France is globally famous for a few things; food, fashion, and art. However, there’s more “joie de vivre” to this cultural mecca than meets the eye and plenty of interesting France facts to learn.
Dive into the surprising history and shocking customs to really learn what this beautiful European country is all about. Get to know more about everyone’s favorite European destination with these fun facts about France!
Fun Facts About France!
1. France is the most visited country in the world
France is not just a popular destination that tourists tend to flock to. It’s the most visited country in the world! Approximately 89 million people stop by each year.
This means you should expect plenty of the hustle and bustle and packed attractions. It also means you made a great choice. France is the top vacation location for a good reason as there are plenty of beautiful places to visit in France.
2. France had a king for 20 minutes
The title of shortest reign ever in the history of humankind goes to Louis XIX in 1830. He was appointed by his father, who had renounced his throne, only to do the exact same thing 20 minutes later.
3. French people eat 30,000 tons of snails every year
Each French resident will average consume 500 snails in a calendar year. As a country, you can see that adds up! Snails, or escargot as they call it in the language of love, are considered a delicacy. They are commonly enjoyed on holidays and cooked to perfection in garlic butter, chicken stock, and wine. Don’t knock them until you try them!
4. The oldest person in the world was French
The person that has lived the longest to date was named Jeanne Calment. She was from Arles, a lovely little town in Provence. She survived until the ripe old age of 122 and 164 days old and even enjoyed a glass of port every night up to the end.
5. France makes over 1,000 kinds of cheese
The number of cheeses made in France can be a topic of debate. Some say more, some say less, but it all comes down to discerning the subtle differences in taste and technique. Don’t fret. Regardless, there’s plenty of fromage to go around in France. Camembert and Emmental are among the most popular.
6. French workers never answer emails after hours
As an American, this is one of the most interesting facts about France! We bet this law has us all wishing we were French. France has made it illegal for any boss or business to contact their employees on the weekends or after work hours. Talk about work-life balance!
7. The French national animal is the rooster
Not many people know that the national animal representing France is the rooster. It was on flags, bell towers, weathervanes, stamps, and a coin at one time.
If you keep a keen eye out, you may notice that its symbol can still be found in all the Catholic churches in the country. France also has several other, more official emblems, including the Tricolor flag.
8. France is the largest country in the EU but still smaller than Texas
France is around 400,039 square miles. This makes it four times the size of England and the biggest county in the entire European Union. Don’t let your imagination run wild, though. France is still only just slightly smaller than the state of Texas.
9. The longest book in the world is French
The longest novel in the world consists of 13 volumes and was written by France’s very own Marcel Proust. It’s called Remembrance of Things Past (In Search of Lost Time) and is 3,000 pages. Now that’s what we call an epic read!
10. The first ever artificial heart transplant happened in France
In 2013 at a hospital in Paris, the first-ever artificial heart transplant was completed. The fake organ was powered by lithium-ion batteries, which worked externally. It weighed three times as much as a real human heart. Biomaterials, like bovine tissue, were used and intended to last for five years.
11. The camera phone was invented in France
Who knew we had France to thank for the selfie? Philippe Kahn originally invented the now ubiquitous camera phone in 1997. The first image ever snapped was of his newborn daughter, the whole reason he macgyvered the contraption in the first place.
12. France has been nicknamed the hexagon
More like l’Hexagone in this neck of the woods. France is commonly called this due to its distinct shape. Check out a map and see if you agree with this geometrical moniker, which goes for only the mainland.
13. France is home to the largest art museum in the world
France is home to the world’s biggest and most renowned art museum, the Louvre. You may know it for its most iconic artwork, the Mona Lisa. These highly-regarded halls display over 35,000 other pieces at any given time. It would take you 200 days to see every exhibit in the place. It also holds the world record for most visitors in one year.
14. Turning a baguette upside down is unlucky in France
Every country has its own set of strange superstitions. France is no different. Wait until you get a load of this outlandish legend that dates back to the Middle Ages. They say it’s unlucky to turn a baguette, or any bread for that matter, upside down on a table.
15. French toast and french fries are not French
Contrary to popular belief, a couple of the foods that have been given the French name did not hail from this foreign land. French toast is said to have been invented by a man with the same last name in New York.
French fries were first given to American soldiers during World War II from a part of Belgium that speaks French, hence the confusion.
16. It’s illegal to throw out food in France
This may be one of the best fun facts about France! France is leading the way in this sustainable practice. They’ve made it illegal in the whole country to eliminate any unsold but usable food items. Instead, they must be donated. That goes for grocery stores and restaurants.
