered by various virtual operators (MVNO) and time refills sold (in increments of 30 min to several hours and valid depending on the range between 2 weeks to a month, the time of your stay) in tobacconists or supermarkets, and sometimes offering significant discounts for calls to certain countries. It is often cheaper than using your own operator's roaming access (but you must use the French operator's SIM card in your mobile, communicate the French telephone number to your correspondents in your country original). You can find in most tobacconists kits including for about 15 to 30 € a basic mobile phone, a SIM card and 30 minutes of communications (which can be useful if the charging cable for your mobile does not include an adapter compatible with the format of French electrical outlets and the standard mains voltage, between 220 and 240 Volts).


European Roaming

Since June 15, 2017, "European roaming" has been introduced. It allows all SIM card holders belonging to one of the European member countries to maintain the same tariff conditions as in the country of origin.

Telephone calls and Internet browsing are valid at no additional cost in all European countries, unless authorized by national authorities (generally minor operators) or if a Gbit data threshold is exceeded, which increases from year to year. To use this service, simply activate the roaming option on your mobile phone.

The participating countries are those of the European Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden), those of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and certain overseas territories (Azores, Canaries , Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion, Saint-Martin).


Phone booths

Apart from a few rural areas not covered by mobile telephone networks, there are no longer any telephone booths in service in France today. Most have disappeared from public space; some have survived and have found a new use, becoming book boxes, for example.



The taxiphone (or phone shop), little known to many people, is an establishment which, like a cyber-café, offers you access to the Internet and allows you to call wherever you want. You pay for the communication after your phone call. Payphones allow taxi drivers to call each other or the general public to call a taxi.


Managing the day to day


Metropolitan France enjoys a temperate climate, but periods of heat waves or harsh winters are not uncommon. The geographical diversity is found in 3 main climates: Atlantic, Mediterranean and Continental.



France is a relatively safe country, thanks to its law enforcement agencies (army, national police, municipal police), private security companies and volunteer networks of vigilant and supportive neighbours. As proof, in 2012, the number of homicides posted the lowest level ever reached in the country.

However, certain well-known areas, particularly in large cities (certain cities, certain stations, certain shopping centers, places of alcoholic parties, etc.) are still to be avoided. It is still a good idea to take the usual precautions, particularly in large cities and tourist places: do not leave any visible objects in the car, never leave luggage unattended in a station or in other places of transit, do not let your wallet protrude from your pocket (especially in the metro, RER, bus and tram), keep your precious objects out of sight and only take on you the cash that is strictly necessary to during the day, keep your bag close at hand, preferably on your knees or on the table (never leave it on the floor or hanging from the back of a chair), when you sit on the terrace of a café.

Against pickpockets, place your valuables (ID, transport tickets, check book, bank card) in a wallet belt (or kangaroo pocket) hidden under your clothes when walking on the sidewalk, avoid carrying your street-side backpack or handbag. However, beware of some classic pickpocketing: tearful stories pretext to ask you for money, mud (or spit) thrown on your shoulder to divert your attention while you snatch your bag. Another tactic, especially with children, is to deploy a newspaper right in front of your nose to block you from seeing what they're up to (usually dutifully rummaging through your waistband). Either way, the best strategy is to not answer, look the person straight in the eye, and quickly walk away with an assured step, holding your things firmly. Yelling or threatening with big gestures also tends to discourage the aggressor.

Motorhome owners should be especially careful. There are indeed many reports of thefts of motorhomes or inside them when they are left unattended. So prefer guarded campsites or homestays to wild pitches.

It is a good idea to take out an all-risk travel insurance policy covering all personal effects.

However, we must not enter into a psychosis: we walk around and work in France serenely.

All emergency numbers are free. On the other hand, certain interventions (not all) can be chargeable, such as, for example, the rescue by helicopter or the removal of a wasp or hornet nest by the firefighters (in certain municipalities, these interventions to remove pests are not taken care of, you may be asked to call a private service, as there is normally no emergency to intervene). But in the case of a paid intervention, the sum is not claimed until after the intervention (which is not the case everywhere in the world), and this sum may be covered by your insurance: we will present you with an invoice justifying the sums to be paid with time for you to take the necessary steps. In addition, France offers everyone, even foreigners, minimal free medical aid.

You will be admitted to public hospitals immediately for all emergency assistance, even if you cannot provide immediate proof of insurance or social protection, and ambulance transport to the hospital will not be charged at all. suite (emergency transport by the fire department is free). Please note: part of the hospital costs are not covered, that of the "hospital package" (lump sum per day), only beneficiaries registered for social assistance can be exempted from it subject to means testing (by the intermediary of a social service, present in almost all public hospitals and able to help with the administrative procedures).

In the mountains, rescue is free — unless you have a pair of skis or a snowboard on your feet. It is better to provide insurance, especially for off-piste skiing. For skiing on slopes, ski lift passes generally include the price of insurance covering rescue (which only covers skiing on the open domain and on the day the pass is valid), but not always subsequent care or repatriation to your home.

At sea, rescue is free for people but not for boats: you will have to pay to recover your windsurfing board or have your boat towed to a port or taken over by a navigator.

Nationals of the European Union benefit from free healthcare with the European health insurance card. Each member of the same family must have one, including children under 16. For other nationals, it is necessary to provide medical care and repatriation insurance. On public holidays or at night, when a pharmacy is closed, the name of the nearest duty pharmacy is displayed on its door. You can also contact the police or the gendarmerie.

Tap water is drinkable, except when the contrary is indicated: "Not drinkable water". Never drink water from mountain streams or elsewhere.

To travel to France with your dog or cat, make sure he is identified by an electronic chip and bring his European passport and his vaccination record (updated anti-rabies vaccination). Find out from the places of accommodation and visits to find out if animals are accepted and from the tourist offices for authorization to access the beaches. If you are traveling by train, small animals must be placed in a basket, large dogs kept on a leash and muzzled; prices vary according to the size of the dog.

SOS Médecins, Logo indicating a telephone number +33 826 46 44 44


European citizens

Citizens of the European Union (EU), who fall ill unexpectedly during a temporary stay, studies or a professional stay, are entitled to the same medical care as in their country of residence. It is always useful to take with you the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which constitutes the material proof of your insurance in an EU country. However, if you do not have the card with you or if you cannot use it (as in the case of private assistance), you are still entitled to treatment, but you are obliged to pay the costs on the spot. , then you will ask for the refund on your return.

The countries in which health cover is provided are all those who are members of the European Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy , Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden), those of the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the overseas territories member of the European Union (Azores, Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, La Réunion, Saint-Martin).

