What Should I Know About France?

France is a country in Western Europe, across the English Channel from the United Kingdom. Across the Pyrenees to the south of France lies Spain, and to either side of that, it is bordered by the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean Sea. France's northern and eastern borders are touched by Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, and Italy. French Guiana is in South America, while Guadaloupe and Martinique are in the Central America/Caribbean region. The capital of France is Paris.

The country's official name is the French Republic, and it is a republic. The population in Europe and France's departments, as they are called, in the Americas was estimated to be 63,713,926 in July of 2007, with over 60 million in Europe. French, the official language of France, is spoken by 100% of the population, and the regional dialects — such as Alsatian, Catalan, and Provençal — are reported to be in decline. French and Creole patois are spoken in the overseas departments.

France is known for tourism, of which its restaurants form a key part, so its agricultural output is to be expected. Products of France include cereal grains, wine grapes, dairy products, beef, and fish. Industry besides tourism includes machinery, chemicals, automobiles, and food processing.


There are many significant landmarks and monuments in France. The Eiffel Tower was built for the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. The Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile, the largest triumphal arch in the world, was imagined by Napoleon I and finished under Louis Philippe. The cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris was under construction from 1163 to 1345 A.D., and is an example of Gothic style across time.

Famous contributions to culture of France have been made by:

  • actors Juliette Binoche, Leslie Caron, Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu, and Marcel Marceau
  • clothing designers Pierre Cardin, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint-Laurent, and Louis Vuitton
  • authors Albert Camus, Alexandre Dumas, André Gide, Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant, Molière, Anaïs Nin, Charles Perrault, Marcel Proust, Jean Racine, George Sand, Jean Paul Sartre, and Voltaire
  • chefs Auguste Escoffier and Jacques Pepin
  • composers Hector Berlioz, Georges Bizet, Frederic Chopin, Clause Debusy, Jacques Offenbach, Maruice Ravel, and Camille Saint-Saëns
  • filmmakers Jean Cocteau, Jacques-Yves Costeau and Jean Renoir
  • painters Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gaugin, Edouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, George Seurat, Henri de Tououse-Lautrec
  • philosophers Jacques Derrida, René Descartes, Michel Foucault, Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Simone Weil, as well as many, many others.

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Discuss this Article

Post 4

@BabaB - I have visited France twice in my life. Once when I was young, just out of college, and many years later. It was interesting to see it through two different pairs of eyes.

One of my favorite places in Paris was Montmartre, which is up on a hill overlooking Paris, City of Lights. It's a wonderful view from the steps in front of the Sacred Heart Church, and from the top of the church if you are willing to climb all the narrow stairs.

If you continue climbing the hill, you will find yourself in the neighborhood where Van Gogh and his contemporaries lived, worked, and played. The quaint apartments and art studios are a thrill to see. You can even have your portrait painted by an artist in one of the squares.

Hope you get there one of these days!

Post 3

I've always wanted to visit France, especially Paris. I hope I can sometime in the future. I studied the French language in high school and have read books and looked at so many interesting pictures of places in Paris.

Everything is so old and full of history. And the food must be "to die for."

Other than the usual tourist spots, does anyone have suggestions for some other places to visit in Paris?

Post 2

@EdRick - Something to look forward to! That's awesome.

The best time to go is spring or fall. When I was in high school, we went in July and it was *awful.* For one thing, Paris is incredibly hot in July and August. For another, it's terribly crowded in the summer - but only with tourists! Parisians flee for the countryside, leaving the heat and tourists behind, taking those legendary long vacations of theirs.

I know it's hard to get your kid out of school, but try to work something out. If he gets done in May, you could go the first week in June. Or maybe you could go over Thanksgiving break.

As for where else to go

, there are any number of options. You could do the French Riviera on the southern coast, especially if it's June. If it's November, you could go skiing in the Alps if that's your thing. If you like wine and your son is patient, there's the Champagne-Ardenne region. Etc. Maybe get a couple of travel books (from the library, so you can save the rest of your money) and start thinking about it! It might be a good idea to get your son involved in the planning, at least at the later stages, so he feels like he's part of it, too.
Post 1

I've always wanted to visit France and I'm finally getting ready to start saving up. By the time I'm done, my son will be old enough to appreciate it and my daughter will be old enough to stay with her grandparents!

I know we want to see Paris, but we don't want to spend the whole time there. So I have two questions about planning the trip.

One, what's the best time of year to visit France? And two, what's one other spot in France we should see?

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