38 Fun Facts About France That You Might Not Know About (2024)

written by local expert Catrin Lynn

Catrin is a history enthusiast based in Wales. Her passions are her animals, exploring the Welsh mountains with her husband, wellness, and traveling to different European cities.

Are you ready for a few fun facts about France?

France is famous for its mouth-watering food, delicious wine, and high fashion. But trust us, there’s so much more to discover in this fabulous country, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

France is like a treasure trove of enchanting sights, rich history, and diverse landscapes. Whether you’re wandering the romantic streets of Paris, the city of lights and love, or exploring picturesque villages and lavender fields in Provence, there’s always something that will leave you in awe.

Not to mention, the French people are known for their love of the good life (la vie en rose, anyone?). So, there’s no better place to learn about living life to the fullest.

I’ll dive deep into France’s fascinating culture, revealing little-known facts about its people, traditions, and language. I’ll also venture off the beaten path, exploring lesser-known gems and hidden spots that will make you fall head over heels for this remarkable country.

So grab a café au lait, settle in, and join us on this exciting journey through the captivating land of France. Who knows? You might just find yourself planning your next vacation to this enchanting country!

1. Eiffel for Real!

Did you know that the iconic Eiffel Tower was initially built as a temporary structure for the 1889 Exposition Universelle?

Believe it or not, this iconic symbol of French romance and culture was initially built as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair). Crazy, right? But, as fate would have it, the tower proved valuable for communication purposes.

Now, over a century later, it’s hard to imagine Paris without its beloved Eiffel Tower standing tall and proud.

Sunny day in Eiffel Tower (fun facts about France)
Sunny day in Eiffel Tower

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2. Say “Cheese!”

If you love cheese, then France is the place to go. With over 1,000 different types of cheese to choose from, there’s truly something for everyone.

From the creamy, dreamy Brie de Meaux to the eye-watering pungent Roquefort, the world of French cheese is a veritable treasure trove of tantalizing textures and flavors.

3. Fancy a Snail Snack?

The French love their snails! An estimated 30,000 tons of snails are usually eaten in France each year.

So if you’re feeling adventurous, maybe try some snails (escargot) drenched in a heavenly mix of butter, garlic, and parsley with one of the most quintessentially French dishes out there!

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4. The Louvre Wasn’t Always a Museum

The Louvre was previously home to French monarchs but during the French Revolution. The former royal palace was turned into a public museum to showcase the nation’s treasures.

The museum officially opened its doors in 1793, with an impressive collection of 537 paintings. Many of which had been confiscated from the royals and the church. Now it homes the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci!

People inside The Louvre Museum (fun facts about France)
People inside the Louvre Museum

5. The French National Anthem Was Written in a Day

La Marseillaise had composed in just one day. Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote both the music and lyrics on the night of April 24, 1792, after being inspired by a dinner conversation with the mayor of Strasbourg about the need for a patriotic song to rally troops during the French Revolutionary Wars.

The rapid creation of this iconic anthem further illustrates the urgency and passion of the era.

6. Paris Was the Birthplace of Cinema

Cinema was actually born in Paris! On December 28, 1895, the Lumiere brothers captivated an eager audience with a series of ten short films, each lasting around 50 seconds.

Who knew that this humble beginning would evolve into the multi-billion-dollar industry we know and love today? So, here’s to the Lumière brothers and their monumental contribution to the world of film!

7. Cannes You Believe It?

Cannes Film Festival is a prestigious event held every year since 1946 in the sunny resort town of Cannes on the French Riviera.

It has become a hotspot for the world’s top filmmakers and actors, so whether you’re a celeb spotter or a die-hard film buff, the Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate destination for anyone who loves the magic of movies.

Cannes in France (fun facts about France)

8. Château Overload

Incredibly, there are over 40,000 châteaux in France. It ranges from opulent palaces like the famous Château de Versailles to smaller, more intimate manor houses.

These architectural wonders have witnessed centuries of wars, romances, and royal intrigue. Today, many châteaux had converted into museums, hotels, or even private homes.

So, if you’re planning a trip to France, why not add a château or two to your itinerary?

