50 Interesting Facts About France That’ll Blow Your Mind

Do you love facts, trivia, and French culture? Discover 50 lesser-known fun facts about France that most tourists and new residents don’t know.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  
interesting facts about france
interesting facts about france

You may already know a few of these facts about France, but most will be new and may even surprise you.

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Lesser-Known Fun facts about France

The country we now call France has a long and sordid past that dates back thousands of years. With so much recorded history, I found a lot of interesting lesser-known facts about France that you won’t find anywhere else.

The most interesting facts on this list will challenge your idea of who and what France is. Other facts on this are just that, trivia, nevertheless interesting. Some French facts explain the origins of French culture, which are sometimes almost forgotten.

Bon voyage!

1) The French are a melting pot of Germanic, Celtic, Roman, And Other Ancient Cultures

What comes to mind when one thinks of France and the French people? Is it the stereotypical French man and woman dressed in a chic beret sipping on a glass of French wine? 

top French stereotypes and cliches explained

Would it surprise you to learn that modern French society and its people are an amalgamation of ethnically diverse peoples who settled and conquered one another throughout history?

First, the Greeks in the south of France founded Marseille, the oldest French city in France.

Then it was the Celtic Gauls, then the Romans, the Germanic Franks, and the Norman Vikings, who were the seafaring Norse people from southern Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden).

As a result, France has become a true ethnic melting pot with a patchwork of local customs and regional differences that date back thousands of years. 

Only adding to the complexity of the French population’s customs and ethnic mix are the large waves of immigration from Spain, Poland, Italy, Portugal, and North Africa in the past hundred years.

France’s Ancestors: Here is a summary of different ethnic peoples that inhabited France and surrounding areas:

  1. Greek colonies: 600 BC – 49 BC
  2. The Celtic Gauls:  480 BC
  3. Roman-Gaul: 50 BC – 496 AD
  4. Frankish Kingdom: 481-843 AD
  5. Vikings (Norse Men): 845 AD
  6. Rollo became the First Viking ruler of Normandy, France: Duke of Normandy: 911-928 AD.
  7. France became the Kingdom of France for the first time and was ruled by Phillip II, the first King calling himself “Roi de France”: 1190 AD.

2) France was called Gallia (Gaul) and was inhabited by Celtic Tribes

military uniforms of the Celtic Gaul's and Germanic Franks
The Franks were Germanic, and the Gauls were Celtic

Beginning around 480 BC, before French people were French, France was inhabited by Celtic tribes, which the Romans called “Gauls.” 

The Gauls spoke Gaulish or Gallic, an ancient Celtic language (now extinct).

The Gauls were an agricultural society that inhabited France and what is today known as Belgium, Luxembourg, parts of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy.

Around 400 years later, in 50 BC, the Romans, led by Julius Caesar, conquered the Gauls and made the land inhabited by them a province of the Roman Empire and called it Gallia.

Gaulish aristocracy quickly adopted Latin to maintain their elite power and influence, and writing shifted to the Latin alphabet.

Gradually, as the Gauls assimilated into the Roman world, they formed the “hybrid Gallo-Roman” people. 

Map of Roman territory Gallia includes most of France and surrounding areas

The word Gaul still exists to some degree, for example:

  • In Greek, France is still known as Γαλλία (Gallia)
  • In Brittany (a region and regional language), the word Gall means “French.”
  • The second most common family name in Brittany is Le Gall. 
  • The rooster, a French symbol, is called Le coq Gaulois.

You can visit the Gallic village in Haute-Garonne, where you’ll see and learn about France’s ancestors and their way of life. It’s located at 25 Lieu Dit la Chaussee, 31310 Rieux-Volvestre France

3) France And Paris are not French words.

Have you ever wondered how France and Paris got their names? 

PARIS got its name from the Celtic Gauls

Paris was named after a Gallic Celtic tribe called the Parisii,  who lived on the banks of Paris’s Seine river during the Iron Age and through the Roman era. 

Julius Ceasar mentions the Parisii in his memoirs about the Great Gallic War, “Commentarii de Bello Gallico.” Linguists think Parisii may have meant “the commanders,” others believe it means “fighters,” and still others think it means “they of the cauldrons.”