The use of public toilets, which are sometimes rare in certain cities and sometimes broken down, comes at widely varying prices. All are prohibited for unaccompanied children under 10 years old. Motorway rest areas, certain train stations, certain metro stations, department stores, supermarkets, shopping centers and buildings open to the public have free toilets. You can also go to a café and head towards the “Toilets” sign; it's often free, but you may be told in a more or less friendly way that “the toilets are reserved for customers”.

Accessibility in France has been a real will of the State for fifteen years, the modifications are going slowly but surely. The problem is rather on the side of the respect of the installations. Indeed, although it is less and less frequent, it is not uncommon to encounter motorists parked on the sidewalk or on lowered pedestrian crossings. You will then need to arm yourself with a good dose of patience and agree to a few detours. You also have to be wary of dog droppings which are a real problem in France, so don't get too distracted by the scenery. You must therefore regularly lower your eyes to ensure that the ground is clear in front of you. With a little preparation, your stay will nevertheless be pleasant, especially since these remarks only concern urban areas, and France is a country with vast rural areas. On the other hand, find out about the accessibility of places to visit in order to avoid unpleasant surprises, access for the disabled is often better in urban areas and national monuments than in small towns and private monuments (castles, etc.). Do not hesitate to ask for help, the French are very helpful.



It is quite frowned upon to speak loudly on public transport or in restaurants. We won't tell you anything, but you'll surely get more than one icy stare!

In France, although the country welcomes immigrants and is the first tourist destination in the world, the racial domain is not a subject that one can easily approach because there are sometimes very embarrassing political connotations. Likewise, do not discuss religious matters with people you know little about. Incidentally, do not ask personal questions (religion, political and/or sexual orientation, salary) to people you know little about.

Systematically use the “you” of politeness when addressing people you know little about. If you become close with someone, they will tell you to be familiar with them or do it directly with you. It's always better to use "you", even if it seems awkward at first, than to use "you" in a bad situation, which can be offensive to the person you're talking to. The only exception is if the person calls you or tells you to; then you will have to act like him.

Even if the Frenchman is sometimes grumpy about his own country, he is still proud to be French. Criticism of his country or of French behavior is to be avoided. Even if the subject is launched by French people, keep any negative criticism to yourself, especially if the subject concerns gastronomy. Don't forget that the French are also “chauvinists”! Indeed, France has been a unified country for more than a thousand years and was, until the 19th century, a nation of the very first order. The French like to believe that their country, propagator of the ideas of the French Revolution relating to the Rights of Humanity, would always exert a moral and intellectual influence on the whole world. Do not deceive them because if this is no longer the case today, this nostalgia for the great civilizing Nation is nevertheless the cement of its population.

As in all countries where football is the national sport, there are great rivalries between regions. Thus, never compare a Marseillais to a Parisian because it is very badly taken.

We must scrupulously respect the ban on smoking in public places, bars, restaurants, discotheques and transport.

In some regions, avoid using the new name that came into effect after the 2014-2016 redistricting of the territory so as not to arouse the mockery specific to "chauvinism". For example, a Picard or a Ch'ti (inhabitant of Nord-pas-de-Calais) may not appreciate the appellation "Hauts-de-France" (fusion of Picardy and Nord-pas-de-Calais) ; similarly, an Alsatian or a Lorrain will not appreciate the "Grand Est" appellation at all (Alsace, Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne)


Discounts and free

Families benefit from a series of discounts, including access to tourist sites at reduced prices or free for children.

In France, seniors do not benefit from reduced admission to national museums and monuments, but certain castles, museums and private sites offer reductions.

Students under 26, holders of a valid student card, benefit from numerous reductions in addition to those granted to all young people under 26 from a European Union country, sometimes even free in some public museums.

The 14 municipal museums of the City of Paris are free (excluding temporary exhibitions). More and more big cities followed suit.

On the 1st Sunday of the month, most national museums and monuments are also open.

Visits to religious monuments are still open and free in France (except sometimes guided tours).

There are also monuments and thematic trails in the region for free self-guided tours.



Prehistory to the early Middle Ages

It is estimated that what is now France was settled around 48,000 years ago. Significant rock paintings from the Palaeolithic have been preserved in the Lascaux Cave. From 600 BC Phoenician and Greek traders established bases along the Mediterranean coast, while Celts from the north-west settled what was later called Gaul by the Romans. The Celtic Gauls with their Druidic religion are often seen today as the ancestors of the French, and Vercingetorix is glorified as France's first national hero, although hardly any Gaulish elements have remained in French culture. (See also celtomania)

Between 58 and 51 BC BC Caesar conquered the region in the Gallic Wars; the Roman provinces of Gallia Belgica, Gallia cisalpina and Gallia Narbonensis were established. In a period of prosperity and peace, these provinces adopted Roman advances in technology, agriculture, and law; great, elegant cities arose. From the 5th century, increasing numbers of Germanic peoples immigrated to Gaul, who founded their own empires after the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476. After a temporary dominance of the Visigoths, the Franks under Clovis I founded the Merovingian Empire. They adopted numerous Roman values and institutions, e.g. Catholicism (496). In 732, they managed to stop Islamic expansion from the Iberian Peninsula at the Battle of Tours and Poitiers. The Carolingians succeeded the Merovingians. Charlemagne was crowned emperor in 800, in 843 the Frankish kingdom was divided among his grandchildren with the Treaty of Verdun; its western part roughly corresponded to today's France.


Middle Ages

The French Middle Ages were characterized by the rise of royalty in the constant struggle against the independence of the high nobility and the secular power of monasteries and religious orders. Starting from today's Île-de-France, the Capetians pushed through the idea of a unitary state, which was underpinned by their participation in various crusades. From the first half of the 9th century, the Vikings repeatedly invaded the lower reaches of the Seine and settled there. After the West Frankish King Charles the Simple entrusted the Norman leader Rollo with the county of Rouen in 911, the area became known as Normandy. In 1066 the Romanized Normans conquered England. A long series of military conflicts with England began under King Louis VII after Louis' divorced wife Eleanor of Aquitaine had married Henry Plantagenet, King of England from 1154, in 1152 and thus about half of the French state territory had fallen to England. Philip II August was able to largely oust England together with the Staufers from France by 1299; the English king Henry III. also had to Louis IX. recognized by France as a feudal lord. From 1226 France became a hereditary monarchy; in 1250 Louis IX. one of the most powerful rulers of the West.

