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France Hotels Comparison & Online Booking

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What's important: you can compare and book not only France hotels and resorts, but also villas and holiday cottages, inns and B&Bs (bed and breakfast), condo hotels and apartments, timeshare properties, guest houses and pensions, campsites (campgrounds), motels and hostels in France. If you're going to France save your money and time, don't pay for the services of the greedy travel agencies. Instead, book the best hotel in France online, buy the cheapest airline tickets to France, and rent a car in France right now, paying the lowest price! Besides, here you can buy the France related books, guidebooks, souvenirs and other goods.

Here you can book a hotel virtually anywhere in France, including such popular and interesting places as The Three Valleys, Avignon, Limoges, Méribel, Carcassonne, Tignes, La Plagne, Alsace, Menton, Marseille, Versailles, Courchevel, Calais, Cassis, Morzine, Besançon, Honfleur, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Bonifacio, Paradiski, Nice, Brittany, Val Thorens, Cabourg, Cannes, Rhône-Alpes, Chambéry, Annecy, Bordeaux, French Alps, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Grenoble, Paris, Périgueux, La Ciotat, Mandelieu-la-Napoule, Étretat, Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Lourdes, Normandy, Megève, Beaune, Canet-en-Roussillon, La Rochelle, Avoriaz, Nîmes, Trouville-sur-Mer, Fréjus, Nantes, Porto-Vecchio, Chamonix, Rouen, Le Havre, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, Le Grau-du-Roi, Provence, Dijon, Les Gets, Perpignan, Strasbourg, Les Arcs, Briançon, Arles, French Riviera, Lyon, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pas-de-Calais, Corsica, Dunkirk, Lille, Les Menuires, Narbonne, Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, Montpellier, Portes du Soleil, Val-d'Isère, Biarritz, Aquitaine, Burgundy, Saint-Malo, Île-de-France, Saint-Tropez, Reims, Aix-en-Provence, Ajaccio, Toulouse, Colmar, Deauville, Antibes, Calvi, Bayonne, etc.

How to Book a Hotel in France

In order to book an accommodation in France enter the proper dates and do the hotel search. If needed, sort the found France hotels by price, star rating, property type, guest rating, hotel features, hotel theme or hotel chain. Then take a look at the found hotels on France map to estimate the distance from the main France attractions and sights. You can also read the guest reviews of France hotels and see their ratings.

When a hotel search in France is done, please select the room type, the included meals and the suitable booking conditions (for example, "Deluxe double room, Breakfast included, Non-Refundable"). Press the "View Deal" ("Book Now") button. Make your booking on a hotel booking website and get the hotel reservation voucher by email. That's it, a perfect hotel in France is waiting for you!

Hotels of France

A hotel in France is an establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis. Facilities provided may range from a basic bed and storage for clothing, to luxury features like en-suite bathrooms. Larger in France hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference facilities and social function services. Hotel rooms in France are usually numbered (or named in some smaller hotels and B&Bs) to allow guests to identify their room. Some France hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. Hotel operations vary in size, function, and cost. Most France hotels and major hospitality companies that operate hotels in France have set widely accepted industry standards to classify hotel types. General categories include the following:

Upscale luxury hotels in France
An upscale full service hotel facility in France that offers luxury amenities, full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and the highest level of personalized and professional service. Luxury France hotels are normally classified with at least a Four Diamond or Five Diamond status or a Four or Five Star rating depending on classification standards.

Full service hotels in France
Full service France hotels often contain upscale full-service facilities with a large volume of full service accommodations, on-site full service restaurant(s), and a variety of on-site amenities such as swimming pools, a health club, children's activities, ballrooms, on-site conference facilities, etc.

Historic inns and boutique hotels in France
Boutique hotels of France are smaller independent non-branded hotels that often contain upscale facilities of varying size in unique or intimate settings with full service accommodations. France boutique hotels are generally 100 rooms or less. Some historic inns and boutique hotels in France may be classified as luxury hotels.

Focused or select service hotels in France
Small to medium-sized hotel establishments that offer a limited amount of on-site amenities that only cater and market to a specific demographic of France travelers, such as the single business traveler. Most France focused or select service hotels may still offer full service accommodations but may lack leisure amenities such as an on-site restaurant or a swimming pool.

Economy and limited service hotels in France
Small to medium-sized France hotel establishments that offer a very limited amount of on-site amenities and often only offer basic accommodations with little to no services, these facilities normally only cater and market to a specific demographic of travelers, such as the budget-minded France traveler seeking a "no frills" accommodation. Limited service France hotels often lack an on-site restaurant but in return may offer a limited complimentary food and beverage amenity such as on-site continental breakfast service.

