/ / France Facts: 34 Fun Facts About France You Probably Didn’t Know

France Facts: 34 Fun Facts About France You Probably Didn’t Know

Want to know more things about France that you probably didn’t know? Here are the fun facts about France that will help you learn more about the country.

As one of the most visited nations in the world, it’s no surprise that there are countless things to know about France.

Whether it’s about the country’s rich history and contribution to the democratization of the world or its leading haute couture industry, or even its mass production of two of the world’s favorite things — wine and cheese, there’s so much to learn, absorb, and fall in love with, about France.

Facts about France

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Though most people visit the country for its famous landmarks and enchanting cities, not many go beyond the surface to learn about its deep-rooted history and culture.

So, to help you get a deeper insight into the country, I’ll be sharing some of the most interesting facts about France and the numerous reasons why the country is a favorite amongst world explorers!

Psst… Before traveling to Paris or France in general, make sure that you have Travel Insurance! I always use World Nomads on all my trips and I am happy to recommend it to you. You can easily request a quote from World Nomads from here for FREE!

Fun Facts about France

For easy navigation, I’ll be categorizing this article into; general France facts, historical facts about France, France facts about Inventions, facts about France for tourists, and some foodie facts about France.

General Fun France Facts

1. France has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners in Literature in the world

A testament to the country’s vibrant and rich art and culture, one of the most remarkable facts of France is that it has the most Nobel Prize winners in the field of Literature than anywhere else in the world!

Some of the best philosophers, political thinkers, and writers have emerged from this beautiful country, so the fact that over fifteen individuals have received the award since it was introduced is genuinely no surprise!

Some of the famous French writers who won a noble prize in Literature include Sully Prudhomme, a French poet who won the first-ever Nobel prize in literature in 1901, Romain Rolland, Roger Martin du Gard, Claude Simon, and others.

Sully Prudhomme, first-ever Nobel prize in literature

Sully Prudhomme, first-ever Nobel prize winner in literatureCopyright © The Nobel Foundation 1901, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

2. The motto of France is Liberté, Égalitié, Fraternité

One of the most well-known facts about France is its fight for democracy and the fall of its corrupt aristocracy.

In the massive public proceedings during the French Revolution that came together to bring change to not only France but also spark liberty movements across the world, the slogan “Liberté, Égalitié, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity in English) was widely used and has since remained the country’s motto.

3. France is home to the world’s Most Famous cycling race, Tour de France

A tradition that began back in 1903, Tour de France is the world’s most famous cycling race that happens every year.

A fest that started over a century ago as a form of advertisement for L’Auto newspaper to increase their sales, today, it witnesses nearly 200 cyclists racing across France in several different segments across 23 days!

They cover a total distance of 3,200 kilometers, and the race sees millions of spectators cheering on the cyclists.

Besides being the toughest and most famous tour that every cyclist dreams of participating in, the tour passes through different regions of France (and sometimes in a few neighboring countries) giving fans a sneak peek into different communes of the country.

One of the France facsts is that it is home to the world's Most Famous cycling race, Tour de France
Tour de France

4. France is the largest country in the European Union

This is one of the interesting facts on France that might come as a surprise to many!

Spread across a massive area amounting to 134 million acres (precisely 543,940 km²), France is the largest country amongst the nations that make up the European Union. However, it is the third-largest in all of Europe behind Ukraine and Russia.

5. France is nicknamed L’Hexagone

Due to its unique shape, one of the many nicknames of France is L’Hexagone!

This, however only includes the mainland France region and not any overseas territories.

The name L’Hexagone comes from the fact that it is a six-sided polygon with three sides connected to the land, namely Spain, Switzerland, and Italy, and the other three are connected to the sea.

L’Hexagone is one of the nicknames for France

6. The government awards parents medals for raising their kids well

One of the more quirky fun facts about France is that the government has awards known as Médaille de la Famille Française (Medal of the French Family) for parents who raise their kids well and healthily.

This scheme was introduced to motivate parents to have more children and impart dignity and offer good care to all of them, leading to a happier population and, ultimately, a more efficient and content workforce when the kids grow up.

Though it’s just a decoration medal, a number of families, particularly those with big families and whose kids have turned 16 have been participating in this event since its creation in 1920.

Related Post: Fun facts about Paris

7. The statue of liberty was a gift from France to the US

One of the fun facts on France most people don’t know is that the United States’ and specifically New York’s top landmark, the Statue of Liberty was actually a gift from France!