9. Move Over, Santa!

Gather ’round, folks, because it’s time for a slightly spooky French Christmas legend: Le Père Fouettard! This sinister figure, also known as “The Whipping Father,” is said to be the dark counterpart to Saint Nicholas, the beloved gift-giver.

Dressed in rags and carrying a bundle of sticks or a whip. He’s a fearsome sight meant to keep kids on their best behavior during the festive season.

10. The Croissant Isn’t French!

It may come as a surprise, but despite its reputation as a French pastry staple, the croissant has Austrian roots. The flaky and buttery treat had invented in Vienna in the 17th century.

The croissant’s popularity eventually spread to France, where it further refined and perfected by French bakers.

Delicious bunch of croissant (fun facts about France)
Delicious baked croissant

11. Paris Has Underground Tunnels

There are over 200 miles of underground tunnels in Paris known as the Catacombs. Originally the tunnels were dug to provide building materials for the city, but in the late 18th century, remains from cemeteries were transferred to the catacombs.

The catacombs are open to the public through the Catacombs of Paris Museum (Catacombes de Paris).

12. The Weight of Love is Heavy!

The famous Pont des Arts bridge was once home to countless “love locks”. Couples from around the world would engrave their initials and attach padlocks to the bridge, throwing the keys into the Seine River.

Due to concerns over the bridge’s structural integrity from the locks, they all were removed.

13. Protect the Baguette!

The iconic French baguette is actually protected and governed by French law!

Officially, a traditional baguette can only contain four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt and the law ensures it’s made correctly and protects it from other industrial bread.

Delicious bunch of baguette (fun facts about France)
Delicious and tasty baguette

14. Oh, Là Là! The Statue of Liberty

Back in the 19th century, France and the United States shared a mutual admiration and a love of liberty. To celebrate America’s centennial in 1876, French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to create an unforgettable gift: the Statue of Liberty.

The massive sculpture was then disassembled, shipped across the Atlantic, and reassembled on a pedestal on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

15. The City of (En) Light (Enment)

You may have heard that Paris is also known as the “City of Lights”, and if you have ever seen Paris by night, you’ll understand why!

But the dazzling lights aren’t the only reason for this nickname. Paris was once a hub for scholars, artists and writers who illuminated the world with their ideas and inventions during the Age of Enlightenment.

16. The French Greet Each Other with a Kiss or Two…

In French culture, the customary greeting is known as “la bise” which involves exchanging cheek kisses with others as a sign of welcome and friendship.

Depending on the region, the number of kisses can vary between two, three, or even four. While this tradition may seem a bit daunting for outsiders, it’s an essential aspect of French social etiquette and a great way to show warmth and connection with others.

So, if you find yourself in France, don’t be afraid to give “la bise” a try and embrace this charming aspect of French culture!

French greeting "la bise"

17. The President is Also a Monarch

Within French territory lies the microstate and co-principality, Andorra. Both the president of France and the Bishop of Urgell in Spain as its co-princes.

This means that the president of France is technically a monarch, albeit of a different nation!

18. Don’t Let the Bubbles Fool You!

Champagne, the iconic bubbly beverage, can only be called “Champagne” if it’s produced in the eponymous region in France. Anything else is just a sparkling wine impersonator!

France is one of the largest wine producers in the world, with more than 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of vineyards. Wine is produced in nearly every region, including famous areas like Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy.

19. A World of Culinary Delights

France is renowned for its gastronomy, and French cuisine has been declared a “world intangible heritage” by UNESCO. With mouthwatering dishes like coq au vin, bouillabaisse, and crème brûlée, it’s easy to see why!

The French typically spend over 2 hours per day eating, no wonder their dishes are so delicious – they really take the time to savor them!

Michelin chef preparing food

20. Be Careful How You Hold Your Baguette!

In France, there’s this quirky superstition that you shouldn’t place a baguette upside down on the table. It goes way back to the Middle Ages when bakers had to give a loaf of bread to the local executioner.

So, people thought that if they accidentally flipped their baguette upside down, they’d be inviting bad luck.

It’s not a big deal today, but many folks still follow this fun tradition and keep their baguettes right-side up just in case!

21. France Has a Crepe Celebration!

La Chandeleur is a delightful French tradition celebrated every year on February 2nd. Also known as Candlemas, La Chandeleur is a Christian holiday with roots in the ancient Roman and Celtic festivals of light.