After the death of the last Capetian, Philip of Valois was elected the new king in 1328 and founded the Valois dynasty. The population of France at this time is estimated at 15 million. The country had significant cultural achievements with scholastic, Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Claims to the throne that Edward III. Plantagenet, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, led to the Hundred Years' War in 1337. After great initial successes by England, which conquered the entire north-west of France, France was initially able to push back the invaders. A rebellion in Burgundy and the assassination of the king meant that England was even able to occupy Paris and Aquitaine. Only the national resistance sparked by Joan of Arc led to the reconquest of the lost territories (with the exception of Calais) by 1453. In addition to the Hundred Years' War, the plague of 1348 killed about a third of the population.


Early modern age

With the incorporation of Burgundy and Brittany into the French state, the monarchy was at a temporary peak of its power, but was threatened in this position by Habsburg during the Renaissance - the Habsburg Emperor Charles V ruled an empire whose lands centered around France grouped. From the Reformation in the early 16th century, Protestantism spread to France, mainly through the work of John Calvin. The French Calvinists, called Huguenots, were severely oppressed in their religious practice. The Huguenot wars resulted in up to 4 million deaths. The high point is Saint Bartholomew's Night in 1572. It was not until the first ruler from the House of Bourbon, Henry of Navarre, that the Huguenots were granted freedom of religion in the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

The Renaissance period was also characterized by greater centralization, with the king becoming independent of the church and the nobility. The leading ministers and cardinals, Richelieu and Jules Mazarin, succeeded in establishing an absolutist state. At Richelieu's instigation, France actively intervened in the Thirty Years' War in Central Europe in 1635; in connection with this there was a war against Spain. In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, France was granted territories in Alsace; the Holy Roman Empire and Spain were weakened. The era of French dominance in Europe began. All the rulers of Europe followed the example of French culture. French became the dominant language of education. However, the expensive wars and opposition from the nobility led to state bankruptcy and an uprising (Fronde). With the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685, Louis XIV revoked the religious freedom of the Huguenots. Despite severe threats of punishment, around 200,000 Huguenots fled again. More than 400,000 remaining Protestants converted to Catholicism and fewer than 200,000 remained of the Reformed faith, mostly in the Languedoc (predominantly in the Cevennes). Under Louis XIV, the so-called Sun King, who was enthroned in 1643 at the age of four and ruled until 1715, absolutism reached its peak. During this time, the Palace of Versailles was built.


Age of Revolutions

The wars waged by the absolutist kings (such as the War of Devolution, the Dutch War, the Palatinate War of Succession, the Spanish War of Succession, the Seven Years' War, and participation in the American War of Independence), their expensive court and crop failures triggered a major financial crisis that King Louis XVI. compelled to convene the States General. The National Assembly drafted a constitution, limited the king's powers, and ended the Ancien Régime. The deteriorating living conditions of the people led to the French Revolution in 1789 with the declaration of human and civil rights as a central achievement. The church was expropriated and even a new calendar was introduced. The constitution passed in 1791 made France a constitutional monarchy. After the king's attempted escape, he was arrested and executed in 1793, and the First Republic was proclaimed. However, the first experience of republican rule, based on the principle of equality, ended in chaos and the reign of terror under Robespierre.

In this situation, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power as First Consul with a coup d'etat in 1799; In 1804 he crowned himself Emperor. In the following coalition wars he brought almost all of Europe under his control. However, his Russian campaign in 1812 was a failure, and the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in 1813 sealed the defeat of the French troops. During the exile in Elba reigned with Louis XVIII. another Bourbone, Napoleon returned in 1815 and ruled another hundred days. After the defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he was finally banished. The Restoration restored the Bourbons to the throne, who set about rebuilding the lost colonial empire. In France, the Industrial Revolution was taking place at the same time, and a working class was slowly forming. The July Revolution of 1830 overthrew the despotic ruler Charles X, who was replaced by the citizen-king Louis-Philippe I. Another bourgeois revolution brought France the Second Republic in 1848.

Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, who identified himself as Napoleon III in 1852, was elected President of the Second Republic. to be crowned emperor. Opposition was violently suppressed under his rule, but foreign policy projects such as the acquisition of Nice and Savoy, the incorporation of Equatorial Africa and Indochina into the colonial empire, and the construction of the Suez Canal succeeded. His rule coincided with the formation of a nation state in Germany under the leadership of the North German Confederation. The Franco-Prussian War, which Napoleon III. began to prevent a powerful competitor for hegemony in Europe, ended in defeat, Wilhelm I had himself proclaimed German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The Paris Commune, an uprising directed against the surrender, was crushed with violence and numerous casualties.


Imperialism, Colonialism, First and Second World War

Already under Karl X. Algiers was occupied under a pretext in 1830 to distract from internal political difficulties. In 1831, the Foreign Legion was founded to provide security. Algeria became the granary of France. By 1906, French settlers, later called "Pieds-noirs", had increased to 13 percent of the population. In 1854 the first French bases were set up on the coast of Senegal. By 1891, all of what is now Senegal came under French control.

The Third Republic lasted from 1871 to 1940. During this time, the French colonial empire expanded to an area of 7.7 million square kilometers. The industrialization of France led to an economic boom: in 1878, 1889 and 1900 world exhibitions were held in Paris.

A scramble for Africa ensued between France and the United Kingdom. Both countries practiced imperialism. The highlight of the "race" was the Fashoda crisis in 1898 between the two countries. The United Kingdom had set itself the goal of conquering a north-south belt of colonies in Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to Cairo ("Cape Cairo Plan"). France, on the other hand, wanted an east-west belt from Dakar to Djibouti. The claims of both states finally collided in the small Sudanese town of Fashoda. France finally gave in without a fight; the two countries staked out their areas of interest in March 1899 (“Sudan Treaty”). The Third Republic experienced three major crises within ten years: the Panama scandal (1889-1893), the Fashoda crisis and the Dreyfus affair (1894-1905).

The Roman Catholic Church in France practiced an anti-modernist stance for decades; This is one of the reasons why France – also in the course of the Dreyfus affair – became a distinctly secular state (“Law on the Separation of Religion and State” in the “Law on the Separation of Church and State” of December 1905).

In 1904, France joined the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom and entered World War I in 1914 with the aim of regaining Alsace-Lorraine and decisively weakening Germany. After the war, although France was on the winning side, northern France was largely devastated. The Spanish flu of 1918/19 added 166,000 to the 1.5 million soldiers who died.

The interwar period in France was characterized above all by political instability. In the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Germany was obliged to pay high reparations to the victorious powers. Above all, the French Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Poincaré insisted on an uncompromising and punctual fulfillment of the services. The French military repeatedly took delays in deliveries as an opportunity to move into unoccupied territory. For example, on March 8, 1921, French and Belgian troops occupied the cities of Duisburg and Düsseldorf in the demilitarized zone. As a result, even the Ruhr area was temporarily occupied.