Guest houses and B&Bs in France
A bed and breakfast in France is a small lodging establishment that offers overnight accommodation and inclusive breakfast. Usually, France bed and breakfasts are private homes or family homes offering accommodations. The typical France B&B has between 4 and 11 rooms, with 6 being the average. Generally, guests are accommodated in private bedrooms with private bathrooms, or in a suite of rooms including an en suite bathroom. Some homes have private bedrooms with a bathroom which is shared with other guests. Breakfast is served in the bedroom, a dining room, or the host's kitchen. Often the owners of guest house themselves prepare the breakfast and clean the rooms.

Hostels in France
France hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge, and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex, although private rooms may also be available. Hostels are often cheaper for both the operator and occupants; many France hostels have long-term residents whom they employ as desk agents or housekeeping staff in exchange for experience or discounted accommodation.

Apartment hotels, extended stay hotels in France
Extended stay hotels are small to medium-sized France hotels that offer longer term full service accommodations compared to a traditional hotel. Extended stay hotels may offer non-traditional pricing methods such as a weekly rate that cater towards travelers in need of short-term accommodations for an extended period of time. Similar to limited and select service hotels, on-site amenities are normally limited and most extended stay hotels in France lack an on-site restaurant.

Timeshare and destination clubs in France
France timeshare and destination clubs are a form of property ownership also referred to as a vacation ownership involving the purchase and ownership of an individual unit of accommodation for seasonal usage during a specified period of time. Timeshare resorts in France often offer amenities similar that of a Full service hotel with on-site restaurant(s), swimming pools, recreation grounds, and other leisure-oriented amenities. Destination clubs of France on the other hand may offer more exclusive private accommodations such as private houses in a neighborhood-style setting.

Motels in France
A France motel is a small-sized low-rise lodging establishment similar to that of a limited service hotel, but with direct access to individual rooms from the car park. Common during the 1950s and 1960s, motels were often located adjacent to a major road, where they were built on inexpensive land at the edge of towns or along stretches of highways. They are still useful in less populated areas of France for driving travelers, but the more populated an area becomes the more hotels fill the need. Many of France motels which remain in operation have joined national franchise chains, rebranding themselves as hotels, inns or lodges.

Why HotelsCombined

HotelsCombined is the leading hotel metasearch engine founded in 2005, with headquarters in Sydney, Australia. It is widely recognized as the world's best hotel price comparison site and has won many of the most prestigious tourism industry awards. The site operates in over 40 languages, handles 120 different currencies and aggregates more than 2 million deals from hundreds of travel sites and hotel chains. The number of users counts more than 300,000 people a year with over $1,000,000,000 in estimated total cost of hotel reservations.

The main purpose of HotelsCombined hotel price comparison service is to help the travelers in finding a perfect accommodation option in France at the best price, eliminating the need to manually analyze hundreds of hotel booking sites and thousands of price offers. Through the partnership with the most popular hotel booking websites, online travel agencies and hotel chains, HotelsCombined allows its users to search for and compare the current rates on France hotels in a single search. It also provides an aggregated summary of hotel reviews and ratings from external sites.

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Travelling and vacation in France

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French Republic
République française (French)
Flag of France
National emblem of France
Flag National emblem
Motto: "Liberté, égalité, fraternité"
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
Location of  metropolitan France  (dark green)– in Europe  (green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (green)
Location of metropolitan France (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)

Territory of the French Republic (red)Claimed territory (Adélie Land; hatched)
Territory of the French Republic (red)
Claimed territory (Adélie Land; hatched)
Capital
and largest city
Paris
 / 48.8567; 2.35083
Official language
and national language
French
Nationality
  • 89.4% French
  • 4.4% French (by acquisition)
  • 6.2% Foreigners
  • 8.9% Immigrants
Religion
  • 63-66% Christian
  • 7-9% Muslim
  • 0.5-0.75% Buddhist
  • 0.5-0.75% Jewish
  • 0.5-1.0% other
  • 23-28% none
Demonym French
Government Unitary semi‑presidential republic
• President
Emmanuel Macron
• Prime Minister
Édouard Philippe
• President of the Senate
Gérard Larcher
• President of the National Assembly
Claude Bartolone
Legislature Parliament
• Upper house
Senate
• Lower house
National Assembly
Establishment
• Francia unified
486
• Treaty of Verdun
August 843
• Republic established
22 September 1792
• Founded the EEC
1 January 1958
• Current constitution
4 October 1958
Area
• Total
643,801 km (248,573 sq mi) (41st)
• Metropolitan France (IGN)
551,695 km (50th)
213,010 sq mi
• Metropolitan France (Cadastre)
543,940.9 km (50th)
210,026 sq mi
Population
• Total 2017​ estimate
66,991,000 (20th)
• Metropolitan France Januray 2017 estimate
64,860,000 (22nd)
• Density
116/km (300.4/sq mi) (89th)
GDP (PPP) 2015 estimate
• Total
$2.647 trillion (10th)
• Per capita
$41,181 (24th)
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
• Total
$2.420 trillion (7th)
Gini (2013) 30.1
medium
HDI (2015) Increase 0.897
very high · 21st
Currency
  • Euro (EUR)
  • CFP franc (XPF)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST)
CEST (UTC+2)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy
Drives on the right
Calling code +33
ISO 3166 code FR
Internet TLD .fr

