France Became a Republic in 1792 as a Result of the French Revolution
France facts reveal that France was ruled by kings until the late 18th century, when it became a republic. This shift in government was caused by the French Revolution, which started with the storming of the Bastille fortress on July 14, 1789 (French Independence Day) and eventually resulted in France becoming a republic in 1792.
The Revolution did not only bring a new regime, but also a new flag and anthem – both are still used by France today. Its flag is known as the “Tricolore” and consists of vertical blue, red and white bands. La Marseillase was originally known as the “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”, but earned its current name when the National Guard of Marseilles made it famous by singing the song while marching into Paris during the Revolution.
The National Motto of France Has Been around since the Revolution
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, the French national motto, which means “liberty, equality and fraternity (or brotherhood)”, is one of the most famous national mottos in the world. Although it was added to the French Constitution only after World War II, it was first popularized at the time of the French Revolution in the late 18th century as one of the mottos of the Revolutionists. It was first used by Robespierre in his 1790 speech “On the Organization of the National Guard”. For a short time, this famous motto was replaced by another one: “Travail, famille, patrie” (work, family, fatherland) – during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II, but was later reestablished as the official motto of France.
The motto is still used by various other countries and organizations nowadays, for example India, Social Democratic Party of Denmark and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
France Is the Largest Country of the EU and Still Retains Territories Overseas
France facts show that this western European country is the largest in the European Union and represents almost one-fifth of the total EU area with its nearly 250,000 square miles. France’s 15 overseas territories are also included in its area, including islands such as French Guiana, Guadalupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Reunion Island. The country’s rich colonial past is also the reason why nearly 10% of France’s current total population are descendants of Arabs and Africans. Mainland France is divided into 22 regions and further into 96 “départements”, and has a distinct six-sided shape, because of which it is sometimes also referred to as “The Hexagon”.
France Is the 2nd Largest Economy in the Eurozone, Behind Germany
France facts reveal that this major European country boasts the second largest economy in the Eurozone, right after Germany, with a GDP of over $2.6 trillion. The economy of France is mainly built on exports like food, chemicals, industrial machinery, electronics, steel, iron, pharmaceuticals and motor vehicles, and France is also one of the largest luxury goods exporters in the world with its top companies, such as Cartier (jewelry and watches), Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton (all fashion), together being worth well over $30 billion.
According to 2010 Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, France was the wealthiest European country with most dollar millionaires and the 4th wealthiest in the world by aggregate household wealth. A part of this might be attributed to the fact that France managed to escape the recession sooner than most other countries…
France Is Home to Europe’s Tallest Mountain
France facts reveal that the Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc, is located in the French Alps. It takes 10 to 12 hours to climb to its 15,788 feet high summit, but as France also boasts Europe’s highest cable car on the nearby Pic du Midi, it is also possible to get a magnificent view of the mountain by taking a 20-minute cable car trip. Mont Blanc was first ascended in 1786, but climbing the mountain should not be considered an easy task; it is estimated that the mountain claims about 100 lives each year on average.
Its name means “White Mountain” in English, so it is not surprising that it is considered a paradise for skiers, snowboarders and lovers of most other winter sports. Chamonix, one of the three towns that lie directly beneath Mont Blanc, was also the host of the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924.
France Is Home to Some of the Most Influential Writers, Scientists and Thinkers
The famous philosophers Rene Descartes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and mathematician Blaise Pascal in the 17th century, philosopher Voltaire in the 18th century, writers Gustave Flaubert and Charles Baudelaire in the 19th century, and writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus in the 20th century – France has undoubtedly had its fair share of brilliant thinkers over the centuries. After all, no country has won more Nobel Prizes for Literature than France!
But it is not only French men who have made an important contribution to the world over the centuries; many French women have left their mark, too. And the best known among them is probably Marie Curie, who was the first female professor at the famous Sorbonne University in Paris and the recipient of two Nobel Prizes – in physics in 1903 and in chemistry in 1911.
Jeanne d’Arc and Napoleon Are Probably the Most Famous French People in History
Although there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of famous, influential and very important French men and women throughout history, France facts show that two of them clearly stand out – Napoleon Bonaparte and Jeanne d’Arc.