The "People's Front" that ruled from 1934 was primarily concerned with preserving the status quo, so that France was poorly prepared for the Second World War: In their western campaign, German troops bypassed the Maginot Line and marched into undefended Paris. Marshal Pétain had to sign the "second armistice of Compiègne" (in France: Armistice de Rethondes) on June 22, 1940. France was divided into a zone occupied and a zone libre, with the latter governed by the conservative-authoritarian Vichy regime, which was dependent on Germany. Shortly after the armistice was signed, Résistance groups formed, and Charles de Gaulle founded the Forces françaises libres government in exile in London. Northern France was recaptured in 1944 in Operation Overlord, conducted by the Allies. A month after the liberation of Paris in August 1944, de Gaulle formed a provisional government. Among other things, in October 1944, the latter decided on women's suffrage, which French women had previously been denied. It was used for the first time in the municipal elections on April 29, 1945 and at the national level in the elections to the National Assembly on October 21, 1945.


Post-war period and European unification

The constitution of the Fourth Republic had already been adopted by a referendum on October 13, 1946. France, which found itself on the side of the victorious powers, became a founding member of the United Nations and was given veto rights in the Security Council. To promote reconstruction, France received, among other things, support from the Marshall Plan; it is disputed among economists whether these had any significant economic effects. The long post-war economic boom that began after World War II was known as the Trente Glorieuses. In 1949, France was a founding member of NATO; The first step towards European integration was taken in 1951 with the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community. In March 1957 the Treaties of Rome were signed; On January 1, 1958, the European Economic Community (EEC) was founded, which has since become the European Union and of which France is an active and important member.

The post-war period was also marked by the collapse of the colonial empire. The First Indochina War (1946–1954) ended with the Battle of Điện Biên Pủ and the loss of all French colonies in Southeast Asia. The Algerian war (1954-1962) meant an even deeper cut, which was fought with great severity and at the end of which Algeria had to be granted independence. Hundreds of thousands of Pied-noirs fled to France, where their integration into French society was not always smooth (see also Decolonization of Africa).

Domestically, the unstable Fourth Republic was replaced in October 1958 by the Fifth Republic, which provides for a strong president who is largely independent of the legislature. This Fifth Republic was shaken by student protests and a general strike in May 1968 as part of the worldwide '68 movement, which resulted in long-term cultural, political and economic reforms. Around 1971, ie before the oil price crisis of 1973, France decided to make itself less dependent on oil by using nuclear energy (see nuclear energy in France).

Another turning point came in 1981 when the Socialist Party took over the government and François Mitterrand assumed the presidency, which lasted until May 1995. During it, among other things, nationalizations were promoted, the death penalty abolished, the 39-hour week and other social reforms introduced; In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty on European integration was ratified. Mitterrand's successor, Jacques Chirac, implemented the introduction of the euro and refused to take part in the Iraq war in 2002/2003.

President Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP), who was in office from 2007, was followed in 2012 by François Hollande (Parti socialiste) and in 2017 by Emmanuel Macron, who had been a minister under Hollande but left the government in 2016 and founded his own party En Marche.

In the context of the euro crisis, France's net new debt, public spending, the ability to reform and other factors have been the subject of critical debate since around 2010.

In 2015, Paris was hit by several Islamist terrorist attacks: on January 7, twelve people were killed in an attack on the editorial staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. On January 9, four people were murdered in a kosher supermarket hostage situation at Porte de Vincennes. On the evening of November 13, terrorists carried out attacks in six different locations in the city, killing 130 people. The terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility for these attacks. A state of emergency was declared the following day. After being extended six times, the state of emergency was officially ended on November 1, 2017. In its place came a new anti-terror law that gives security forces more powers; in particular, since then, the freedom of movement of perpetrators can be drastically restricted without a judge's decision.



The entire territory of the French Republic is 632,733.9 square kilometers. The “French metropolitan area” in Europe, also known as Metropolitan France (France métropolitaine), has an area of 543,939.9 square kilometers. It is called Hexagone (hexagon) because of its shape.

As one of the largest countries in Europe, France has numerous, sometimes very differently shaped landscapes. The landscape is predominantly characterized by plains or hills. The country is mountainous in the southeast and on the border with the Iberian Peninsula. The main mountain ranges are the Pyrenees in the southwest, the Massif Central in the center of the southern half of the country and the Vosges, the Jura and the Alps in the east (listed from north to south). The highest mountain in France is the 4810 meter high Mont Blanc in the Alps; it is also often regarded as the highest mountain in Europe. Although Elbrus in the European-Asian border area is higher, it is not clearly assigned to any continent.

France has sea coasts south to the Mediterranean Sea, west and north to the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel and the North Sea. It borders Spain and Andorra to the southwest, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy to the north and east, and Monaco to the southeast. In addition, France borders on the countries of Suriname and Brazil through the overseas department of French Guiana and on the autonomous country of Sint Maarten of the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the overseas territory of Saint-Martin.



France is divided into 18 regions of which 13 are in Europe and five are French Overseas Territories (France d'outre-mer, FOM) - French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion. Until December 31, 2015, metropolitan France was divided into 22 regions (France had 27 regions including the five FOM).


Nature reserves

France maintains nature reserves of various categories in mainland Europe and in the overseas departments. There are
eleven national parks covering an area of around 4.5 million hectares,
nine marine nature parks,
54 Regional Natural Parks covering an area of more than nine million hectares and
a multitude of protection zones, such as nature reserves (réserve naturelle), Natura 2000 areas of the EU and biosphere reserves of the UNESCO.


Extraterritorial areas

The Obere Mundatwald, which lies on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany and is therefore subject to German law, is managed by the Forestry Office of the French Republic. On the part of France, imported wood from the Upper Mundat forest is subject to French sales tax. In Oberhausen, Germany (near Neuburg/Donau), a 300-square-meter piece of land containing a monument to Théophile Malo Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne belongs to France and is therefore French territory. France also has some churches and the Villa Medici in Rome (Italy) and the Pays Quint in Spain. In Jerusalem, Israel, a church and several historical sites are part of France. Furthermore, part of the Žuráň hill in the Czech Republic is part of the French Republic.




France's population was 67.8 million as of January 1, 2022, with Metropolitan France, the European part of France, accounting for 65.2 million inhabitants. In 2021, the annual population growth was + 0.3%.