France (French: [fʁɑ̃s]), officially the French Republic (République française [ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a country with territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European, or metropolitan, area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. Overseas France include French Guiana on the South American continent and several island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. France spans 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and had a total population of almost 67 million people as of January 2017. It is a unitary semi-presidential republic with the capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban centres include Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

During the Iron Age, what is now metropolitan France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people. The area was annexed in 51 BC by Rome, which held Gaul until 486, when the Germanic Franks conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of France. France emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) strengthening state-building and political centralisation. During the Renaissance, French culture flourished and a global colonial empire was established, which by the 20th century would be the second largest in the world. The 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots). France became Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power under Louis XIV. In the late 18th century, the French Revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, and saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.

In the 19th century Napoleon took power and established the First French Empire, whose subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870. France was a major participant in the First World War, from which it emerged victorious, and was one of the Allied Powers in the Second World War, but came under occupation by the Axis Powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains to this day. Algeria and nearly all the other colonies became independent in the 1960s and typically retained close economic and military connections with France.

France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. It hosts Europe's fourth-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually, the most of any country in the world. France is a developed country with the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. France remains a great power in the world, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with the power to veto and an official nuclear-weapon state. It is a leading member state of the European Union and the Eurozone. It is also a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie.

France: Etymology

Originally applied to the whole Frankish Empire, the name "France" comes from the Latin Francia, or "country of the Franks". Modern France is still named today Francia in Italian and Spanish, Frankreich in German and Frankrijk in Dutch, all of which have the same historical meaning.

There are various theories as to the origin of the name Frank. Following the precedents of Edward Gibbon and Jacob Grimm, the name of the Franks has been linked with the word frank (free) in English. It has been suggested that the meaning of "free" was adopted because, after the conquest of Gaul, only Franks were free of taxation. Another theory is that it is derived from the Proto-Germanic word frankon, which translates as javelin or lance as the throwing axe of the Franks was known as a francisca. However, it has been determined that these weapons were named because of their use by the Franks, not the other way around.

France: History

France: Prehistory (before the 6th century BC)

Lascaux cave paintings: a horse from Dordogne facing right brown on white background
One of the Lascaux paintings: a horse – Dordogne, approximately 18,000 BC

The oldest traces of human life in what is now France date from approximately 1.8 million years ago. Humans were then confronted by a harsh and variable climate, marked by several glacial eras. Early homonids led a nomadic hunter-gatherer life. France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Palaeolithic era, including one of the most famous and best preserved: Lascaux (approximately 18,000 BC).

At the end of the last glacial period (10,000 BC), the climate became milder; from approximately 7,000 BC, this part of Western Europe entered the Neolithic era and its inhabitants became sedentary. After strong demographic and agricultural development between the 4th and 3rd millennia, metallurgy appeared at the end of the 3rd millennium, initially working gold, copper and bronze, and later iron. France has numerous megalithic sites from the Neolithic period, including the exceptionally dense Carnac stones site (approximately 3,300 BC).

France: Antiquity (6th century BC–5th century AD)

In 600 BC, Ionian Greeks, originating from Phocaea, founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city. At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France between the 5th and 3rd century BC.

Maison Carrée temple in Nemausus Corinthian columns and portico
The Maison Carrée was a temple of the Gallo-Roman city of Nemausus (present-day Nîmes) and is one of the best preserved vestiges of the Roman Empire.

The concept of Gaul emerged at that time; it corresponds to the territories of Celtic settlement ranging between the Rhine, the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. The borders of modern France are roughly the same as those of ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was then a prosperous country, of which the southernmost part was heavily subject to Greek and Roman cultural and economic influences.

Around 390 BC the Gallic chieftain Brennus and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia, and besieged and ransomed Rome. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened, and the Gauls continued to harass the region until 345 BC when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next several centuries, and the Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italia.

Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who called this region Provincia Nostra ("Our Province"), which over time evolved into the name Provence in French. Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in 52 BC. Gaul was divided by Augustus into Roman provinces. Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period, including Lugdunum (present-day Lyon), which is considered the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths. The Gauls mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman culture and Roman speech (Latin, from which the French language evolved). The Roman polytheism merged with the Gallic paganism into the same syncretism.