It was an offering to honor the alliance between France and the United States at the time of the American Revolution and has since remained one of the most precious gifts given by one nation to another!

USA Statue of Liberty
USA Statue of Liberty

8. France Has A law That requires nearly 35% of the music on all private radios to be French

Though an odd law, France has a decree that requires all private and public radios in the country to play nearly 35% French music.

Created in 1994 to honor, preserve, and promote French music and to protect French radios from being taken over by international English music, the law was first set at 40%, which was reduced to 35%.

9. France doesn’t have the largest French-speaking city in the world

With French being spoken officially in over 32 countries, it is truly a global language of communication.

One of the surprising facts about France culture is that despite France being the pioneer and the “owner” of the French language, the largest French-speaking city in the world is not in France but rather in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and that is nonother than the country’s capital Kinshasa.

This comes as a result of Kinshasa having a population of about 12 million French-speaking people, a number that is bigger than in any city in France.

Martinique - one of the French overseas territories
Martinique – one of the French overseas territories

10. France Has 12 different time zones Across All its Territories

One of the most astounding France facts is that the country, inclusive of all its overseas territories, has the most time zones in the world.

If you include France’s territorial claim in Antarctica, the country has 13 time zones in total, though mainland France follows only one.

This wide variety is due to the significant distance between all of France’s overseas territories like French Polynesia, Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and more.

11. France is a pioneer in the perfume business

Of the several products in which France is a pioneer, the perfume and fragrance business would not be the same without France.

It is home to top-of-the-line French perfume brands like Chanel, Chloé, Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Lancôme, and more that are now known worldwide for producing some of the best and most memorable fragrances ever.

Interesting Facts About France for Tourists

Paris travel tips
Eiffel Tower

12. France is the world’s most popular tourist destination

One of the most interesting facts about France is that in honor of being a beautiful country with contemporary megacities accompanied by idyllic countryside and as a home to diverse culture, art, and fashion hotspots, France is the world’s most popular holiday destination by international visitors.

In 2019 itself, the country saw upwards of 90 million visitors according to the World Population review!

It was closely followed by Spain and the United States which received 83.7 million and 79.3 million visitors respectively.

However, it’s not just in 2019! France has held this title of receiving the most number of international visitors for over 30 consecutive years.

France’s capital, Paris, is also on the list of the top ten most visited cities in the world, receiving 19 million visitors in 2019, and the number keeps growing.

Louvre museum facts
Louvre museum

13. France Is Home to the largest and most visited art museum in the world

As a country known for its impressive art scene, it’s no surprise that it is home to the largest and most visited art museum in the world; the Louvre Museum.

To show you its popularity, the Louvre receives approximately 9 million people every year. The museum also has a collection of approximately 380,000 objects with about 35,000 on display making it impossible to see everything in one visit.

In fact, even if you spent just 20 minutes at each object, you’d need like 200 days to see everything.

Some of the famous paintings in the Louvre include the world-known Mona Lisa, the Coronation of Napoleon, the Wedding at Cana, Liberty leading the people, and more.

You can read more facts about the Louvre museum here.

Pro tip* Since the Louvre museum is the most visited museum in the world, it gets really crowded in that it can take you even up to 2 hours queuing for a ticket.

So, to avoid the long queues, ensure you get this skip-the-line ticket that comes with an audio guide before your visit. You can also opt for this guided tour to get all the details about this Parisian museum.

Mona Lisa Painting in the Louvre Museum
Mona Lisa Painting behind a bullet-proof glass

14. France is home to the most valuable and famous paintings in the world

As the destination for art enthusiasts, culture aficionados, and admirers, it’s no doubt that France has some of the best art in its museums and galleries.

Besides the works of Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Vincent Van Gogh, Édouard Manet, and many other famous painters, the country is also home to the most valuable painting in the world, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

The painting is hanging in the Louvre for public viewing and it was valued at US$100 million when assessed in 1962 which equates to US$900 million in 2021 if you take inflation into account.

You can learn more facts about Mona Lisa here.

15. France has the busiest train station in Europe

Being the most visited country on earth, it’s no surprise that it would have one of the busiest train stations in Europe known as Gare du Nord.

The station receives over 200 million passengers that commute through it annually and has been renovated several times over to accommodate more and more people.

One of the fun facts about France is that it has the busiest train station in Europe, Gare de Nord.
One of the fun facts about France is that it has the busiest train station in Europe, Gare de Nord.