The population of France in 1750 was estimated at around 25 million. This made it by far the most populous country in Western Europe. By 1850 the population had risen to 37 million; After that, a stagnation in population development that was unique in Europe at the time set in. The relative prosperity and advanced civilization of France are seen as the cause of this. Contraceptive sexual behavior was practiced and more widespread than in other countries, but the influence of the Catholic Church was already weakened. In just under 100 years, the number of inhabitants grew by only three million: in 1940, despite strong immigration after 1918, France only had around 40 million inhabitants. This population stagnation is seen as one of the reasons why France struggled to hold its own against its more populous neighbor Germany during the two world wars. In addition, France's army suffered the highest relative casualties of any belligerent country during World War I. After the Second World War, after a long time, there was again an increase in the birth rate and population increase, which was partly caused by the transnational baby boom generation as well as by increased immigration, especially from former French colonies.

A surplus of births (birth rate: 10.9 per 1000 inhabitants vs. death rate: 9.7 per 1000 inhabitants) contributed to the population growth in 2021. The number of births per woman was statistically 1.8 in 2020 and thus above the value of the European Union of 1.5. The life expectancy of residents of France from birth was 82.2 years in 2020 (women: 85.3, men: 79.2). The median age of the population was 40.1 years in 2020, below the European value of 42.5.

In 2021, 3.2 marriages were contracted per 1000 inhabitants. As an alternative, numerous French chose the Civil Solidarity Pact as a form of coexistence. This partnership, called Pacs, was introduced in 1999; In 2009, 175,000 Pacs were closed.



Due to slow population growth, France already faced the problem of labor shortages in the mid-19th century. Since the beginning of industrialization, guest workers from various European countries (Italian, Poles, Germans, Spaniards, Belgians) have therefore come to France, for example to the greater Paris area or to the mining and mining areas of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Lorraine. As of 1880, around one million foreigners lived and worked in France; they made up seven to eight percent of the workforce. France was not familiar with the phenomenon of mass emigration, which also prevailed in Germany. During the First World War, around three percent of France's population were foreigners. The first xenophobic tendencies emerged, and by 1931 the proportion of foreigners had grown to 6.6 percent. After that, immigration was severely restricted, and refugees from the Spanish Civil War, for example, were expelled or interned. After the Second World War, France again recruited guest workers, mainly from Spain and Portugal, and maintained a very liberal immigration policy until 1974. Europeans, especially Italians and Poles, had made up more than 90 percent of the foreign population in 1931; in the 1970s this proportion was only around 60 percent, with the largest proportion now being Portuguese.

The proportion of foreign residents in 2006 was 5.8 percent, plus 4.3 percent came français par acquisition, ie people who were born abroad and have adopted French citizenship. In 2008, 5.23 million immigrants lived in France, representing 8.4% of the total population. Of these, 2.72 million had adopted French citizenship. Descendants of immigrants who had at least one foreign-born parent born abroad were estimated at about 10.4% of the total population in 2010. Today (2014) most immigrants in France are of North African origin (Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians), followed by Southern Europeans (Portuguese, Italians, Spaniards). In 2018, 273,000 immigrants were registered (39% from Africa and 35% from Europe). The highest concentration of immigrants lives in the greater Paris area or in south-eastern France (in the Marseille region). Since the start of the European refugee crisis, many migrants have arrived in France from Africa, including from former French colonies in sub-Saharan Africa.



The constitution of the Fifth French Republic states that access to education, training and culture must be equal for all citizens and that the maintenance of free and secular public schools is the responsibility of the state. Accordingly, the education system in France is organized centrally; the regional authorities must provide the infrastructure. Private and public institutions coexist, with the mostly Catholic private schools having been the subject of intense political debate several times in the past. In contrast to the school systems of the German-speaking countries, in France there is more emphasis on the selection and education of elites, or education about education. Since 1967 there has been compulsory education up to the age of 16; Homeschooling is allowed. In France, the average school attendance for over 25 year olds was 11.6 years (as of 2015).

The kindergarten is called École maternelle in France and offers pre-school education for children from the age of two. It is attended by a high percentage of children. The visit is all-day and free of charge, only optional additional offers for care at off-peak times and lunchtime meals have to be paid for by the parents. The École maternelle is seen in France much more as a school than is the case with kindergartens in German-speaking and other countries. The supervisors in the Maternelles have teacher training and are employed by the state school board, Éducation Nationale, which also sets the curriculum.

The École élémentaire, which follows the Maternelle and corresponds to the German elementary school, lasts five years. After graduating, the children attend the Collège, a four-year comprehensive school, where they graduate with the Brevet des collèges.

The young person then has several options. He can enter a vocational school, which he completes with the Certificat d'aptitude professional; a dual training system like in Germany is very rare. The Lycée roughly corresponds to the Gymnasium. After twelve school years, it leads to the Baccalauréat. Several school branches such as scientific, economic or literary are distinguished. Those who attend a Lycée professionnel or a Center de formation d'apprentis can graduate with a Baccalauréat professionnel after 13 school years. In foreign language classes, English and Spanish are taught more than German, which is considered the “Intello idiom”.

Academic education is characterized by the coexistence of the Grandes écoles and the universities. Compared to the universities in France, the Grandes écoles have a better reputation, low student numbers and a high level of personal attention. You can usually only visit them after attending the classe préparatoire, which is usually offered by lycées. Among the more important of the Grandes écoles are the École polytechnique, the Écolenormal supérieure, the École national d'administration, the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the École Centrale Paris. In the course of the Europe-wide harmonization of degrees as part of the Bologna process, the LMD system was also introduced at French universities. LMD means that the license or bachelor's degree (after three years), the master's degree (after five years) and the doctorate (after eight years) can be acquired one after the other. The traditional national diplomas (DEUG, Licence, Maîtrise, DEA and DESS) are to be dropped as part of this process. At the end of 2009, around 2.25 million students were studying at French universities.

In the 2015 PISA ranking, France's students ranked 26th out of 72 countries in mathematics, 16th in science and 19th in reading. France is thus in the middle of the OECD countries.



The health care system is part of the public social security system Sécurité Sociale, which was founded in 1945 and includes equal representation of employers and employees. The organization of the system is the responsibility of the state and the statutory health insurance. However, private supplementary insurance is widespread. According to estimates by the European Consumer Center, spending on medicines is higher than in Germany, although medicines are comparatively cheaper in France.