Jeanne d’Arc (known as “Joan of Arc” and “The Maid of Orleans” in English) was a simple peasant girl who became a heroine of the Hundred Years’ War between the French and the English. She was later burned at the stake at the age of around 19, and is nowadays a national symbol of France. Coincidentally, she was made such by another great French icon – Napoleon. Napoleon is known as one of the greatest commanders in the history of the world; his brilliant tactics enabled him to conquer a big part of continental Europe in the beginning of the 19th century. His fame is not based only on his military conquests, but also on the civil code, known nowadays as the Napoleonic Code, that he established and which had a great impact on many modern civil codes that are still in use today across the world.
France Is the Most Popular Tourist Destination in the World
France facts reveal the surprising truth that despite it being a relatively small country (in comparison to the largest countries in the world today), France is the world’s number one tourist destination! Over 80 million foreign tourists visit France each year, and they spend enough money to make France the third largest country in the world by income from tourism. One of its biggest tourist attractions is the famous Louvre Museum in Paris, which was also the most visited museum in the whole world in 2014 with a mind-blowing 9.3 million visitors. This is equivalent to half the population of New York visiting this single museum in one year!
The Famous Tour de France Has Been Around for More than 100 Years
According to France facts, France is also the home of one of the biggest annual sporting events in the world – the prestigious cycling race known as the Tour de France. In its history, which stretches back more than 100 years, and which began on July 1, 1903, the Tour de France has produced many cycling legends such as Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain. It has also produced a few “fallen champions”, such as the American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven consecutive victories in the biggest cycling race in the world in 2012 after a doping scandal.
The Tour de France is the ultimate test for both the cyclists’ minds and bodies – over the course of three weeks, the competitors typically need to go through 2,000 miles of cycling hell, which includes climbing the steep, narrow and dangerous mountain roads of the Alps and Pyrenees. During these three weeks of cycling, participants typically spend more than 80 or even 90 hours on their bicycles, but in the past, the race was even more demanding – it was not unusual to see cyclists race over more than 3,000 miles and spend more than 200 hours on their bicycles in the early 20th century.
The Typical French Person Lives in an Urban Area, Speaks French and Is Roman Catholic
France facts reveal that a typical French person lives in an urban area, with a large proportion of the 66-million population, about 12 million people, living in the metropolitan area of Paris (the city itself has slightly more than 2 million inhabitants). In total, about 85% of the French population lives in cities.
It may seem obvious that most of Frenchmen speak French, but in a country that is home to people of many other nationalities too, this is not to be taken for granted. Some 88% of the population speaks French as their first language, while others speak regional languages such as German dialects, Celtic languages or Gallo-Romance languages. French is also the official language of 28 other countries in the world, most of which are members of la francophonie, the community of French speaking countries.
Despite its cultural diversity, most of the French population is Roman Catholic (about 80%), followed by Muslims (around 10%), Protestants and Jews. Just 4% of the population is not affiliated with any religion.
France is Well Known for Its Wines, Cheeses and Baguettes
French wines are probably the best (and most sought after) wines in the world simply because they taste so good. But the taste is not the only thing making them something special; there is also their price. They come in various price ranges, of course, but the most exquisite French wines can reach outrageous prices. For example, in 2013, a limited edition Balthazar (12l bottle) of Chateaux Margaux 2009 from Médoc went on sale in Dubai for a whopping 122,380 British pounds.
When it comes to cheeses, France has also plenty to offer – over 1,000 are made in this country and one of the best known (and the oldest one) is Roquefort, which is produced through a somewhat strange process – it is ripened in natural caves.
And because cheese goes very well with bread, it is no surprise that the French eat a lot of bread, too. About 95% of French people eat bread every day and most of them, of course, prefer the famous French baguettes, which, by the way, need to measure between 21.7 and 25.6 inches in length and weigh between 8.8 and 10.6 oz. Who said that the French like to complicate things?
French People Are Responsible for the Metric System
Not many people are aware of this, but France facts reveal that the French invented the metric system – the decimalized way of counting, measuring and weighing – at the end of the 18th century. The platinum-and-iridium cylinder, known as the “International Prototype Kilogram” or “Le Grand K”, which was made in the 19th century to represent a standard weight of 1 kilogram, is still secured in International Bureau of Weights and Measures’ vault in the small town of Sevres near Paris. Duplicates were sent around the world and were later often compared to the original to guarantee the standard of measuring mass.