Nowadays, it’s all about the crêpes! Families and friends across France gather to whip up these scrumptious, thin pancakes as a symbol of prosperity and the return of sunny days.

There’s even a popular superstition that if you can flip a crêpe in the air using only the frying pan while holding a gold coin in your other hand, good fortune is sure to come your way.

22. Oysters Galore

The French have a long-standing love affair with oysters and are known to consume a staggering 4 million oysters annually! Oysters are harvested from the coastal regions of France, with the most famous varieties hailing from Brittany, Normandy, and the Marennes-Oléron area.

These succulent treats are often enjoyed raw, served on a bed of crushed ice with a squeeze of lemon or a dash of mignonette sauce.

So, the next time you’re in France, why not join the locals in savoring a platter of freshly shucked oysters alongside a crisp glass of white wine?

Delicious fresh oysters
Fresh and tasty oysters

21. Foie Gras Frenzy

Ah, foie gras, is the luxurious and controversial delicacy that has long been a cornerstone of French gastronomy. This rich, buttery treat is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened, a process known as “gavage.”

However, it’s important to note that the production of foie gras has been the subject of heated debate due to animal welfare concerns with the dish being banned in some regions and countries.

Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that foie gras remains an emblematic and contentious part of France’s culinary heritage.

22. France is Home to the “Route des Grandes Alpes”

If you’re a fan of breathtaking scenery and epic road trips, the Route des Grandes Alpes in France is an absolute must-see!

This amazing route takes you through the stunning French Alps, covering 720 km (450 miles) of twisty mountain roads, picturesque valleys, and charming Alpine villages. You’ll pass by iconic peaks like Mont Blanc and get the chance to explore beautiful national parks along the way.

So, grab your friends, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

23. French is the Fifth Most Spoken Language in the World!

French isn’t just spoken in France. It’s the official language in 29 countries with over 300 million speakers across 5 continents!

French is the second most widely spoken language in the European Union too. Tres impressive!

Learning French language

24. Allez Les Bleus!

The French national soccer team, “Les Bleus,” has won the FIFA World Cup twice. Their first win was in 1998 when they hosted the tournament and beat Brazil 3-0 in the final.

The second time was in 2018 in Russia when Les Bleus beat Croatia 4-2. France is 5th with the most world cup wins with Brazil taking the first spot with 5 wins.

25. The Notre-Dame

The famous Gothic cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, took nearly 200 years to build, with construction beginning in 1163 and finishing in the 14th century.

The cathedral suffered significant damage during a fire in 2019 but is currently being restored.

26. The French People Love Comic Books!

French people love their comic books, or “bandes dessinées.” The industry is so prominent in France that it even has its own annual festival, the Angoulême International Comics Festival. It’s one of the world’s most prestigious comic events, Held every January.

It’s the third-largest comic festival in the world!

Set of comic books

27. France Has 12 Time Zones!

France holds the record for the most time zones in the world, with a total of 12 time zones spanning its territories. This impressive number is due to France’s extensive overseas regions and departments, including islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and Pacific Ocean, as well as territories in South America and the Antarctic.

Mainland France falls under the Central European Time Zone so you won’t need to keep changing your watch when you visit.

28. France Has a Large Railway Network

The French railway network, known as the SNCF, is the second largest in Europe and operates high-speed trains called TGVs (Trains à Grande Vitesse), which can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph).

Great news if you’re planning on Traveling around France!

29. Mont-Saint-Micahel is magical

Mont-Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a breathtaking island commune in Normandy, famous for its dramatic tidal changes and stunning medieval architecture.

When the tide is high, it’s entirely surrounded by water, and during low tide, it’s connected to the mainland. The tidal range around the island can be as much as 15 meters (49 feet).

Breathtaking shot of Mont-Saint-Michel in France
Breathtaking Mont-Saint-Michel in the island of Normandy

30. France Awards Their Skilled Craftsmen and Women

The Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF) is a prestigious award and competition held in France since 1924 to recognize outstanding craftsmen and artisans. Competitors are judged on their exceptional skill, creativity, and expertise in various trades such as cooking, pastry-making, woodwork, and jewelry design.

The title of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” is awarded to the winners, elevating their reputation and career prospects. The competition takes place every three to four years and is organized by the Société des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France.