In 2019, 32.7 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants practiced in France. Medical care problems mainly exist in underfunded hospitals. In addition, there is a shortage of staff, since the income of the nurses is below the national average. In France there are 5.6 hospital beds per 1000 inhabitants, in Germany the ratio is 1000 to 7.9. The intensive care units in particular only offer insufficient capacities. Since March 2019 there have been protests by emergency room workers and doctors.



The French language evolved from francien, which was spoken in what is now the Île-de-France region in the Middle Ages. It spread roughly as the French kings expanded their dominions. In 1539, King Francis I decreed that French should be the only language in his kingdom. Even so, in the 18th century only about half of the subjects of French kings spoke French. After the revolution, the regional languages were actively opposed; only a law passed in 1951 permitted teaching in regional languages. Even today, Article 2 of the 1958 Constitution establishes French as the sole official language of France. Not only is it the language commonly spoken in France, but it is also the vehicle of French culture around the world. The regional languages spoken in France are in danger of dying out due to internal migrations and the almost exclusive use of French in the media. Although France has signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, it has not ratified it. Among other things, the Constitutional Council ruled in 1999 that parts of the charter were incompatible with the French constitution. Since 2008, Article 75-1 of the Constitution mentions the regional languages as part of France's cultural heritage.

Regional languages spoken in France are the Oïl Romance languages of Northern France, some of which are considered French dialects, such as Picardy, Norman, Gallo, Poitevin-Saintongeais, Walloon and Champenois, Franco-Provençal in French and (West- )Swiss Alps and Jura region, Occitan in southern France, Catalan in the Pyrénées-Orientales department, Alsatian and Lorraine in north-eastern France, Basque and its dialects in the extreme south-west, Breton in the north-west, Corsican in Corsica and Flemish in the north of the country. Furthermore, a wide variety of languages such as Creole languages, Polynesian languages or Kanak languages in New Caledonia are spoken in the overseas possessions.

Unlike e.g. B. in Italy there are no regional official languages in France. Regional influences are also reflected only to a limited extent in place names and field names. German-language names are still very widespread in Alsace, but not in Lorraine. Similarly, the Italian names in Corsica largely remained in place even after the incorporation into France, but this is not the case in the areas on the mainland (Savoy, County of Nice and Alpes-Maritimes), which were formerly associated with Italy. The place name Nice comes from the Italian (Italian Nice), but only the French name Nice is officially used locally. In the extreme north of France, in the border areas with Flanders, there are some Dutch place names, while in the border areas with Spain, Basque and Catalan influences can be seen.

French is the working language of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Commission and the African Union. The Loi Toubon was passed in 1994 to protect the French language from being monopolized by Anglicisms. The 1996 implementing decree established a mechanism for introducing new words, controlled by the Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France and the Commission générale de terminologie et de néologie. This decree obliges the authorities to use the new creations published in the Official Journal and in the FranceTerme dictionary.

Immigrants from different nations, mainly from Portugal, Eastern Europe, the Maghreb and the rest of Africa, brought their languages with them. In contrast to the traditional languages, these speaking communities are particularly concentrated in the big cities, but cannot be assigned to any specific geographical area.



France is officially a secular state, which means that the state and religious communities are completely separate. Since the state does not collect any data on the religious affiliation of the inhabitants, all information on the denominational composition of the population is based on estimates or information from the religious communities themselves and therefore often differ significantly from one another, which is why the following figures should also be treated with caution. In a poll by Le Monde des religions, 51 percent of French people identified as Catholic, 31 percent said they had no religion, and about 9 percent said they were Muslim. 3 percent identified themselves as Protestants. Almost all Protestant churches in France, of which the United Protestant Church of France has the largest membership, work together in the French Evangelical Church Federation. One percent identified themselves as Jews. Extrapolated to the population, this corresponds to 32 million Catholics, 5.7 million Muslims, 1.9 million Protestants and 600,000 Jews as well as 20 million non-religious. 6 percent provided other or no information. According to surveys, only a small proportion of Catholics are actually believers and practitioners, but conversely, tendencies of Catholic traditionalism are also strongly represented in France. In addition, due to immigration from Eastern Europe and the Middle East, around a million Orthodox and members of the Oriental Orthodox Churches live in France. The ancestors of the approximately 600,000 Buddhists came primarily from the former French Indochina. There is also a larger number of Hindus.

A representative survey commissioned by the European Commission as part of the Eurobarometer in 2020 showed that religion is important for 26 percent of people in France, for 25 percent it is neither important nor unimportant and for 48 percent it is unimportant.

Estimates by the Swiss Metadatabase of Religious Affiliation (SMRE), published in 2018, for the period 2000 (1996 to 2005) range from 51.7 percent Catholics, 2.3 percent Protestants, 0.2 percent Orthodox, 0.5 percent Jews, 0.5 percent percent Muslims, 44.2 percent people with no religious affiliation and 0.6 percent others. For the period 2010 (2006 to 2015), the SMRE estimates 40 percent Catholics, 1.7 percent Protestants, 0.3 percent Orthodox, 0.8 percent other Christians, 0.3 percent Jews, 5.1 percent Muslims, 50.5 percent non-religious and 1.3 percent others.


Christian denominations

Historically, France has long been a Catholic-dominated country. Since Louis XI. († 1483), with the consent of the Pope, the French kings bore the title of roi très chrétien (most Christian king). During the Reformation, France always remained a Catholic majority, even though there were strong Protestant minorities (Huguenots). However, after St. Bartholomew's Night in 1572 at the latest, they had to give up hope of a Protestant France. When the Protestant Henry of Navarre became heir to the throne of France, he converted to the Catholic faith for political and tactical reasons (Paris vaut bien une messe, "Paris is worth a mass"), but at the same time guaranteed the Protestants special rights and special rights in the Edict of Nantes in 1598 freedom of religion. The Edict of Nantes was repealed in 1685 under Louis XIV, which led to a mass exodus of the Huguenots to neighboring Protestant countries, despite the threat of severe punishment. Only shortly before the French Revolution were Protestants granted limited religious freedom. The French Revolution then lifted all restrictions on freedom of belief. In the years after the revolution in the First French Republic, there was a brief period of intense anti-church sentiment, as the Catholic Church was seen as representing the Ancien Régime. Not only the privileges of the church, but even the Christian calendar and worship were abolished and replaced by a revolutionary calendar or "cult of the supreme being." Under Napoleon Bonaparte, however, the Concordat of 1801 brought about a balance between the Catholic Church and the state. Under the Bourbon restoration after 1815, Catholic-monarchist ideas regained the upper hand: The Bourbon troops sent to Spain in 1823 to suppress the liberal revolution were referred to as the "100,000 sons of St. Louis", and the Jesuit mission overseas was promoted.