Historical Facts About France

16. France had a king whose reign lasted for only 20 minutes

Another fun fact about France is that there is a French king who holds a record of having the shortest reign in the world.

Louis XIX, son of Charles X, was a French King for just twenty minutes before giving up the throne to his nephew, the Duke of Bordeaux. Funny enough, his father, Charles X had also just renounced the throne to him.

However, Louis XIX is not the only one with a 20-minutes rule. Though in an entirely different situation, Luís Filipe king of Portugal also stayed in power for just 20 minutes after taking over from his father who had been assassinated. 20 minutes later, King Luís Filipe also succumbed to a wound.

Portrait of Louis XIX

Portrait of Louis XIXWilliam Corden the Elder, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

17. French wasn’t always the official language of France

One of the lesser-known interesting facts on France is that French wasn’t the primary language spoken in the country until after the French Revolution.

Before 1789, it is believed that less than half of the country’s people spoke modern French, while the rest spoke several unique dialects.

18. French was the official language of England from 1066 till 1362

Hands down, one of the facts about the French language many people don’t know is that after the Norman occupation of England in the 11th century, French was made the country’s official language.

However, it was spoken primarily by people in positions of power and those of high society.

It stayed an official language for over 300 years until the passing of an act in 1362 that made English the official language for all royal and governmental communication.

french facts

19. A 1910 law used to prohibit couples from kissing at the train station

Another one of the top France weird facts is that there was a 1910 law that prohibited people from kissing at the train station.

This weird decree which feels out of place for the country that is home to the city of love came into play at the request of train conductors who believed that farewell kisses used to delay the train schedules significantly enough to make a law! 

Today, the law doesn’t hold any weight as you can kiss on the platforms. And the trains/metro are “automated” to leave the exact time they’re meant to leave without waiting for anyone.

Interesting France Facts About Inventions

20. France created the first commercial movie screening in the world

One of the most interesting historical facts about France is that the country created the first-ever commercial movie screening in the world.

The screening took place in 1895 at the Grand Cafe in Paris, set up by a pair of French brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas Lumière and Louis Jean Lumière, commonly known as the Lumière brothers.

The camera-projecting device was called the Cinematographe, a word that has been the origin of several other terms in the movie industry today!

The first photograph of a person at Boulevard du Temple

The first photograph of a person at Boulevard du Temple – Louis Daguerre, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

21. The first-ever photograph of a person was taken in France’s capital, Paris

Have you ever wondered where the oldest photograph of a person was taken? Well, it was in Paris!

Captured in Boulevard du Temple by esteemed photographer Louis Daguerre, it dates back to 1838.

This iconic photograph is not only the first-ever photograph of a person but also the world’s oldest photo of Paris. 

22. The oldest human voice recorded was in France

One of ​​France’s interesting facts you probably didn’t know is that the first-ever recording of a human voice took place in the country.

The short ten-second clip of the French folk song “Au Clair de la Lune” was recorded using a phonautograph by French inventor, Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville in 1860.

However, it was only discovered in 2018 and it is believed to be the oldest recorded human voice in the world.

If you’re intrigued to hear it, you can listen to it from this page (near the bottom right).

license plates

23. France was the first Country to introduce license plates for vehicles

The country is known for introducing several innovations that have become very useful to the world and automobile license plates are one of them.

The idea of labeling automobiles was first introduced back in the 18th century when a Paris officer suggested to King Louis XV to start registering vehicles.

Nothing was done until 1783 under the rule of King Louis XVI who required coachmen to label their carriages with a metal plate with their names and addresses as a way of curbing crime in Paris.

But as technology improved and the number of automobiles increased, there was a need for a better way to track them, and in 1893 through the Paris Police Ordinance, it became obligatory for all vehicle owners to have their cars and carriages registered by having a metal license plate.

A few years later, other countries followed the new trend, and ultimately, it became famous and a requirement worldwide to date.

24. France created the metric system

Of the countless contributions made by France to the world’s collective knowledge of art, music, science, culture, and Literature, one of the most important ones is the metric system.

It is believed that the metric system was first introduced during the French Revolution to create a unified and more practical system for trade, giving rise to the metric system used widely today.

French army uniform
French army uniform

25. The French Army was the first to use camouflage in World War I

Back in 1915, at the brink of the First World War, it is believed that the French were the first to introduce camouflaging as a way to dress in the army.

The word camouflage comes from the French verb meaning “to make up for the stage,” and that’s exactly what they did — by painting their guns, war vehicles, and uniforms colors that resembled the environment.

