Geography of France

Map of France
Map of France.

 omersukrugoksu / Getty Images

France, officially called the Republic of France, is a country located in Western Europe. The country also has several overseas territories and islands around the world, but the mainland of France is called Metropolitan France. It stretches north to south from the North Sea and the English Channel to the Mediterranean Sea and from the Rhine River to the Atlantic Ocean. France is known for being a world power and has been an economic and cultural center of Europe for hundreds of years.

Fast Facts: France

  • Official Name: French Republic
  • Capital: Paris
  • Population: 67,364,357 (2018) Note: This figure is for metropolitan France and five overseas regions; the metropolitan France population is 62,814,233
  • Official Language: French
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Form of Government: Semi-presidential republic
  • Climate:
  • Metropolitan France: Generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as the mistral
  • French Guiana: Tropical; hot, humid; little seasonal temperature variation
  • Guadeloupe and Martinique: Subtropical tempered by trade winds; moderately high humidity; rainy season (June to October); vulnerable to devastating cyclones (hurricanes) every eight years on average
  • Mayotte: Tropical; marine; hot, humid, rainy season during northeastern monsoon (November to May); dry season is cooler (May to November)
  • Reunion: Tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)
  • Total Area: 248,573 square miles (643,801 square kilometers)
  • Highest Point: Mont Blanc at 15,781 feet (4,810 meters)
  • Lowest Point: Rhone River delta at -6 feet (-2 meters)

History of France

France has a long history and, according to the U.S. Department of State, it was one of the earliest countries to develop an organized nation-state. As a result of the mid-1600s, France was one of the most powerful countries in Europe. By the 18th century, though, France began having financial problems due to the lavish spending of King Louis XIV and his successors. These and social problems eventually led to the French Revolution that lasted from 1789–1794. Following the revolution, France shifted its government between "absolute rule or constitutional monarchy four times" during the Empire of Napoleon, the reigns of King Louis XVII and then Louis-Philippe and finally the Second Empire of Napoleon III.

In 1870 France was involved in the Franco-Prussian War, which established the country's Third Republic that lasted until 1940. France was hit hard during World War I and in 1920 it established the Maginot Line of border defenses to protect itself from the rising power of Germany. Despite these defenses, however,​ France was occupied by Germany early during World War II. In 1940 it was divided into two sections—one that was directly controlled by Germany and another that was controlled by France (known as the Vichy Government). By 1942 though, all of France was occupied by the Axis Powers. In 1944, the Allied Powers liberated France.

Following WWII, a new constitution established France's Fourth Republic and a parliament was set up. On May 13, 1958,​ this government collapsed due to France's involvement in a war with Algeria. As a result,​ General Charles de Gaulle became the head of government to prevent civil war and the Fifth Republic was established. In 1965, France held an election and de Gaulle was elected as president, but in 1969 he resigned after several governmental proposals were rejected.

Since de Gaulle's resignation, France has had seven different leaders and its recent presidents have developed strong ties to the European Union. The country was also one of the EU's six founding nations. In 2005, France underwent three weeks of civil unrest as its minority groups began a series of violent protests. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron was elected president.

Government of France

Today, France is considered a republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Its executive branch is made up of a chief of state (the president) and a head of government (the prime minister). France's legislative branch consists of a bicameral Parliament made up of the Senate and the National Assembly. The judicial branch of France's government is its Supreme Court of Appeals, the Constitutional Council, and the Council of State. France is divided into 27 regions for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in France

According to the CIA World Factbook, France has a large economy that is currently transitioning from one with government ownership to a more privatized one. The main industries in France are machinery, chemicals, automobiles, metallurgy, aircraft, electronics, textiles, and food processing. Tourism also represents a large part of its economy, as the country gets about 75 million foreign visitors each year. Agriculture is also practiced in some areas of France, and the main products of that industry are wheat, cereals, sugar beets, potatoes, wine grapes, beef, dairy products, and fish.

Geography and Climate of France

Metropolitan France is the part of France that is located in Western Europe to the southeast of the United Kingdom along the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Biscay, and the English Channel. The country also has several overseas territories: French Guiana in South Americ, the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean Sea, Mayotte in the Southern Indian Ocean, and Reunion in Southern Africa.

Metropolitan France has a varied topography that consists of flat plains and/or low rolling hills in the north and west, while the rest of the country is mountainous with the Pyrenees in the south and the Alps in the east. The highest point in France is Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet (4,807 m).

The climate of Metropolitan France varies by location, but most of the country has cool winters and mild summers, while the Mediterranean region has mild winters and hot summers. Paris, the capital and largest city of France, has an average January low temperature of 36 degrees (2.5 C) and an average July high of 77 degrees (25 C).


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Briney, Amanda. "Geography of France." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Briney, Amanda. (2021, February 16). Geography of France. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Geography of France." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).