In the Third Republic, a conflict between church and state arose again. Ultimately, this conflict was part of the clashes between the republican, "liberal" forces on the one hand and restorative, conservative currents, which were striving for an authoritarian restructuring of the state up to the reintroduction of the monarchy, on the other. The Catholic Church as an institution was placed last, and many Republicans took decidedly anti-clerical stances. With the law for the separation of church and state passed on December 9, 1905, most of the church property was expropriated and the strict separation of church and state was established. Since today's three departments of Moselle, Haut Rhin and Bas Rhin belonged to the German Empire as the Reichsland Alsace-Lorraine, the law was not applied there and was not applied there later, when Alsace-Lorraine came back to France after the First World War in 1918 introduced. The regulation of 1801 is still in effect there today. Catholic priests, Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis are paid by the French state in these three departments, and Catholic and Protestant religious instruction is offered in public schools. In addition, the church holidays Good Friday and Boxing Day are still public holidays there.


Judaism and Islam

The Jewish community in France has a checkered history. Jews have lived in France since Roman times. They were, however, in two waves 1306 under Philip IV and 1394 under Charles VI. all expelled from the country. For many centuries after that there was hardly any Jewish life in France. The only exceptions were the areas acquired in the east of the country in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Alsace, which had a special status for a long time. The French Revolution finally granted the Jews civil equality. However, France remained a country with a comparatively small Jewish population until the beginning of the 20th century. After the First World War, but especially after the Second World War, there was heavy immigration from Eastern Europe and the Arabian Mediterranean region, so that today France is the country with the largest Jewish population in Europe.

In the context of a rapidly rising anti-Semitism and the stagnant economy, there are thousands of Jewish emigrants every year. It is believed that more than 100,000 Jews left the country between 2010 and 2015, leaving only about 400,000 Jews in France.

Also since the end of the Second World War, there has been a sharp increase in the proportion of Muslims, which can be traced back to immigration from the former colonies. The French central state promotes a "Gallicanization of Islam"; he believes that it is capable of reforms and demands that Islam designate a body as the central point of contact for the state.



Since the adoption of a new constitution on October 5, 1958, France has been talking about the Fifth Republic. This constitution makes France a centrally organized democracy with a semi-presidential system of government. Compared to earlier constitutions, the role of the executive and especially that of the president has been largely strengthened. This was in response to political instability in the Fourth Republic. Both President and Prime Minister play an active role in political life, with the President answerable only to the people. Parliament's powers were curtailed in the Fifth Republic. Since the 1980s, the constitution has been modernized, primarily through decentralization.

The constitution does not contain a catalog of fundamental rights, but refers to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and the fundamental social rights laid down in the Constitution of the Fourth French Republic of 1946.

Graduates from the elite university ENA, founded in 1946, have been able to assert themselves in political offices, in key positions in administration and in the management of large French companies.



According to the constitution, the president, elected directly by the people, is the highest state organ. It stands above all other institutions. He monitors compliance with the constitution, ensures the functioning of public authorities, the continuity of the state, independence, the inviolability of national territory and compliance with agreements concluded with other states. He acts as an arbitrator in disputes between state institutions. He promulgates laws (Article 10) and has the right to submit them to the Constitutional Council for consideration. He may send laws or parts of them back to Parliament for reconsideration, but has no right of veto. Decrees and regulations are passed by the Council of Ministers, chaired by the President; the President has a suspensive veto over these. When it comes to foreign and security policy, the President has both the authority to issue directives and to ratify, so that he shapes foreign policy and enters into binding international agreements for France. This practice emerged during de Gaulle's government and is not necessarily to be found in the constitution. At the request of the government or parliament, the President may initiate referendums. It appoints members of important bodies, around three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council, all members of the Supreme Council for the Judiciary and the prosecutors. The President is not subject to any scrutiny by the judiciary, he is only accountable to Parliament in cases of high treason. In addition, the President commands the armed forces and the use of nuclear weapons; in the event of a state of emergency, the President has almost unlimited authority. The Office of the President supports and advises the President.

The President transmits the state authority bestowed on him to the Prime Minister and the Government, with the Government having to implement the directives given by the President. This requires close cooperation between the president and prime minister, which can be difficult in cohabitation, i.e. when the president and prime minister come from opposite political camps. The President formally appoints, without any restrictions, a Prime Minister and, on the Prime Minister's suggestion, the members of the government. As a result, the government depends on the trust of parliament; the president cannot formally dismiss a government once it has been appointed. The government consists of ministers, ministers of state, ministres délegués, i.e. ministers with special tasks, and state secretaries. Members of the government may not hold any other government office, professional activity or parliamentary mandate in France. In their function they are accountable to Parliament.


Legislative branch

The Parliament of the Fifth Republic consists of two chambers. The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 577 members who are directly elected for five years. The Senate has 348 members (since 2011, as of 2015). These are indirectly elected for a term of six years. The Senate is elected at departmental level, with the electoral college made up of departmental deputies, general councilors and municipal representatives. The elections to the National Assembly in 1967, 1973, 1978, 1986, 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017 were held as scheduled, the others were early elections.

Legislation can be initiated by the Prime Minister or one of the two chambers of Parliament. After the debate in the chambers, the legal text must be passed by both chambers with the same wording, with the passing of the text being referred to as a navette. After adoption by Parliament, the President has only one right to reject a legislative text. Parliament also has the task of monitoring the work of the government through inquiries and debates. The National Assembly has the power to overthrow the government. Parliament does not have the power to challenge the President politically. However, the President may dissolve the National Assembly; this right has been used repeatedly in the past to end difficult phases of cohabitation. A frequent phenomenon is the accumulation of offices: many senators and members of parliament are also active as mayors in local politics.



After an eventful history of law in France, today, in the Fifth Republic, the Constitutional Council (Conseil constitutionnel) assumes the control function within the political system. In a non-renewable mandate, the President of the Republic and the Presidents of the National Assembly and Senate each appoint three deputies for a nine-year term. The council reviews laws on request, monitors the legality of elections and referendums. It takes 60 deputies to either the National Assembly (10.4 percent of deputies) or the Senate (18.1 percent of senators) to review laws.

The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981.


State budget

In 1974 the state budget had no new borrowing for the last time; he was balanced. In 2016, it included expenditures of US$1369 billion compared to income of US$1288 billion. So the budget deficit was $81 billion, or 3.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The national debt in 2010 was 1591 billion euros or 82.3 percent of GDP. New borrowing and the national debt ratio in France were thus far above the upper limits of 3 percent per year and 60 percent respectively (Art. 126 TFEU Treaty) specified in the EU convergence criteria ("Maastricht criteria"). In 2021, new debt was 5.2 percent of GDP. The national debt this year was 1,717.3 billion euros.