From the 250s to the 280s AD, Roman Gaul suffered a serious crisis with its fortified borders being attacked on several occasions by barbarians. Nevertheless, the situation improved in the first half of the 4th century, which was a period of revival and prosperity for Roman Gaul. In 312, the emperor Constantin I converted to Christianity. Subsequently, Christians, who had been persecuted until then, increased rapidly across the entire Roman Empire. But, from the beginning of the 5th century, the Barbarian Invasions resumed, and Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals, Suebi and Alans crossed the Rhine and settled in Gaul, Spain and other parts of the collapsing Roman Empire.

France: Early Middle Ages (5th century–10th century)

animated gif showing expansion of Franks across Europe
Frankish expansion from 481 to 843/870.

At the end of the Antiquity period, ancient Gaul was divided into several Germanic kingdoms and a remaining Gallo-Roman territory, known as the Kingdom of Syagrius. Simultaneously, Celtic Britons, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain, settled the western part of Armorica. As a result, the Armorican peninsula was renamed Brittany, Celtic culture was revived and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region.

painting of Clovis I conversion to Catholicism in 498, a king being baptized in a tub in a cathedral surrounded by bishop and monks
With Clovis' conversion to Catholicism in 498, the Frankish monarchy, elective and secular until then, became hereditary and of divine right.

The pagan Franks, from whom the ancient name of "Francie" was derived, originally settled the north part of Gaul, but under Clovis I conquered most of the other kingdoms in northern and central Gaul. In 498, Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity, rather than Arianism; thus France was given the title "Eldest daughter of the Church" (French: La fille aînée de l'Église) by the papacy, and French kings would be called "the Most Christian Kings of France" (Rex Christianissimus).

The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman culture and ancient Gaul was eventually renamed Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages, except in northern Gaul where Roman settlements were less dense and where Germanic languages emerged. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty, but his kingdom would not survive his death. The Franks treated land purely as a private possession and divided it among their heirs, so four kingdoms emerged from Clovis's: Paris, Orléans, Soissons, and Rheims. The last Merovingian kings lost power to their mayors of the palace (head of household). One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated an Islamic invasion of Gaul at the Battle of Tours (732) and earned respect and power within the Frankish kingdoms. His son, Pepin the Short, seized the crown of Francia from the weakened Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pepin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.

Proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III and thus establishing in earnest the French government's longtime historical association with the Catholic Church, Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire and its cultural grandeur. Charlemagne's son, Louis I (emperor 814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive his death. In 843, under the Treaty of Verdun, the empire was divided between Louis' three sons, with East Francia going to Louis the German, Middle Francia to Lothair I, and West Francia to Charles the Bald. West Francia approximated the area occupied by, and was the precursor, to modern France.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralised state: the nobility's titles and lands became hereditary, and the authority of the king became more religious than secular and thus was less effective and constantly challenged by powerful noblemen. Thus was established feudalism in France. Over time, some of the king's vassals would grow so powerful that they often posed a threat to the king. For example, after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror added "King of England" to his titles, becoming both the vassal to (as Duke of Normandy) and the equal of (as king of England) the king of France, creating recurring tensions.

France: Late Middle Ages (10th century–15th century)

Joan of Arc in plate armor holding sword facing left with gilded background
Joan of Arc led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the final victory.
animated gif showing changes in French borders
French territorial evolution from 985 to 1947

The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of the Franks. His descendants-the Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon-progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France, which was fully declared in 1190 by Philip II Augustus. The French nobility played a prominent role in most Crusades in order to restore Christian access to the Holy Land. French knights made up the bulk of the steady flow of reinforcements throughout the two-hundred-year span of the Crusades, in such a fashion that the Arabs uniformly referred to the crusaders as Franj caring little whether they really came from France. The French Crusaders also imported the French language into the Levant, making French the base of the lingua franca (litt. "Frankish language") of the Crusader states. French knights also comprised the majority in both the Hospital and the Temple orders. The latter, in particular, held numerous properties throughout France and by the 13th century were the principal bankers for the French crown, until Philip IV annihilated the order in 1307. The Albigensian Crusade was launched in 1209 to eliminate the heretical Cathars in the southwestern area of modern-day France. In the end, the Cathars were exterminated and the autonomous County of Toulouse was annexed into the kingdom of France. Later kings expanded their domain to cover over half of modern continental France, including most of the north, centre and west of France. Meanwhile, the royal authority became more and more assertive, centred on a hierarchically conceived society distinguishing nobility, clergy, and commoners.

Charles IV the Fair died without an heir in 1328. Under the rules of the Salic law the crown of France could not pass to a woman nor could the line of kingship pass through the female line. Accordingly, the crown passed to Philip of Valois, a cousin of Charles, rather than through the female line to Charles' nephew, Edward, who would soon become Edward III of England. During the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power. Philip's seat on the throne was contested by Edward III of England and in 1337, on the eve of the first wave of the Black Death, England and France went to war in what would become known as the Hundred Years' War. The exact boundaries changed greatly with time, but French landholdings of the English Kings remained extensive for decades. With charismatic leaders, such as Joan of Arc and La Hire, strong French counterattacks won back English continental territories. Like the rest of Europe, France was struck by the Black Death; half of the 17 million population of France died.

France: Early modern period (15th century–1789)

painting of St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, convent church of the Grands-Augustins, the Seine and the bridge of the Millers, in the center, the Louvre and Catherine de' Medici.
The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (1572) was the climax of the French Wars of Religion, which were brought to an end by the Edict of Nantes (1598).

The French Renaissance saw a spectacular cultural development and the first standardisation of the French language, which would become the official language of France and the language of Europe's aristocracy. It also saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between the Kingdom of France and the powerful Holy Roman Empire. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire. The rise of Protestantism in Europe led France to a civil war known as the French Wars of Religion, where, in the most notorious incident, thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 1572. The Wars of Religion were ended by Henry IV's Edict of Nantes, which granted some freedom of religion to the Huguenots.

Under Louis XIII, the energetic Cardinal Richelieu promoted the centralisation of the state and reinforced the royal power by disarming domestic power holders in the 1620s. He systematically destroyed castles of defiant lords and denounced the use of private violence (dueling, carrying weapons, and maintaining private army). By the end of 1620s, Richelieu established "the royal monopoly of force" as the doctrine. During Louis XIV's minority and the regency of Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin, a period of trouble known as the Fronde occurred in France, which was at that time at war with Spain. This rebellion was driven by the great feudal lords and sovereign courts as a reaction to the rise of royal absolute power in France.

Louis XIV of France standing in plate armor and blue sash facing left holding baton
Louis XIV, the "sun king" was the absolute monarch of France and made France the leading European power.

The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power. France became the most populous country in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. France obtained many overseas possessions in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Louis XIV also revoked the Edict of Nantes, forcing thousands of Huguenots into exile.

Under Louis XV, Louis XIV's grandson, France lost New France and most of its Indian possessions after its defeat in the Seven Years' War, which ended in 1763. Its European territory kept growing, however, with notable acquisitions such as Lorraine (1766) and Corsica (1770). An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised financial, political and military decisions – as well as the debauchery of his court– discredited the monarchy, which arguably paved the way for the French Revolution 15 years after his death.

Louis XVI, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain (realised in the Treaty of Paris (1783)). The financial crisis that followed France's involvement in the American Revolutionary War was one of many contributing factors to the French Revolution. Much of the Enlightenment occurred in French intellectual circles, and major scientific breakthroughs and inventions, such as the discovery of oxygen (1778) and the first hot air balloon carrying passengers (1783), were achieved by French scientists. French explorers, such as Bougainville and Lapérouse, took part in the voyages of scientific exploration through maritime expeditions around the globe. The Enlightenment philosophy, in which reason is advocated as the primary source for legitimacy and authority, undermined the power of and support for the monarchy and helped pave the way for the French Revolution.

France: Revolutionary France (1789–1799)

drawing of the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, smoke of gunfire enveloping stone castle
The Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 was the most emblematic event of the French Revolution.

Facing financial troubles, king Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General (gathering the three Estates of the realm) in May 1789 to propose solutions to his government. As it came to an impasse, the representatives of the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, signalling the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fearing that the king would suppress the newly created National Assembly, insurgents stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a date which would become France's National Day.

Early August 1789 the National Constituent Assembly abolished the privileges of the nobility such as personal serfdom and exclusive hunting rights. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (27 August 1789) France established fundamental rights for men. The Declaration affirms "the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" to "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression". Freedom of speech and press were declared, and arbitrary arrests outlawed. It called for the destruction of aristocratic privileges and proclaimed freedom and equal rights for all men, as well as access to public office based on talent rather than birth.

In November 1789, the Assembly decided to nationalize and sell all property of the Roman Catholic Church which had been the largest landowner in the country. In July 1790, a Civil Constitution of the Clergy reorganised the French Catholic Church cancelling the authority of the Church to levy taxes, et cetera. This fueled much discontent in parts of France which would contribute to the civil war breaking out some years later. While king Louis XVI still enjoyed popularity among the population, his disastrous flight to Varennes (June 1791) seemed to justify rumours he had tied his hopes of political salvation to the prospects of foreign invasion. His credibility was so deeply undermined that the abolition of the monarchy and establishment of a republic became an increasing possibility.