France is named after the Franks, A germanic people who inhabited France

About 500 years After the Romans conquered the Celtic Gauls, a Germanic warrior tribe, whom the Romans called the “Franks,” invaded and conquered most of Gaul, a part of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century (present-day northern France, Belgium, and western Germany).

Their Germanic language is known as  Frankish and Old Franconian, spoken throughout the realm between the 4th and 8th centuries.

a Map of the Frank kingdom: Germanic tribe that inhabited France and surrounding areas

The First king was Germanic.

Clovis was a Pagan Frank who united all the conquered areas and became the first king of a unified land. 

This land was called «Francia,» a Latin word for “Kindom of the Franks,” eventually becoming France in 1190.

(See the map of the Frank Kingdom above).

Clovis ruled for 31 years, from 481 to 511 AD, but his Frankish Dynasty ruled for the next 200 years.

Eastern Francia was mainly German-speaking, and western Francia was mostly Roman Latin and Gallo-Roman, the ancestor to the French language spoken in France today. 

After the Treaty of Verdun in 843, Francia was split up: West Francia became the predecessor of France, and East Francia became Germany.

Baptism of Clovis, by Master of Saint Giles, c.1500,
Baptism of Clovis, King of the Franks “Francia”

Frank Germanic influence in modern culture:

Many towns and regions in Germany took the name of the Franks. The best known are the city of Frankfurt and Franconia in northern Bavaria.

France is still called  (Empire/Realm of the Franks) Frankreich and Frankrijk in German and Dutch.

Before France adopted the Euro, the currency in France used to be the French Franc, and in Switzerland, the currency is still called the Swiss Franc—all remnants from the time of the Franks. 

King Clovis could be considered the first King Louis.

In Germanic, King Clovis’s name was Clodovech or Chlodowig, which became Latinised as Ludovicus and eventually became Louis in French. So, theoretically, Clovis could be considered the first King Louis. 

Some French words with Germanic origins include:

  • Franchement: Means Frankly in English.
  • Accordéon is from German : Akkordion
  • Chic is from German: Schick.
  • Franck is a French boys name of Germanic origin from Frank
  • François and Français are both derived from a Latinized version of the German words Frank, Francia,

4) Why is the Gallic Rooster (Coq Gaulois) one of France’s national emblems?

French Gallic Rooster Tattoo by David Hale
Coq tattoo photo source via David Hale

Besides the rooster, France has several national symbols and emblems:

  1. Liberty, equality, fraternity
  2. Marianne
  3. The tricolour flag
  4. The Marseillaise (national anthom of France.

Although the Coq Gaulois (the Gallic Rooster) is associated with France, it’s an unofficial national emblem of France. 

The French rooster decorated French flags during the Revolution, French bell towers, French weathervanes, home decor items, and occasionally French stamps. Since 1848, the French rooster has also been on the French Republic’s seal; in 1899, it was the motif on the gold 20 franc coin. 

French brands like Le Coq Sportif use the French rooster as their logo. Even the FFF (French Football Federation) uses a rooster as part of its logo. 

Le Coq Sportif Quartz Mens Trainers Black image attachment (large)

So, how did a rooster become one of the symbols of France?

There are many theories, but the first known association of the Rooster with France occurred during the Middle Ages as a play on words when Ceasar (who conquered the Gauls) noticed that “Gallus” was a Latin homonym for the words “Rooster, aka Cockerel” and “Celtic Gaul or “inhabitant of Gaul.”

The Gauls never adopted the rooster as their symbol; this association was supposedly meant to make fun of the Gauls living in current-day France.

Gradually, the figure of the rooster became a symbol of France and Christians. It faded away until its resurgence during the French Revolution (1789) and has become France’s most widely recognized symbol, especially abroad. Yet, it is not officially recognized as a symbol of France. 

5) There is a rooster weather vane or decorative rooster elements in many Catholic churches in France

Gallic Rooster on the spire of the Notre dame church in Paris
The spire of the Notre Dame church in Paris: All churches in France have the French coq on their steeples.

As I explained above, the Gallic Rooster symbolizes national French pride and a Christian symbol. 

France and Christianity aren’t the only ones to use the rooster for religious purposes. It’s been used by the Egyptians, the Chinese, the Japanese, India, the Greeks, and even Thailand. Have you heard of Thai hot sauce with a rooster on the label? 

But why is the coq (rooster) a Christian symbol?

In all mythology, the rooster has been universally connected to the sun because the rooster’s crow announces or signals sunrise and marks the time from darkness to light.  

Roosters are also seen as bold, brave and resilient. One of the best-known stories of resilience in the Bible relates to Jesus’ response to his disciple Peter after being raised from the dead, which Christians celebrate during the holy week leading up to Easter. 

Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows
Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows

According to the Christian gospel, during the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny knowledge of him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning.

Later that night, Jesus was arrested, and two times Peter was asked by a servant girl if he knew Jesus. Peter denied knowing Jesus both times.

On Peter’s third denial, he yelled, “I don’t know the man!” Suddenly, Peter heard the rooster crow and recalled the prediction Jesus made. “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. And Jesus was crucified and then resurrected. 

 Because of this, the rooster became the symbol of St. Peter to Christians and Catholics. Its crowing is seen as a Christian emblem, watching and ready for the return of Christ. 

Christian Rooster law:

In the 9th century, Pope Nicholas made a decree that all churches display the rooster on their steeples or domes as a symbol and visual reminder of Peter’s denial of Jesus before the crucifixion.

And that’s how roosters started dawning weathervanes and church steeples. 

6) France may have one of the bloodiest national anthems

In 1792, after the end of the French Revolution and the declaration of war by France against Austria, Claude Joseph Rouget wrote a war song with some bloody wartime lyrics.

The song was called “War Song for the Army of the Rhine”(Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin”). It was later renamed the Marseillaise and became the national anthem of France. 

The song has been controversial since it became the national anthem and has been banned and reinstated several times from 1804 until 1945. It’s been the national anthem continuously ever since. 

Marseillaise: bloodiest national anthem in the world?

Interesting French Language Facts

7) French didn’t become the official language of France until 1539

Most people believe that French is and has always been the language spoken in France. French only became the official administrative language of the Kingdom of France for legal documents and law in 1539.

Previously, official documents were written in Medieval Latin, the language used by the Roma Catholic church. And different regions of France spoke other regional languages. (See next fact)

8) There are around 75 regional languages ​​in France!

regional languages in France that predate French

What is a regional language?

Regional languages of France are languages ​​geographically and historically established on French territories. These are all the languages in France that were spoken before French became the official language. Varieties of French and languages resulting from immigration, such as Arab, are not considered regional languages.

According to the second article of the French Constitution, modern French is descended from the Oïl language, a Gallo-Romance language and is the sole official language. However, several regional languages are also spoken to varying degrees. 

Romance Language that evolved from vulgar Latin to French and France's regional languages
Romance Language that evolved from Vulgar Latin to French and France’s regional languages

Linguists estimate that about 75 regional languages are spoken throughout France and can be divided into two main geographical subgroups (named after the word for “yes” in that group): oïl and oc.

  1. Langues d’oïl to the North: Literally (the language of yes). Both Oïl dialects and Oïl languages are the modern-day descendants of the ancient northern Gallo-Romance languages that developed in their own way from the common ancestor language. The most widely spoken Oïl language is French, which is not a regional language. 
  2. Langue d’oc in the South: Literally (the language of yes) was spoken south of a line running from Bordeaux to Grenoble or thereabouts. Langue d’oc developed into Occitan and includes the Provençal dialect. 

Some regional languages are taught at schools (to preserve them), such as Occitan, Breton, Basque, Corsican, and Alsatian or some Melanesian languages ​​such as Tahitian.

In France, 400,000 students in public and private schools learn a regional language every year. It’s a way of preserving languages and linguistic heritage and ensuring these languages do not die out.  

Listen to a sampling of the different regional accents.

45 langues régionales de France / 45 Languages of France

9) Each region of France has its own regional accent

The major ones are:

  • Lyonnais
  • Southern accent
  • Northern accent
  • Parisian accent

In France, each region has a particular accent based on the regional language that existed before French became the official language in 1539.

When French became the official language, those who didn’t speak French (spoke their regional language) had to learn French as a second language. So, these accents evolved to become local, regional accents. 

As late as World War II, there were still areas in France where people spoke French in school but spoke their regional language at home. As a result, traces of these original regional languages can still be distinctly heard in the various ways people speak throughout France


10) Glottophobie discrimination (discrimination against regional accents)

In France, something called “glottophobie,” regional accent discrimination exists. The discrimination is based on the belief that people with different regional accents are less sophisticated, uneducated, and ghetto. In reality, standard French (the French you hear in the news) is not the same French spoken throughout France. 