At the end of 2012, the debt level rose to around 89 percent of gross domestic product. The largest item in the 2012 budget was interest payments: a total of around 48.8 billion euros. The Treasury has the authority to issue government bonds worth 179 billion euros to finance the debt burden. As part of the euro crisis, France was downgraded several times by the credit rating agencies Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch Ratings from 2012; President Sarkozy had announced that he would save around 65 billion euros in the budget over the next five years if he had been re-elected in the 2012 French presidential election. Under President François Hollande, national debt continued to rise. At the beginning of 2015, the European Commission announced that it would also tolerate budget deficits in 2015 and 2016 above the upper limit of 3% provided for in the Maastricht Treaty. In 2015, France had a deficit of 3.5 percent of GDP; only four of the 28 EU countries had higher rates. France will also fail to meet the deficit ceiling in 2016 and 2017. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, public debt rose to over 100 percent of GDP in 2020.


Political parties

The French party landscape is characterized by a high degree of fragmentation and great dynamism. New parties emerge and existing parties change their names frequently. The names of the parties only provide very limited information about their ideological orientation, because there has been a certain alienation of the term. French parties tend to have relatively few members and a weak organizational structure, often centered in Paris as the place where most decisions are made.

The political left is dominated by the socialist Parti socialiste (PS). She provided the long-serving President François Mitterrand and several prime ministers; From 2012 to 2017, François Hollande was again a PS politician President. Important left-of-centre parties are also the Parti radical de gauche and the left-wing Parti de Gauche. The historically significant French Communist Party, which had almost slipped into insignificance in the early years of the 21st century, formed the Front de gauche electoral alliance with the Parti de Gauche from 2009, but was unable to build on the successes of previous decades. The green party in France is called Europe Écologie-Les Verts, although green politics tends to be less popular in France than in the German-speaking countries.

The conservative camp is dominated by the Gaullist party, which has changed its name several times since the beginning of the Fifth Republic and has been called Les Républicains since 2015. In addition to Charles de Gaulle, she provided Presidents Georges Pompidou, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy in the Fifth Republic. It shares the occupation of the bourgeois camp with various centrist parties, including the party alliance Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI) and the party Mouvement démocrate (MoDem). The Front National is located much further to the right of the political center. Since being gradually realigned by Marine Le Pen in 2011, it has evolved into a strong third camp, culminating in Le Pen's participation in the 2017 presidential runoff. In 2016, Macron founded the political movement En Marche! for his presidential campaign. and emphasized that participation is compatible with membership in other parties. However, the character of an open movement was soon lost. On May 8, 2017, the name was changed to La République en marche. It's now a party like any other.


Foreign and Security Policy

France is a nuclear power and veto power in the UN Security Council and pursues an active foreign policy. With embassies in 160 countries, France had the third highest number of foreign embassies in 2017, behind the United States and the People's Republic of China.

After the Second World War, Germany and France gave up the hereditary enmity that had existed since 1870/71; among other things against the background of the Cold War. Close relations developed between the two countries. Both countries were founding members of the European Union. At times, a "two-speed Europe" was discussed with Germany, France and a few other countries in a core Europe.

In general, however, France's basic interests in the European Union follow the intergovernmental approach, which initially does not envisage any transfer of further competences to the EU level. The central aim of French European policy is to consolidate France's leading role in Europe. However, this position is partially softened by new pragmatic approaches. France is increasingly pioneering European positions, especially in climate and energy, economic and financial, security and defense policy. However, the fundamental focus on national interests remains.

In the euro crisis, France and Germany largely advocated common positions. This is reflected in frequent bilateral talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and François Hollande, also in the run-up to official summit meetings. An important concern of France at EU level (as of 2008) is the development of a European security and defense policy.

France is also a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto rights. It coordinates its international development cooperation and humanitarian commitment through the United Nations.

France was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 and received military protection from the United States. When de Gaulle came to power in 1958, relations with the United States and with the US-dominated NATO changed in such a way that France gave up its military integration into the structures of NATO in 1966 and remained purely politically integrated. In March 2009, President Sarkozy announced France's full return to NATO's command structure. The French parliament confirmed this move on March 17, 2009, by expressing confidence in Sarkozy.

Under de Gaulle's leadership, France developed into a nuclear power in 1960 and, from 1965, had nuclear forces with the Force de dissuasion nucléaire française, which initially put 50 aircraft equipped with nuclear weapons (atomic bombs) into service. In 1968 France had already set up 18 launch pads for medium-range missiles, which were equipped with nuclear warheads in 1970 and 1971. In the 1970s, France expanded its nuclear power at sea. Four nuclear submarines each carry 16 medium-range nuclear missiles.

Another pillar of French foreign policy is international cooperation in the field of security policy and development cooperation while always safeguarding French sovereignty. In addition, France is a member of numerous security policy organizations such as the OSCE and participates in the Eurocorps. So far (as of 2020), France has not announced that it intends to relinquish the potential of its nuclear weapons.

French cultural policy and the promotion of Francophonie are also of great importance for French foreign relations. With around 140 million speakers, the French language is of great importance internationally. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports this with a sub-department called AEFE, whose around 280 schools in around 130 countries are attended by around 16,000 young people. Approximately 200,000 students around the world make use of the almost 1,000 locations of the Agence Française.

In addition, there is a commitment even after the end of colonial rule in Africa, where France has remained the determining power in some countries to this day. In the years 2020 and 2021, around 17,500 to 18,500 soldiers were stationed abroad and in overseas departments.



France has one of the highest arms budgets in the world and is one of the leading military powers and one of the official nuclear weapon states. The French armed forces have been a professional army since the late 1990s and comprise 350,000 men and women. France spent almost 2.3 percent of its economic output, or $57.8 billion, on its armed forces in 2017, ranking sixth in the world. Internationally, the French armed forces are in seventh place among the most powerful armed forces, and in NATO they are the second strongest military. 20,000 soldiers are stationed in the overseas departments and territories, and another 8,000 in African countries with which defense agreements have been concluded. The armed forces are divided into three classic sectors: army (Armée de terre), air force (Armée de l'air) and navy (Marine national). France's nuclear forces (Force de dissuasion nucléaire) with about 350 warheads provide the navy and, to a lesser extent, the air force. Furthermore, the police force Gendarmerie Nationale is subordinate to the Ministry of Defence. The French military's military and popular cultural figurehead is the Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère).