Regions in France
Metropolitan France” comprises the 12 administrative regions (French: régions) of the continent plus Corsica, i.e. the entire French territory in Europe. They are distinct from the country’s overseas territories on the other continents, which are discussed below. For travel purposes, the 12 regions are best understood by grouping them into the seven cultural regions below, which are also used by much of the tourism industry. The 96 departments form the lower administrative level, two-thirds of which are named after a river and most of the others after another natural feature, such as a mountain or forest.
The region around the French capital Paris.
- Northern France (Nord-Pas de Calais, Picardy, Normandy).
A region where the world wars have left many scars.
- North-East France (Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne-Ardenne, Franche-Comté).
A region where European (and especially Germanic) culture has mixed with French, with interesting results.
- Great West (Brittany, Pays de la Loire)
An oceanic region with an agricultural vocation whose culture is strongly influenced by the ancient Celtic peoples.
- Central France (Centre-Val de Loire, Poitou-Charentes, Burgundy, Limousin, Auvergne).
An essentially agricultural and viticultural region with river valleys, castles and historic towns.
- South-East France (Rhône-Alpes, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Corsica).
The country’s first tourist region outside Paris, with a warm climate and an azure sea contrasting with the mountainous French Alps.
- Southwest France (Aquitaine, Midi-Pyrénées)
A region of sea and wine, with beautiful beaches on the Atlantic and the high mountains of the Pyrenees near Spain.
In addition to mainland France, which is also called France because of its shape, there are five overseas departments (DOM) that belong to France like any other department: French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Reunion.
In addition, France has six organised overseas territories (OCTs) – French Polynesia, New Caledonia, St Barthélemy, St Martin, St Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna – and some isolated, uninhabited islands in nature reserves, including Clipperton Island and the French Southern and Antarctic Territories. Although administratively part of France, these entities are not covered here but in separate articles.
Because of its many overseas departments and territories scattered around the world, France actually spans twelve time zones – more than any other country. However, the whole of metropolitan France uses Central European Time (UTC+01:00).
Cities in France
France has many cities that are interesting for travellers. Below is a list of nine of the most notable:
- Paris – the “City of Light”, Romanticism and the Eiffel Tower
- Bordeaux – city of wine, traditional stone houses and elegant terraces
- Nice – the gateway to the French Riviera with a world-famous beach promenade
- Lille – a dynamic city in the north, known for its beautiful centre and active cultural life
- Lyon – Third city in France with a history that stretches from Roman times to the Résistance
- Marseille – on the Provençal coast is the second largest cosmopolitan city in France, known for its large port, bays and seafood.
- Nantes – the “greenest city” and, according to some, the best place to live in Europe
- Strasbourg – famous for its historic centre and seat of many European institutions
- Toulouse – the “pink city”, for its characteristic brick architecture and lively “terroir”.
Other destinations in France
- The Camargue – one of the largest river deltas and wetlands in Europe, with a strong and well-preserved Provençal bullfighting culture, the Camargue race.
- Corsica – the birthplace of Napoleon, a unique island with its own culture and language (but everyone also speaks French).
- Disneyland Paris – the most visited attraction in Europe. It even has its own TGV stop.
- The French Alps – home to the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc.
- Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) – France’s Mediterranean coast with many seaside resorts, yachts and first-class golf courses.
- Loire Valley – the world famous Loire Valley, especially for its wines and castles.
- Luberon – the clichéd Provence of picturesque villages, joie de vivre and wine.
- Mont Saint Michel – the second most visited sight in France, a monastery and town built on a tiny rocky outcrop in the sand, cut off from the mainland at high tide.
- The Gorges du Verdon – a beautiful turquoise-green river gorge, ideal for kayaking, hiking, climbing or just cruising around the limestone cliffs.