French Women Have Children Late, but France Still Has Europe’s 2nd Highest Birth Rate
French women have one of the highest average ages for having their first child in the world: over 30 years. One of the reasons for this is the high employment rate of French women, which causes them to focus on work in their 20s and start thinking about having children as they near the fourth decade of their lives. However, France still has the second highest birth rate in Europe, despite women having children relatively late, and accounts for more than half of the European Union’s natural population increase. France is the land of love, after all…
People in France Get to Retire Much Younger than in Many Other Countries
Among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) members, France has one of the lowest retirement age averages, with 59.7 for men and 60 for women (OECD averages stand at 64.2 for men and 63.3 for women). That gives French women more than 27 years of enjoying their retirement on average and French men slightly less than 23 years. Even those who work for longer than average in France usually don’t work much longer, since the French can claim a state pension at the age of 62 years. However, all this may change soon since France is planning to gradually increase its general retirement age to 67 years by 2023.
France Was the 13th Country in the World to Legalize Same Sex Marriage
France facts reveal that same sex marriage has been legal in France since May 18, 2013, which makes it the 13th country worldwide to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. This also applies to all French overseas departments and territories, but not to people of the 11 nations which have conflicting bilateral agreements with France – these cannot get legally married in France to a person of the same sex. Statistics from 2013 onwards show that about 60% of same-sex marriages in France involve 2 men.
The World’s Oldest Woman Ever Was French
The French certainly know how to enjoy their lives and this also shows in their life expectancy – with French women living to 86 years on average and French men to 79 years, France has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. It is thus not surprising that the French also hold the record for the world’s oldest woman – according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Jeanne Louise Calment reached an incredible age of 122 years and 164 days. She was born in 1875 and lived until 1997. Moving to France as soon as possible, anyone?
France Is Responsible for Some Amazing Technological Advancements in Various Fields
The French are known for many great achievements in various areas, and technology is certainly one of them. Did you know that France sells more electric cars than any other European country (almost 9,000 in 2013)? Or that the first face transplant (2005) and the first artificial heart transplant (2013) in the world were performed in France? As if these amazing ecological and medical advancements are not enough, France is also responsible for the invention of the digital calculator, the hot air balloon, the parachute, the Braille writing system, margarine, and the first public interactive computer. Bravo, France!
France Has the 9th Largest Railway System in the World
When visiting France, it is a reasonable bet that you will travel through it by train at some point during your visit. Why? Because the French rail network is 18,000 miles long, which makes it the second biggest in Europe (after Germany’s) and the ninth biggest in the world. France was also one of the first countries to start using high-speed railway technology – its TGV trains and railways were introduced in 1981. Did you know that the 667-mile-long train trip from Paris in France to Barcelona in Spain only takes about 6 hours?
The French People Play Some Pretty Unusual Ball Games
France has been a major international force in ball games such as soccer, handball and basketball for decades, often earning medals in the highest-level competitions. But the French don’t spend all their free time playing these ball games – they enjoy a variety of other ball games which are not known in other parts of the world. The most popular among them are Pétanque and Boules, games similar to bowls and curling, but much more complicated; for example, the rulebook for Boules is over 70 pages long …
Paris is Home to One of the Most Famous Cemeteries in the World
One of the most bizarre France facts reveals that France’s capital Paris is the last resting place of an unusually high number of famous people. It is not surprising thus that the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is the most visited graveyard in the world – how could it not be, with Frédéric Chopin, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Moliere, Georges Bizet, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf and many other brilliant minds of the past spending eternity there? Paris is both a good place to live and die apparently…
France Facts — Facts about France Summary
France is a large western European country with a very rich history. Great historical names such as Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and Descartes have made France very famous over the past centuries and France remains a very important part of the modern world too. France is the most visited country in the world, the home of the highest European mountain, the country with (arguably) the best wines, cheeses and bread in the world, and the country where the first artificial heart transplantation was performed. Its capital Paris is the home of the most popular museum in the world, the Louvre, and the most famous cemetery in the world, the Père Lachaise Cemetery.