These different accents in France are akin to the accents in Texas, Alabama, New York, And Wisconsin, which differ from standard English. Or, using the UK as an example, how Scottish, Geordie, Yorkshire, Welsh, and Brummie differ from standard British English.

French regional accents: source of pride or discrimination?

Interesting French Tourism Fact

I’ve compiled a few fun facts about French tourism, but not too many because many are already widely known. 

11) More people visit France than any other country in the world.

French food, wine, culture, and beaches are just a few reasons why 89 million people visit France annually.

The bulk of tourists visit better-known cities such as Paris or Nice.

The second most-visited country after France is Spain- which welcomes only 83 million, followed by the United States with 79 million, then China with 66 million visitors per year.

12) France is the largest country in the European Union

It may seem obvious to some, but with a total area of ​​543,940 km2, it’s the largest country in the EU, followed by Spain and Sweden.

Even so, France’s surface area is still smaller than the state of Texas, which measures 696,706 km2. Can you imagine 89 million tourists descending on Texas every year? 

MAP OF EU: Cyprus is part of EU

Interesting Facts About French Towns

Many French towns have unusual names which can’t be explained. Some are strange to foreigners because they mean something in their language, while others sound strange even to French people. 

13) France has several towns with X-rated names. 

I’ve only listed two. 

French village with an unfortunate name: Anus

Anyone who speaks English will get a kick out of this.


Would you care to visit “Anus” France in the Burgundy region? (Anus means the same thing in French and English)

French village "Pussy" x rated name


What about “Pussy” France, a small village roughly 18 km2 (6.8 mile²) with 240 inhabitants in the Savoie département of France? The town’s official tourism website title is “pussy tourism,” yikes and other tourist attractions include “pussy canyon.”

Pussy does not mean anything in French, and the village supposedly got its name from “Pussius,” the name of the Roman who used to own the area.

14) This French village is famous for having a population of “one.”

smallest village in France with population of one person

Rochefourchat, in southeastern France, is a small commune in the Drôme department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, whose claim to fame is having the least populated village in all of France. 

A quick walk around this tiny village that measures 12.74 km2 (4.92 sq mi) is like taking a walk back in time.

There’s an old church, an out-of-service telephone, and the ruins of an ancient castle. All this for one single person who is listed as the sole inhabitant of Rochefourchat, presumably a member of the Jossaud family. 

There was conflicting information about this small commune, but supposedly, in 1178, the bishop in charge of the surrounding area built a small stone castle, “Rocha Forcha,” as a stronghold against the Holy Roman Emperors. The castle eventually ended up in the hands of Lord Rey de Noinville until he died in 1766. Thirty years later, in  1796, Pierre Jossaud, a French trader, bought the land surrounding the castle and renamed it Rouchefourchat. It’s been passed down in the Jossaud family ever since. 

There apparently is a mayor and seven other elected officials who don’t live in the town.

The area surrounding the small village attracts hikers, rock climbers, and the curious. Less than a 12-minute drive from the commune is Saint Nazaire les desert, a quaint town with a population of less than 200 but worth a visit. 

15) These 6 French towns have a mayor with zero living inhabitants

In France, near Verdun, six towns have a mayor with Zero living inhabitants.

These villages were destroyed during World War I, and the mayors are responsible for maintaining them to keep the memory of the people who died for France alive. 

Destroyed French villages with no living people but which have mayors

16) The three oldest cities in France are Marseille, Béziers and Agde.

photo of the old port with a view of Marseille Basilique Notre dame de la Garde


The oldest continuously inhabited city in France is Marseille. There is archeological evidence that Greek colonies settled the area in 600 BC and called it Massalia. 


After Marseille, the next oldest city in France is Bézeirs.

It’s located a little over an hour from the border of Spain. Archeologists believe Bézeirs was founded in 575 BC.

 Bézeris is at the centre of the largest wine-producing region in France, famous for its wine and bullfights.

In mid-August, the streets come alive for the Feria, a bullfighting festival. It’s the biggest event of the year in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Over a million people gather yearly during this Carnival, like a four-day street festival.

Béziers Feria bullfighting festival draws millions of people in Auguast. it's like the carnival of bullfighting


Not far from Bézirs is Agde, the third oldest continuously inhabited French village. 