In August 1791, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia in the Declaration of Pillnitz threatened revolutionary France to intervene by force of arms to restore the French absolute monarchy. In September 1791, the National Constituent Assembly forced king Louis XVI to accept the French Constitution of 1791, thus turning the French absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. In the newly established Legislative Assembly (October 1791), enmity developed and deepened between a group, later called the 'Girondins', who favored war with Austria and Prussia, and a group later called 'Montagnards' or 'Jacobins', who opposed such war. But a majority in the Assembly in 1792 saw a war with Austria and Prussia as a chance to boost the popularity of the revolutionary government, and thought that France would win a war against those gathered monarchies. On 20 April 1792 therefore, they declared war on Austria.

On 10 August 1792, an angry crowd threatened the palace of King Louis XVI, who took refuge in the Legislative Assembly. A Prussian army invaded France later in August 1792. Early September, Parisians, infuriated by the Prussian army capturing Verdun and counter-revolutionary uprisings in the west of France, murdered between 1,000 and 1,500 prisoners by raiding the Parisian prisons. The Assembly and the Paris city council seemed unable to stop that bloodshed. The National Convention, chosen in the first elections under male universal suffrage, on 20 September 1792 succeeded the Legislative Assembly and on 21 September abolished the monarchy by proclaiming the French First Republic. Ex-king Louis XVI was convicted of treason and guillotined in January 1793. France had declared war on England and the Dutch Republic in November 1792 and did the same on Spain in March 1793; in the spring of 1793, Austria, Great Britain and the Dutch Republic invaded France; in March, France created a "sister republic" in the "Republic of Mainz".

Also in March 1793, the civil war of the Vendée against Paris started, evoked by both the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 and the nationwide army conscription early 1793; elsewhere in France rebellion was brewing too. A factionalist feud in the National Convention, smoldering ever since October 1791, came to a climax with the group of the 'Girondins' on 2 June 1793 being forced to resign and leave the Convention. The counter-revolution, begun in March 1793 in the Vendée, by July had spread to Brittany, Normandy, Bordeaux, Marseilles, Toulon, Lyon. Paris' Convention government between October and December 1793 with brutal measures managed to subdue most internal uprisings, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Some historians consider the civil war to have lasted until 1796 with a toll of possibly 450,000 lives. France in February 1794 abolished slavery in its American colonies, but would reintroduce it later.

Political disagreements and enmity in the National Convention between October 1793 and July 1794 reached unprecedented levels, leading to dozens of Convention members being sentenced to death and guillotined. Meanwhile, France's external wars in 1794 were going prosperous, for example in Belgium. In 1795, the government seemed to return to indifference towards the desires and needs of the lower classes concerning freedom of (Catholic) religion and fair distribution of food. Until 1799, politicians, apart from inventing a new parliamentary system (the 'Directory'), busied themselves with dissuading the people from Catholicism and from royalism.

painting of Napoleon in 1806 standing with hand in vest attended by staff and Imperial guard regiment
Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and his Grande Armée built a vast Empire across Europe. He helped spread the French revolutionary ideals and his legal reforms had a major influence worldwide.

France: Napoleon and 19th century (1799–1914)

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799 becoming First Consul and later Emperor of the French Empire (1804–1814/1815). As a continuation of the wars sparked by the European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of European Coalitions declared wars on Napoleon's Empire. His armies conquered most of continental Europe with swift victories such as the battles of Jena-Auerstadt or Austerlitz. Members of the Bonaparte family were appointed as monarchs in some of the newly established kingdoms. These victories led to the worldwide expansion of French revolutionary ideals and reforms, such as the Metric system, the Napoleonic Code and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. After the catastrophic Russian campaign, and the ensuing uprising of European monarchies against his rule, Napoleon was defeated and the Bourbon monarchy restored. About a million Frenchmen died during the Napoleonic Wars.

animated gif of French colonial territory on world map
Animated map of the growth and decline of the French colonial empire.

After his brief return from exile, Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo, the monarchy was re-established (1815–1830), with new constitutional limitations. The discredited Bourbon dynasty was overthrown by the July Revolution of 1830, which established the constitutional July Monarchy, which lasted until 1848, when the French Second Republic was proclaimed, in the wake of the European Revolutions of 1848. The abolition of slavery and male universal suffrage, both briefly enacted during the French Revolution were re-enacted in 1848.

In 1852, the president of the French Republic, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I's nephew, was proclaimed emperor of the second Empire, as Napoleon III. He multiplied French interventions abroad, especially in Crimea, in Mexico and Italy which resulted in the annexation of the duchy of Savoy and the county of Nice, then part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. Napoleon III was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic. France had colonial possessions, in various forms, since the beginning of the 17th century, but in the 19th and 20th centuries, its global overseas colonial empire extended greatly and became the second largest in the world behind the British Empire. Including metropolitan France, the total area of land under French sovereignty almost reached 13 million square kilometres in the 1920s and 1930s, 8.6% of the world's land. Known as the Belle Époque, the turn of the century was a period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity and technological, scientific and cultural innovations. In 1905, state secularism was officially established.

