21 Interesting Facts About France

Western Europe

May 24

Want to know some fun and interesting facts about France?

There's just so much to say! From the country that made inverted pyramids stylish and brought supermodels into politics, here are 21 interesting facts about France.

21 Interesting Facts About France

1

It's the most visited country in the world

For more than two decades, France has topped the charts when it comes to visitors. The 2017 data reveal that more than 80 million people visited in that year alone. Over 30 million people visited Paris. 

2

There's an Emergency Boulangerie Rota

It's no secret that baguettes are popular in France. But did you know that France operates an emergency boulangerie (bakery) rota to make sure that everyone has access to fresh bread, even during bank holidays?

3

Marie Antoinette...

Never actually said "let them eat cake." She also wasn't French.

4

There's no Easter Bunny

Instead, there's a cloche volant or flying bell. It still delivers chocolate, though :-)

5

France has 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

And counting. 

6

Louis XIX Reigned for only 20 minutes

Louis XIX became king in 1830 but abdicated 20 minutes later in favour of his nephew, the Duke of Bordeaux.

7

France has more Michelin Stars than anywhere on earth

No fewer than 485 restaurants have won this accolade (which, incidentally, also began life in France.)

8

National Motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Established at the time of the French Revolution (1789 -1799) the phrase became official in 1946. What does it mean? Freedom, equality, brotherhood.

9

Marie Curie

Marie Curie is the only person in the world to hold two Nobel Prizes in two different science subjects. She worked from her laboratory in Paris but was actually Polish, having fled to France to survive.

10

France invented the stethoscope

French physician René Laennec began experimenting with rolled up cardboard tubes and one thing led to another.

11

France has an annual music festival

Each year, the streets are filled with musicians all day and into the night for the Fête de la Musique.

12

French isn't the Only Language

Beyond French, you’ll find Breton, Catalan, Basque and Occitan spoken and that’s just for starters when it comes to other languages.

13

246 Types of Cheese

From brie to roquefort and many, many more.

"How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?" Charles de Gaulle

14

Ooh la la!

People do say Ooh, la la. Though most will deny that they do


But to be fair, you’ll more likely hear the shorter “ooh, la!” or else the full gusto “oooh la la la la la la la la la la laaaa!” favoured by sports pundits during a tense moment of soccer interaction.

15

Braille

The system of Braille was invented in France by Louis Braille who lost his sight as a child.

16

Guillotine

Also invented in France.

16

France invented the Hot Air Balloon

Up, up and away!

17

And the word entrepreneur

It's not the only word from France that has entered everyday English use but its role in the George W Bush gaffe makes it the most famous one.

18

Rivalry and Friendship with England

To leave a party without saying goodbye is to “filer a l’anglaise.”


And a condom is also known as a capote anglaise


Even Bordeaux, one of the of the world’s finest and oldest centres for wine, developed as it did due to a spat with (and tax law from) England.


Cassoulet, a traditional dish found in the southwest, came from the desire for sustenance to fight the English.


And today, both countries share an aircraft carrier and an integrated defence plan (along with the rest of the United Kingdom.)

19

Famous Place Names

Champagne, Armagnac, Cognac, and Roquefort.

20

Frogs Legs

Yes, you can buy them. And snails. They're cooked in butter and garlic. 

21

Speedo Rules

France has strict swimwear rules. No board shorts, only speedos. And hair must be covered at all times.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

  • I have a 31a for you…

    That clever response/remark that *should* have made but comes to you only as you are leaving the party (walking downstairs from the drawing room) is “L’esprit d’escalier” (staircase wit).

  • Federico says:

    Have you read the book ” A year in the Merde?” Hilarious book, guaranteed you’ll laugh more than once.

    And I miss France, when I lived in Spain I would jump over to the area around Biarritz (to surf) 5- 10 time per year. It was great…

    • Abi King says:

      No…I haven’t. Heard of it but not read it. I love these small cultural differences – and France. Only spent a short time in Biarritz – those waves were vicious so I’m very impressed that you surfed there regularly!

  • Laura says:

    Fun list :) I just spent two weeks in Provence and visited some of those UNESCO sites…and ate most of those 246 kinds of cheese.

    • Abi says:

      Hehe – it would be more fun to take on a cheese challenge. How could he be sure there’s only 246?! ;-)

  • Leah says:

    I’m sure the number of cheeses and number of visits are no mere coincidence… ;)

  • Sophie says:

    They do say oh la la, don’t they – when things have gone a bit awry. Funny how Americans seem to think it’s said in connection with a sort of risqué, sexy surprise.

    • Abi King says:

      Exactly! Heard someone say it in Heathrow the other day as I dived through the train doors…Absolutely nothing risqué there!

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