17. Kilts originated in France, not in Scotland
Those skirts we assume come from Scotland, the ones turning men into a vision in tartan? They were first worn in early France instead! They originally fell way below the knee and didn’t sport any classic Gaelic patterns we see today.
18. French is the official language of 29 countries
French is such a widespread dialect that it can be heard on almost every continent. France owns five territories overseas today and a great deal more historically.
It’s currently the official language of 29 countries. It was even the national language spoken in England at one time, if you can believe it, for over 300 years.
19. France has the most time zones
Even though France is on the smaller side of countries, it has the most time zones. Twelve to be exact (France’s time zones are UTC-10, UTC-9:30, UTC-9, UTC-4, UTC-3, UTC + 1, UTC + 3, UTC + 5, UTC + 11 and UTC + 12) that’s twice as many as the United States. If traveling around, keep an eye on the clock for sudden shifts in the hour.
20. The Tour De France is over a century old
The Tour De France has been around for much longer than most people think. It started way back in 1903 and today holds the title of the most watched sporting event in the world. It takes place over 21 days and 2,000 miles.
21. The French Army invented camouflage
I bet many didn’t know this France fact. France is certainly known for its fashion, but it may be a shock that they also invented the best military garb we all know best. The French Army first began wearing camouflage during WWI, commissioning artists to help them blend into their surroundings.
22. France also invented the hot air balloon
France has invented many things over the years. From canned foods to the hairdryer, products made here have changed our daily lives in countless ways. Likely the most enchanting creation to come out of France is the hot air balloon, invented by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783.
23. France held the first ever public movie screening
The legendary Lumiere brothers were known for their movie picture system and the short films they created for it from 1895 to 1905 in France. They held the first-ever public screening of cinema in Paris. It was a five-second long black and white film.
24. France is home to Europe’s highest mountain
France boasts the highest peak in all of Europe. The summit is called Mont Blanc, and it’s part of the spectacular French Alps near the town of Chamonix. It reaches a staggering height of 15,771 feet (4810 meters). You can endure a difficult climb to the top or take a scenic cable car ride to enjoy the views.
25. France made the most expensive bottle of wine in the world
As a wine lover, this is one of the best fun facts about France. France is certainly known for having some of the best wines in the entire world. Connoisseurs and sommeliers flock to experience bruts, pinots, and merlots here. The priciest purchase ever made for a bottle was for a 73-year-old French Burgundy at $558,000.
26. The croissant is originally from Austria
Perhaps France’s most iconic pastry export did not originate there! The croissant is said to have come from Austria instead. It’s a variation of a kipferl, which dates back to the 13th century.
27. France shares a border with eight countries
For a smaller country, France sure has a lot of neighbors. This is mainly due to its hexagonal shape, allowing it to touch borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Monaco, and Andorra.
28. France has more roundabouts than any other country
You may not notice the novel flow of traffic in France right away, but it’s certainly a strange facet of their culture. They have more roundabouts than any other country, around 30,000, so you will not see a single stop sign.
29. The three oldest cities can be found in France
The oldest city in France is the memorable and charming enclave of Marseilles. It was first founded in 600 BCE by the Greeks. The next is Beziers, famous for wine and bullfights dating back to 575 BC. Lastly, Agde, a small port town known as the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, began in 525 BC.
30. The Eiffel Tower was considered ugly at first
This is one of those relatively well-known France facts. Widely considered the most impressive marvel in France, the Eiffel Tower was named after Gustave Eiffel. A little-known fact is that upon its completion in 1887, the popular opinion among Parisians was that it was hideous and out of place.
31. France won the most Nobel Prizes for literature
There’s no shortage of amazing French authors. In total, 15 individuals have won the Nobel Prize in literature since 1901, which is no easy feat. This impressive list includes some of the most heralded thinkers in the world, like Descartes, Voltaire, and Flaubert.
32. Champagne is made exclusively in the Champagne region of France
Did you know that if you’re drinking Champagne, that automatically means that it comes from the specific Champagne region in France? If it’s from anywhere else in the world, it’s deemed sparkling wine.
33. There’s a medal for raising children well in France
In France, there is such a thing called the Medal of the French Family. It’s an award given to parents who have done their hard work raising several children “with dignity.” As such, it’s culturally common for families to be very close-knit.
34. Salut can mean both hello and goodbye
As always, it’s good to know at least a few important words when traveling to a foreign country. The word salut comes in handy as a polite way of both starting and ending conversations. This fact should also help avoid any confusion when flexing your French skills.
35. There are towns with zero inhabitants in France
There are six French villages with a mayor but no actual residents! They’re called ghost towns and were completely destroyed during WWII. They are maintained today only to keep the memory of those that didn’t make it alive.
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We hope you enjoyed these fun facts about France! See below for more facts around the world!
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