It’s a port town near the 240 km-long Mediterranean Canal du Midi in Southern France.

Agde is believed to have been founded in 525 BC and is known as the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean due to the many buildings constructed with the local volcanic stone.

17) Alsace-Moselle is the only French territory where religious education is compulsory.

In 1905, France became a secular country and separated church from state. 

Alsace-Moselle was under Prussian rule at the time. 

Fourteen years later, in 1919,  Germany returned Alsace-Lorraine to France and under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the area did not have to adhere to the secular law of 1905.

As a result, Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Judaism are officially recognized religions in the region, and religious education is obligatory for public school students. The regional government also pays the salaries of the clergy in those regions. Something that was abolished in the rest of France. 

18) It’s estimated that there are over 11000 Chateaux in France

When you think of a chateau, the first thing that comes to mind is a huge fortified castle with fortified walls and maybe even a moat.

But the word chateau in French has a much broader meaning than just castle.

A chateau can be anything from a huge medieval fortress to large country houses that grace many wine estates, making it difficult to know the exact number of total Castles in France (in the classic sense). 

petit chateau (manor) chateau-St-Pierre-de-Cole-Dordogne-Aquitaine
This is also considered a chateau (petite chateau), which might be classified as a manor in English.

The evolution of French chateaux

Originally Castles, “Les Châteaux” were fortified homes for high nobles that served as strongholds to control and protect a nobleman’s land and holdings.

Later, as the threat of war subsided, les Chateaux gradually became a place of residence and country homes.

People of lower nobility or born of noble blood, « gentilhommière,» often lived in les petits chateaux, what might be called a manoir (manor) in Brittany and Normandy, France. 

When the French Revolution came along, the French people removed the monarchy and its nobility and redistributed their property.

Today, 85 percent of castles in the wider sense are privately owned, with many being historical monuments and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

According to the musée du Patrimoine de France, there are three types of distinguished castles classified by their openings and their gardens:

1) Fortified castles (les châteaus forts):

Purely defensive,  usually built without a garden.

Fortified castles were built like a fortress for defence against enemies, with solid stone walls, fortifications, a dungeon, and small windows.

Sometimes, they were built in locations that could be easily defended, with a most or high in a hill. 

Chateau for de Lourdes: fortified french castle

2) Renaissance castles:

The primary function was not as a defence against the enemy, and usually had ornamental gardens.

Renaissance castles first appeared after the end of the Hundred Years War, which ended in 1453.

Since war was less of an issue, castles could have large ornate windows to let in the light.

They also had ornamental gardens, such as the garden at Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, a Château built and owned by women.

Chateau de Chenonceau

3) Classic castles (palaces)

Purely built to show off one’s wealth and to live in luxury, such as the Palace of Versailles.

Palaces came about during the reign of Henri IV and Louis XIII. They were built primarily as elegant homes for wealthy kings or noblemen to show off wealth.

Master carpenters made large wooden windows. There were usually lush, sprawling gardens and luxurious interiors often filled with exquisite furniture, priceless artwork, and other fine accessories.

Another example of a palace is Élysée Palace, the residence of the French president. 


French World Records

19) The two longest French words are:

Every language has one word that is longer than any other word in that language.

In English, the longest medical word is 45-letter. It’s “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” a lung disease caused by inhaling silica or quartz dust.

The longest English word “in common usage” is 21 letters, Incomprehensibilities

In French, the two longest words have 27 and 25 letters.

  1. Intergouvernementalisations: meaning: Intergovernmentalizations
  2. Anticonstitutionnellement: meaning: Unconstitutionally

20) Most famous French Youtuber Channels

The three most popular French YouTubers with the most subscribers (using stats from 2021) are:

  1. Cyprien Lov, with over 14 million subscribers 
  2.  Squeezie, with nearly 16 million subscribers
  3. Norman fait des vidéo with over 12 million subscribers. (one of my daughter’s favourite YouTubers)

To give you some perspective:

  • Pewdiepie has over 110 Million subscribers.  
  • Justin Bieber has around 63 million subscribers
  • Billie Eilish has 40 million subscribers

21) France holds the world record for most roundabouts

biggest round about is the one in Paris that encircles the arc de triomphe: invented by a Frenchman

It’s estimated that there are roughly 30 thousand roundabouts «round-points» in France, but no one knows for sure.

