With a surface area of nearly 644,000 square kilometres, France is the biggest country in the EU and home to around 67 million people. France has five overseas regions and thus 12 different time zones. We have collected some interesting facts about the country and found the places you will love to visit.
1. Paris and Versailles
The French capital, Paris, also known as the City of Love, offers sightseers plenty to choose from: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre museum, Montmartre, the Arc de Triomphe and the River Seine to name just a few. A few kilometres outside the city lies the Palace of Versailles, which was once home to the French kings. Today it is classed as both an historic monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2017 around 7.7 million visitors came to see the Palace of Versailles making it the second most-visited monument in the Île-de-France region, just behind the Louvre but ahead of the Eiffel Tower.
2. Hardest cycling Event
The Tour de France, the world´s most famous cycle race, was first held in 1903. Every year in July, cyclists race 3,500km (2,100 miles) primarily around France in 21 day-long stages raced over 23 days. The cyclist with the fastest cumulative time wins the right to wear the famous yellow jersey on the next day’s stage.
3. French music on the radio
Since 1994, a law has stipulated that at least 40 percent of the music played on private radio stations must be in French. Following protests by radio stations, this quota was reduced to 35% in 2016. The country’s top media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel (CSA), is responsible for this. The CSA also requires half of the French music quota to be less than six months old.
4. Diversified Provence
The Provence region is especially known for its beautiful lavender fields. Groves of olive trees are another defining feature of the distinctive Provencal countryside. Provence is also home to many historic market towns where visitors can try local products such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, herbs and cut flowers. The markets in the towns of Carpentras and Aix-en-Provence are among the best-known.
5. A world record
With more than 30,000 roundabouts in total, France holds the world record for roundabout density - six times more than in Germany. In fact, France is home to more than half of the world´s roundabouts. As many as 500 new roundabouts are inaugurated each year. France’s most infamous roundabout circles the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Negotiating the seemingly chaotic free-for-all can be seen as an impossible nightmare or a triumph of mutual cooperation and accommodation.
6. Why not just visit castles?
Visitors to France can choose from several hundred castles and fortresses to visit. There are so many different castles, and all of them look different. Over the past two thousand years, France has seen countless wars and battles. Successive kings and feudal overlords built impressive castles that stood as symbols of their power and places of refuge and defence in the event of attack. Amongst the most beautiful and well-preserved castles are Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau de Chambord or Mont St. Michel.
7. Most-visited country
France is the most popular tourist destination in the European Union. According to the World Tourism Organization, 83.7 million visitors arrived in France in 2014, making it the most-visited country. Besides Paris and Provence, France offers many ways to spend a vacation. The Côte d'Azur, Normandy, Brittany or the French Alps are all well worth visiting.
8. A role model for others
In France, supermarkets are prohibited by law from throwing away or destroying unsold food. In 2016, it became the first country in the world to pass such a law. Since then, shops must donate food that would otherwise go to waste to food banks or charities. There are also policies that require schools to teach students about food sustainability. Companies must report food waste statistics in environmental reports and restaurants must supply take-out bags.
9. Expensive French wines
French wines can be super expensive. In 2014, Sotheby’s sold a 114 bottle set of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wine in Hong Kong for more than 1.45 million EUR. The successful bid came from an anonymous Asian buyer. That sale still holds the world record for a single wine lot. France produces a huge amount of wine every year, sometimes more than 50 billion hectolitres. The French consume 11.2 billion glasses of wine each year.
10. One of the world's major languages
Most French-speaking people live in Africa, not in France itself. French is the second most widely spoken language in the European Union and the sixth in the world. The language is not only the official language in France, but in parts of Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco and parts of Canada. It is an official or a main second language in 55 countries worldwide. French is spoken by around 300 million people as their native or second language.