The idea has since been adopted by military units worldwide.

Foodie Facts About France

26. France produces up to 1.7 million tons of cheese annually

One of the things France is known for is its love for cheese! Though the figures are staggering (and are up for debate), it is believed that France produces approximately 1.7 million tons of cheese in a year.

This massive amount of cheese can be found in over 1,600 different varieties with most regions having their own “traditional” type of Fromage. Some vary slightly while others have a recognizable difference.

French Escargots
French Escargots

27. Nearly 25,000 tons of snails are eaten in France annually

One of the several weird French foods France is known for are Escargot or snails!

A delicacy loved by the French, snails are usually served in a simple butter and garlic sauce, usually eaten as a side on special meals like on Christmas.

To give you an idea of how much Escargots are loved in France, more than 25,000 tonnes of snails are consumed a year!

So, if you travel to France and looking for traditional French dishes to try out, Snails shouldn’t miss on your plate.

28. The French toast doesn’t come from France

This is one of the surprising facts about French food, at least to some people. Contrary to popular belief, the French toast did not come from France at all!

The story goes that it actually came from a New York innkeeper called Joseph French, who resided miles away from the country.

Apparently, the inventor omitted the apostrophe when writing his name on the food, which he meant to call “French’s toast,” leading to it being known as French toast!

French Baguettes
French Baguettes

29. It is unlucky to turn a baguette (Or any Bread) upside down in France

France is known for several things, though wine, cheese, and bread are the first to come to mind!

The delicious fresh baguette you get with your coffee first thing in the morning in France is truly irreplaceable and a national symbol.

However, it doesn’t come without superstitions. It is believed to be highly unlucky to turn a baguette upside down or any other bread for that matter, so if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture entirely, make sure you stay away from causing yourself bad luck!

To give you context, this superstition dates back to the Middle ages. It is believed that during that time, bakers would turn the bread upside down to show that that specific bread was meant for the executioner and no one else would take it.

The act became increasingly associated with fear, death, and bad luck and to date, some people still believe in this superstition.

30. UNESCO awarded World Heritage Status to France gastronomy

In honor of the country’s delicious and carefully crafted meals that pay homage to the tastes and recipes of yesteryear, in 2010, UNESCO awarded French gastronomy with the coveted intangible World Heritage Status to emphasize the importance of food in the culture and lifestyle of the country.

Famous foods in Paris

31. It is illegal for supermarkets to throw away food

A law passed by the French government in 2016 bans supermarkets from throwing away any food nearing its end shelf life.

Instead of disposing of the food, it must be donated to a food bank, charity, or a hunger group!

The law was implemented to reduce food waste and aid needy people and it has resulted in nearly 50,000 pounds (22,679 kg) of food being donated yearly.

32. France is the second-largest producer and consumer of wine in the world

France is a country that is usually associated with wine and it’s backed by the fact that it is one of the biggest producers of wine, just coming second after Italy. It produces between 50 and 60 million hectolitres per year or 7– 8 billion bottles.

In the same way, France is the second-highest consumer of wine in the world, consuming up to 25 million hectoliters (in 2020), second just to the USA which consumes close to 30 million hectoliters.

But when you compare both countries’ populations, you’ll realize that an average French person drinks much more wine than an average American.

Going wine tasting is one of the things to do in Paris

33. France produced the world’s most expensive bottle of wine

A fun fact about France is that on top of producing and consuming liters upon liters of wine, France is famous for producing the most expensive wine bottle in the world.

Made in 1945, it was a Romanée-Conti of French Burgundy that sold nearly 75 years after its production for a whopping half a million dollars ($558,000 to be exact) at an auction. I wonder what occasion will be celebratory enough to crack the bottle open!

34. Unless it’s from Champagne, France, sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne

Something that not a lot of people know is that unless you’re drinking bubbly that comes from the vineyards of Champagne, a region in northeastern France, any other form of bubbly must be called sparkling wine and not Champagne.

Definitely one of the most exciting fun facts on France, Champagne can only be made from three specific grape varieties, namely Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay.


Final Thoughts on the Fun Facts About France

Truly, France is something else! With so much to offer in each realm, be it art, food, history, culture, politics, and more, these facts about France are a perfect description of France’s dynamic and exciting place.

While learning about the country is great, be sure to visit it too, and it’ll charm you more than you’d expect!

Did you find some France facts that surprised you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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