Fun Facts About France

Everything you want to know about France (and some you don’t want to know)

Millau Bridge
••• Millau Bridge over the Tarn River. Getty/Jason Langley

Get fun facts about France, ranging from France geography to the history of France. 

Fun Facts About France

Geography

  • France touches three major bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay), Mediterranean Sea and the English Channel.
  • France features nearly 3,000 miles (4,668 kilometers) of shoreline.
  • There are seven main mountain ranges in France: Pyrenees, Alps, Auvergne, Vosges, Jura, Morvan and Corsica. 
  • Mont Blanc in the French Alps, is western Europe’s highest point at (4,810 m)
  • European France borders eight countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland, plus Monaco and Andorra. 
  • European France is divided into 17 regions (reorganised in 2016) and its overseas territories feature four other regions.
  • European France consists of 633,187 sq kms (244,474 square miles)
  • France is the largest country in the EU, known as the ‘hexagon’ due to its shape
  • The Millau Bridge in southern France is the world's tallest bridge and France's tallest structure. At its highest point, it stands 343m (1125 ft) above the ground, higher than the Eiffel Tower. It is 2,460 metres long. 
  • Paris Gare du Nord is Europe's and the world’s busiest railway station with around 190 million passengers annually.  It is also one of the world’s oldest – it was opened in 1846 though was replaced by a new railway station in 1860. 

    Population and People

    • The population of France is 66.4 million (2015).
    • The population of Paris is 2.2million, larger metropolitan Paris has 12.4 million people
    • The population is 13% of the European Union (2015)
    • France has Europe’s highest birth rate (2014) with the average of women giving birth 30 years.
    • France had 83.7 million visitors in 2014 according to the World Tourism Organisation, making it the world’s most visited country.

    France and its History

    • Eleanor of Aquitaine’s marriage to the future English King Henry II in May 1152 led to British rule of part of France for around three centuries. 
    • France was the official languages in England from 1066 to 1362
    • Much of the Southwest of France was not even part of France as recently as 1453, the end of the Hundred Year’s War when England surrendered all of its French territory except Calais.

    French Inventions

    • The French were the first to officially adopted the metric system in 1793 following the French Revolution to replace the old system which had almost 400 different ways to measure land areas in France. The idea of a rational, decimal-based system of measurement, using multiples of 10 however had been around since the 17th century.
    • The international distress signal Mayday used by ships and aircraft comes from the anglicized version of the French m’aidez, meaning ‘help me’.
    • The all-American fabric denim in fact came from Nîmes which was a textile-producing city. The fabric de Nîmes was exported to the southern U.S.A. state in the 19th century to make clothes for slaves.
    • The French claim that stilts were first used by shepherds in the marshy Landes so they could get around the wetlands, and also see the sheep from afar. 
    • The French army first used camouflage officially by forming a camouflage corps led by Lucien-Victor Guirand de Scévola in 1915. It employed artists called camoufleurs to create covers for guns and more. ‘Camoufler’ is Parisian slang meaning to disguise.
    • The French invented canning when confectioner Nicolas Appert began using sealed glass jars placed in boiling water to preserve food in 1809. Later another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, began using tins. 
    • Braille was developed by Louis Braille in 1824
    • Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier pioneered hot air balloon flights in 1783.
    • The bra was invented by Herminie Cadolle in 1889.  She opened a lingerie workshop and exhibited at the Great Exposition of 1900 with great success.
    • In 1984 the French started the Minitel service used by people to pay their bills and shop from their own homes. 
    • In February 2016, France banned supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Now shops must donate their waste food to food banks or charities.

    The French and Food

    • The French have around 400 different types of cheeses. These are grouped into different categories and there can be many varieties within each group, so many say that there are around 1,000 different types. 
    • In 1962, French President Charles de Gaulle despaired: 'How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?' 
    • The French eat average of 500 snails each a year (apparently)
    • The French consume 11.2billion glasses of wine a year.

    So there are a few facts to toss around at parties. And it's a very shortened version!

    More about French Food

    Food of Burgundy

    Nice for Food Lovers

    Disgusting to us, Delicacies to the French - try these strange French dishes

    Food of Provence

    Edited by Mary Anne Evans