France: Contemporary period (1914–present)

Autochrome of the 114 Infantery regiment in París, on 14 July 1917, with French flag unfurled laying on stacked arms
French poilus sustained the highest number of casualties among the Allies in World War I.

France was a member of the Triple Entente when World War I broke out. A small part of Northern France was occupied, but France and its allies emerged victorious against the Central Powers at a tremendous human and material cost. World War I left 1.4 million French soldiers dead, 4% of its population. Between 27 and 30% of soldiers conscripted from 1912–1915 were killed. The interbellum years were marked by intense international tensions and a variety of social reforms introduced by the Popular Front government (annual leave, eight-hour workdays, women in government, etc...).

Charles de Gaulle seated in uniform looking left with folded arms
Charles de Gaulle took an active part in many major events of the 20th century: a hero of World War I, leader of the Free French during World War II, he then became President, where he facilitated decolonisation, maintained France as a major power and overcame the revolt of May 1968.

In 1940, France was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. Metropolitan France was divided into a German occupation zone in the north and Vichy France, a newly established authoritarian regime collaborating with Germany, in the south, while Free France, the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle, was set up in London. From 1942 to 1944, about 160,000 French citizens, including around 75,000 Jews, were deported to death camps and concentration camps in Germany and occupied Poland. On 6 June 1944 the Allies invaded Normandy and in August they invaded Provence. Over the following year the Allies and the French Resistance emerged victorious over the Axis powers and French sovereignty was restored with the establishment of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF). This interim government, established by de Gaulle, aimed to continue to wage war against Germany and to purge collaborators from office. It also made several important reforms (suffrage extended to women, creation of a social security system).

The GPRF laid the groundwork for a new constitutional order that resulted in the Fourth Republic, which saw spectacular economic growth (les Trente Glorieuses). France was one of the founding members of NATO (1949). France attempted to regain control of French Indochina but was defeated by the Viet Minh in 1954 at the climactic Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Only months later, France faced another anti-colonialist conflict in Algeria. Torture and illegal executions were perpetrated by both sides and the debate over whether or not to keep control of Algeria, then home to over one million European settlers, wracked the country and nearly led to a coup and civil war.

In 1958, the weak and unstable Fourth Republic gave way to the Fifth Republic, which included a strengthened Presidency. In the latter role, Charles de Gaulle managed to keep the country together while taking steps to end the war. The Algerian War was concluded with the Évian Accords in 1962 that led to Algerian independence. A vestige of the colonial empire are the French overseas departments and territories.

In the context of the Cold War, de Gaulle pursued a policy of "national independence" towards the Western and Eastern blocs. To this end, he withdrew from NATO's military integrated command, he launched a nuclear development programme and made France the fourth nuclear power. He restored cordial Franco-German relations in order to create a European counterweight between the American and Soviet spheres of influence. However, he opposed any development of a supranational Europe, favouring a Europe of sovereign Nations. In the wake of the series of worldwide protests of 1968, the revolt of May 1968 had an enormous social impact. In France, it is considered to be the watershed moment when a conservative moral ideal (religion, patriotism, respect for authority) shifted towards a more liberal moral ideal (secularism, individualism, sexual revolution). Although the revolt was a political failure (as the Gaullist party emerged even stronger than before) it announced a split between the French people and de Gaulle who resigned shortly after.

Place de la République statue column with large French flag
Republican march, Place de la République, Paris.

In the post-Gaullist era, France remained one of the most developed economies in the World, but faced several economic crises that resulted in high unemployment rates and increasing public debt. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries France has been at the forefront of the development of a supranational European Union, notably by signing the Maastricht Treaty (which created the European Union) in 1992, establishing the Eurozone in 1999, and signing the Lisbon Treaty in 2007. France has also gradually but fully reintegrated into NATO and has since participated in most NATO sponsored wars.

Since the 19th century France has received many immigrants. These have been mostly male foreign workers from European Catholic countries who generally returned home when not employed. During the 1970s France faced economic crisis and allowed new immigrants (mostly from the Maghreb) to permanently settle in France with their families and to acquire French citizenship. It resulted in hundreds of thousands of Muslims (especially in the larger cities) living in subsidised public housing and suffering from very high unemployment rates. Simultaneously France renounced the assimilation of immigrants, where they were expected to adhere to French traditional values and cultural norms. They were encouraged to retain their distinctive cultures and traditions and required merely to integrate.