That’s more than any other country in the world.

22) A Frenchman invented the roundabout.

French urban architect Eugène Hénard invented roundabouts.

The first roundabout Eugène built is also the biggest in France. 

It was constructed in 1906 at Place Charles de Gaulle, historically known as “la place de l’Étoile,” the meeting point of twelve straight avenues, including the Champs-Élysées.

The roundabout circles the Arc de Triomphe monument and gets extremely crowded with cars, making it difficult to get in and out.

23) A French Pizza Chef Created the cheesiest pizza in the world, with 257 different kinds of cheese

World cheesiest pizza Guinness record held by French man from Lyon

France is home to more than 1000 types of cheese, but some say it may be more.

With so many French cheeses, it wasn’t hard for Benoit Bruel of Déliss’ Pizza in Lyon to set the Guinness world record for “most varieties of cheese on a pizza.”

Using mostly French cheese, he was able to top his pizza with 257 different varieties of cheese.

His cheesy pizza measures 30 cm, weighs around one kilogram and would cost about 50 euros.

Whether he plans on selling the pizza in his pizzeria is unclear. 

Benoit told Guinness he thought it was important that the record be held by France, which is known for its cheeses.  Amoung the cheeses he used were , Brie de Meaux, du Brin d’amour, de la brique de Forez, de la Buchette fermière cerronnée, etc. 

The previous record for the cheesiest cheese pizza in the world was held by Australian chef Johnny Di Francesco, with 154 kinds of cheese. 

24) The Louvre holds the world record for most visitors in one year. 

The Louvre is the one museum in the world that everyone knows by name, even if you know nothing about art. 

It should come as no surprise then that the Louvre is the world’s most popular museum. It averages 15,000 visitors daily, 65 percent of whom are foreign tourists.

The Louvre got its name from a castle.

The Louvre received its name from (Château du Louvre), a fortified castle built by King Philip II of France to reinforce his walls around Paris for protection.

The fortified Louvre castle was later demolished to make way for the Louvre Palace.

The Louvre’s original dungeons and two of the four original walls were not completely demolished, and visitors can view the remains in a collection named Medieval Louvre. 

Origins of the name Louvre

Regarding the origins of the name LOUVRE, it’s a mystery that historians and linguists have pondered, but no one knows for sure.  

Some hypotheses include;

Latin originates from the word  «lupus,» which means wolf. The area had many at the time.

Another theory is it’s from the Saxon word “leovar,” which would have meant château.

Geneviève Bresc, who was once the conservatrice of the Louvre, thinks the Louvre is an old word describing a piece of land or territory with water running through it.

Her theory may be supported because before the Louvre castle was built, a  medieval church used the name first in 1187. It was called Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre but was later renamed Saint-Louis-du-Louvre.

This old church no longer exists but was near where the glass pyramids now exist.

Most popular art pieces at the Louvre

Three of the most popular art pieces at the Louvre include LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE, WINGED VICTORY OF SAMOTHRACE, and the MONA LISA. 

What my friends think I do: Standing in front of the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre

25) It Would take you over 200 days to view all the art in the Louvre

In addition to the Mona Lisa, you can visit over 380,000 art objects at the Louvre. French artists created 66% of all art at the Louvre.

It’s estimated that it would take around 200 days to view every piece of art if you spent 30 seconds viewing each piece. 

26) Number of words in the French language

There are approximately 32,000 words in the French language. Twenty thousand are of scholarly or foreign origin, and 12,000 are of French origin.

  • Various French dictionaries tell a different story. The illustrated Petit Larousse dictionary has more than 35,000.
  • The most complete French dictionaries reach 90,000 words.

English has more than 200,000 words, but most are not used in everyday language. 

27) The Tour de France is the most-watched sporting event in the world

The Tour de France is a rigorous 21-day, 2000-mile (3,500 kilometres) cycling race through France that attracts 3.5 billion television viewers annually. That’s more popular than the American Super Bowl, The Summer Olympics, and Soccer/Football. 

Interesting French law facts

28) French Women couldn’t vote until 1945

Charles de Gaulle signed a measure into law on April 21st, 1944. 

The new law gave French women the right to vote. One year later, on April 29th, 1945, French women cast their first ballots and voted for the first time in French history.

29) Selling Prostitution services is legal, but hiring a prostitute is illegal in France.