31. France Boasts the Highest Number of Nobel Prize Winners in Literature

Showcasing the country’s long standing tradition of excellence in the literary arts, it currently has a total of 15 laureates. French authors have been consistently recognized for their remarkable contributions to the global literary canon.

Esteemed writers such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and François Mauriac have all received this prestigious accolade. The French language’s prominence and the nation’s rich cultural heritage have significantly shaped the country’s literary achievements.

32. 24 Hours of Le Mans

Did you know about this awesome French car race called Le Mans? It’s officially known as the “24 Hours of Le Mans,” and it’s one of the most prestigious endurance races in the world.

The race takes place annually in the city of Le Mans, and it’s been pushing drivers and their cars to the limits since 1923!

So, if you’re a racing fan, be sure to add this epic event to your bucket list – it’s an experience you won’t want to miss!

Le Mans Race in France

33. It’s Illegal to Name a Pig “Napoleon”

Due to a peculiar law that aims to protect the reputation of the famous French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, it’s illegal to name a pig “Napoleon”.

This law was created to prevent people from disrespecting or poking fun at the historic leader by naming a pig after him. As pigs are often associated with being dirty or gluttonous, it’s seen as disrespectful to associate Napoleon’s name with them.

Although it may seem like a strange rule, it reflects the importance of Napoleon’s legacy in French history and culture.

34. France Has a “Right to Disconnect” Law

The “right to disconnect” law was enacted in 2017, aiming to promote a healthier work-life balance for employees.

This groundbreaking legislation allows workers to ignore work-related emails, calls, and messages outside their regular working hours without facing any repercussions. Companies with more than 50 employees are required to negotiate and establish specific guidelines on how to manage digital communication outside of the office.

By implementing this law, France has taken a bold step in addressing the issue of digital burnout and improving the overall well-being of its workforce.

35. France Has the World’s Tallest Bridge

The Millau Viaduct, the world’s tallest bridge, can be found in France, soaring gracefully above the Tarn River Valley.

Completed in 2004, this architectural marvel spans 2.5 km (1.5 miles) and reaches an impressive height of 343 meters (1,125 feet) – even taller than the Eiffel Tower!

Designed by British architect Norman Foster and French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux, the Millau Viaduct has become an iconic landmark and a testament to human engineering prowess.

Tallest bridge of Millau Viaduct in France
The world’s tallest bridge “Millau Viaduct” in France

36. 40% of Radio Music Must Be French

A law was introduced in 1994 requiring radio stations to ensure that at least 40% of the music they play consists of French-language songs. Half of this quota must come from new talents or emerging artists.

This regulation, known as the “Loi Toubon,” was enacted to preserve and promote French music and culture, amid concerns that foreign music, particularly from the United States, was dominating the airwaves.

The law reflects France’s strong commitment to protecting its rich cultural heritage and supporting its homegrown talent.

37. France Has the Most Roundabouts in the World

France holds the distinction of having the most roundabouts in the world, with over 30,000 of these circular intersections spread across the country.

Roundabouts have become an integral part of France’s road infrastructure, contributing to smoother traffic flow and reduced accident rates.

Their prevalence has even inspired an annual competition called “Le Trophée du Giratoire,” which awards the most beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing roundabouts.

This unique record highlights France’s dedication to innovative traffic management and road safety.

38. France is the Most Visited Country in the World!

France is the most visited country in the world, with over 89 million international tourists checking out its many wonders in 2019. As travel is now recovering, so far France has over 48.4 million visitors in 2023, followed by Mexico.

It’s no surprise – France has got it all! From its stunning countryside to its world-famous landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower and Palace of Versailles, to its fabulous food and wine, there’s something for everyone.

Plus, French beaches are to die for, from the glamor of the French Riviera to the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux.

And there you have it, folks! France is so much more than just fancy cuisine and romantic spots. Bottom line is there are many interesting facts about France that make it a must-visit destination for any curious traveler.

From its charming villages and awe-inspiring art to its quirky customs and intriguing history, France has something for everyone.

So, whether you’re a history buff, an art enthusiast, or just someone looking for a good time, France has a bit of something for everyone.

Promenade of Menton in France
Promenade of Menton in France

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