Since the 1995 Paris Métro and RER bombings, France has been sporadically targeted by Islamist organisations, notably the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 which provoked the largest public rallies in French history, gathering 4.4 million people, the November 2015 Paris attacks which resulted in 130 deaths, the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II, and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the 2016 Nice attack which caused 87 deaths during Bastille Day celebrations.

France: Geography

France: Location and borders

see description
A relief map of Metropolitan France, showing cities with over 100,000 inhabitants.

The European part of France is called Metropolitan France and it is located at the Western end of Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea in the north, the English Channel in the northwest, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean sea in the southeast. It borders Belgium and Luxembourg in the northeast, Germany and Switzerland in the east, Italy and Monaco in the southeast, and Spain and Andorra in the south and southwest. The borders in the south and in the east of the country are mountain ranges: the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Jura, the border in the east is from the Rhine river, while the border in the north and the northeast melts in no natural elements. Due to its shape, it is often referred to in French as l'Hexagone ("The Hexagon"). Metropolitan France includes various islands: Corsica and coastal islands. Metropolitan France is situated mostly between latitudes 41° and 51° N, and longitudes 6° W and 10° E, on the western edge of Europe, and thus lies within the northern temperate zone. Its continental part covers about 1000 km from north to south and from east to west.

France has Overseas regions across the world. These territories have varying statuses in the territorial administration of France and are located:

  • In South America: French Guiana.
  • In the Atlantic Ocean: Saint Pierre and Miquelon and, in the Antilles: Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy.
  • In the Pacific Ocean: French Polynesia, the special collectivity of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and Clipperton Island.
  • In the Indian Ocean: Réunion island, Mayotte, Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean, Crozet Islands, St. Paul and Amsterdam islands.
  • In the Indian Ocean: Kerguelen Islands.
  • In the Antarctic: Adélie Land.

France has land borders with Brazil and Suriname in French Guiana and with the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the French part of Saint Martin.

The European territory of France covers 551,500 square kilometres (212,935 sq mi), the largest among European Union members. France's total land area, with its overseas departments and territories (excluding Adélie Land), is 643,801 km (248,573 sq mi), 0.45% of the total land area on Earth. France possesses a wide variety of landscapes, from coastal plains in the north and west to mountain ranges of the Alps in the southeast, the Massif Central in the south central and Pyrenees in the southwest.

Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered across the planet, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, covering 11,035,000 km (4,260,000 mi), just behind the EEZ of the United States (11,351,000 km / 4,383,000 mi), but ahead of the EEZ of Australia (8,148,250 km / 4,111,312 mi). Its EEZ covers approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world.

At 4,810.45 metres (15,782 ft) above sea level, the highest point in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, is situated in the Alps on the French and Italian border. France also has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.

France: Climate

Most of the low-lying areas of metropolitan France excluding Corsica are located in the oceanic climate zone, Cfb, Cwb and Cfc in the Köppen classification. A small part of the territory bordering the mediterranean basin lies in the Csa and Csb zones. As the French metropolitan territory is relatively large, the climate is not uniform, giving rise to the following climate nuances:

  • The west of France has strictly oceanic climate – it extends from Flanders to the Basque Country in a coastal strip several tens of kilometres wide, narrower to the north and south but wider in Brittany, which is almost entirely in this climate zone.
    • The climate of the South is also oceanic but warmer.
    • The climate of the Northwest is oceanic but cooler and windier.
  • Away from the coast, the climate is oceanic throughout but its characteristics change somewhat. The Paris sedimentary basin and, more so, the basins protected by mountain chains show a stronger seasonal temperature variability and less rainfall during autumn and winter. Therefore, most of the territory has a semi-oceanic climate and forms a transition zone between strictly oceanic climate near the coasts and the semi-continental climate of the north and centre-east (Alsace, plains of the Saône, the middle part of the Rhône, Dauphiné, Auvergne and Savoy).
  • The Mediterranean and the lower Rhône valley experience a Mediterranean climate due to the effect of mountain chains isolating them from the rest of the country and the resulting Mistral and Tramontana winds.
  • The mountain (or alpine) climate is confined to the Alps, the Pyrenees and the summits of the Massif Central, the Jura and the Vosges.
  • In the overseas regions, there are three broad types of climate:
    • A tropical climate in most overseas regions: high constant temperature throughout the year with a dry and a wet season.
    • An equatorial climate in French Guiana: high constant temperature with even precipitation throughout the year.
    • A subpolar climate in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and in most of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands: short mild summers and long very cold winters.
  • France.fr (in English) Official French tourism website
  • (French) Official Site of the Government
  • Official site of the French public service – Links to various administrations and institutions
  • Official site of the National Assembly
  • Contemporary French Civilization, journal, University of Illinois.
  • FranceGuide – Official website of the French Government Tourist Office

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