Prostitution has been legal and tolerated on and off in France throughout history.

As of April 2016, buying sexual acts is illegal, with a fine of up to 1500 euros. 

However, since 1999, prostitution is no longer a punishable offence

In other words, if you get caught with a prostitute, you will go to jail, but not the prostitute.

30) The legal age to drive in France is 18, but there’s a car you can drive at 14. 

Driving in France, the rules are slightly different than what you may be used to.

For instance, in some countries, minors can legally drive by age 16. In France, however, that’s not the case. Minors can start learning to drive through a driving school when they turn 15. After that, they have to build up around  3500 km of driving with an accompanying driver before earning their licence once they reach 18, provided they pass both the driving and theory tests. 

NO PERMIT CARS: There is an exception to the rule:

the 2 seater car that does not require a license to drive in France

Voitures sans permis (car without permit) are little 2-seater cars that anyone can drive without a license from age 14. These cars don’t go very fast; the max speed is 45km per hour (28mph). Many teenagers drive these cars since parents think they are a safer alternative to a moped. 

If you were born before 1988, no test is required.

If you’re born after 1988, an AM license is required, which takes about 8 hours of training. Then you take a theory test, which can be taken at school, and voila. 

31) There are no stop signs in Paris:

For years, the fun fact was that there was only one stop sign in Paris, and it was located on Quai Saint-Exupéry, a tiny riverside road in the 16th district.

Then, one day in 2012, it just disappeared, so technically, there are no stop signs in Paris. 

Stop signs exist in other parts of France but are not as abundant because of all the roundabouts. Here is a photo of a sad stop sign hanging on for dear life near where I live in Montpellier.

stop sign I saw in Montpellier

32) Cars drive on the right, but trains run on the left in France

The early railways were mainly built using British expertise and standard equipment, which run on the left. Rather than change the system, the French kept the “out of the box” English system. 

Alsace-Moselle is the exception because the region was German at the time of the development of the railways.

33) It’s illegal to wear any veil that covers your face in France

On April 11th, 2011, France became the second European country after Belgium to ban face veils such as the burqa & niqab, which cover the face completely, except for the eyes. The irony is that because of COVID-19, everyone had to wear a face mask

21 Strange, Weird, And Funny French Laws In France That Should Change

French law; Islamic clothing banned in public places

Interesting Facts about France’s Food

34) Pizza is super popular in France.

It’s shocking to some, except the French. 

Pizza is extremely popular in France: Just take a walk down any city street in France, and you’ll run into a slew of pizza shops.

HelloFresh France wanted to know exactly how popular pizza was and asked 4,000 French people a set of questions about pizza. Here are the results.

  • 33% of the 4,000 French people surveyed said they ate pizza 1 or 2 times per month, while 27% said they eat more than 2 times per month.
  • 49% said if they could only bring one food on a deserted island, it would be pizza. 22,47 % said they would bring les Frites (French fries, aka chips in England).
  • Nearly 28% of people surveyed said their favourite pizza was 4 Fromage (4 cheese pizza). 
  • 4 out of 10 people said they never eat pizza.

35) Paris is not the Gastronomy capital of France

It may surprise you to learn that Lyon, France, has been “The Gastronomic Capital of the World” since 1935! Not Paris.

There are over 4000 restaurants in Lyon, including 20 Michelin-star restaurants at any given time (the number fluctuates as some restaurants gain and lose stars). There are also traditional eateries called “Bouchons Lyonnais,” which serve traditional Lyonnaise food.

It’s unclear what measure they used to come up with this title, but I believe this is somewhat skewed towards Western taste buds. Don’t forget that Michelin stars are a French invention that ignored Asian food for a very long time.

Tokyo has over 200 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than double Paris’s 94 restaurants and three times more than London’s 70 (2021). Thailand has almost 30 Michelin-starred restaurants. I think the food landscape is changing while the world advances and French food is stuck in the past. You be the judge.

36) France is the most profitable country for McDonald’s after the United States.

Contrary to the myth that ALL or even MOST French people spend hours sitting around the table relishing small portions and multi-course meals, the French do love their McDonalds.

With more than 1,000 restaurants spread across the country, McDonald’s is more profitable in France than anywhere else in Europe. Sales have increased year after year. 

Twenty-five years ago, this wasn’t the case. There’s been a breakdown in the classical French tradition of mealtime. Today, French people have busy work lives and spend closer to 30 or 40 minutes eating when they spend over 80 minutes eating. 

37) France is the Cheese Capital of the World (DUH!): Over 1000 varieties

Epoisses-cheese is one of the stinkiest French cheeses in France

Cheese products are the most consumed milk products in France. You don’t have to look further than your local grocery store to understand how important and loved cheese is in France. The vast selection is mind boggling. 

It’s estimated that there are over 1,000 different types of cheeses that have been documented and categorized. There are many more undocumented local and artisanal cheeses that may not be widely recognized.

  • 62% of French people eat cheese daily.
  • The average person in France eats about 26 kg of cheese per year. 18 kg of which are eaten on bread or as part of a recipe such as a raclette or fondue, and 8 kilograms of Fromage frais, creamy soft cheese with no bacteria such as cream cheese, eaten as desserts.
  • It’s estimated that cheese represents 7% of a French person’s food budget. 

38) Camembert and Emmental are the two most popular and most consumed kinds of cheese in France

Emmental-Gruyere-Cheese, a cousin to Cheddar and a great alternative to Cheddar

Emmental and Brie are the top-selling cheeses purchased in France. 


France consumes one hundred forty-six thousand tons of Emmental cheese annually. Emmental is a type of Swiss cheese which you can find everywhere in France. It’s inexpensive, and heaps of recipes call for it, from Gratin dauphinoise to cheese fondue. 


Fifty-three thousand tons of Camembert is eaten every year in France. Camembert is a soft, creamy cheese with a whitish rind, originally made near Camembert in Normandy. It’s best served at room temperature, never cold. 

39) Croissants are not a French invention; neither is the baguette

Butter croissant with straight tips

When you think of France and French food, croissants and baguettes probably come to mind, but these two traditional French bakery goods were actually brought to France by an Austrian who based them on Austrian bread from his homeland.

40) Macarons are based on an Italian invention.

Although the world credits France for the Macaron, it’s actually based on an Italian cookie.

When Catherine de’ Medici, an Italian Noblewoman, married Henry II of France in 1533, she brought Macarons from her home country. The original Macaron recipes were a single flat cookie made of almonds, egg and sugar without fillings, colours or different flavours.

The macaron became distinctly French in the 1830s when a Parisian confectioner introduced the Parisien Macaron to the world. It featured two meringue cookies sandwiched between flavoured fillings. 

Be sure to enjoy some on March 20th, Macaron Day.

You might be interested in reading 13 French dishes France borrowed from other cultures around the world.

Interesting facts about French monuments

41) A Chinese American designed the Glass Louvre Pyramid: French people HATED IT!

The 71-foot-tall glass-and-metal pyramid at the front of the Louvre is an architectural marvel designed by I.M. Pei, a Chinese American. Completed in 1989, it’s a relatively new structure commissioned by François Mitterand as part of a modernization and redesign of the Louvre museum.

French people are known to throw a fit over architectural changes ( like the Eiffel Tower). In a PBS documentary, Pei said that 90% of French people were against it when he unveiled his pyramid idea and publicly even mocked him. 

A 1985 New York Times story called it “an architectural joke, an eyesore.” 

What people think I do photo: cliche photo touching the pyramid at the Louvre

42) The Eiffel Tower was once controversial & considered fugly.

Today, the Eiffel Tower is considered one of the greatest architectural marvels in France. People have gone so far as to get the Eiffel Tower tattoos. You can buy Eiffel Tower Legos, bedsheets and more.

However, these positive attitudes towards the monument weren’t always mainstream.

In 1887, people thought the Eiffel Tower was hideously ugly upon its completion. Newspapers were sent thousands of angry letters from Parisians complaining that the structure didn’t fit with their fair city. People commonly referred to it as ‘Eiffel deserved the praise that we give his tower today!


43) The Statue of Liberty was created and built in France

The history of the Statue of Liberty is an interesting one

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was a French sculptor from Colmar in Alsace known for creating large-scale sculptures. Bartholdi asked Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower, to make the skeleton and internal structure of iron pylon and steel.

It took nine years to construct Lady Liberty 1875–1884, which was constructed in Paris, then disassembled into 350 pieces and shipped to the US in 1885. 

Random Fun Facts About France

Here are some random facts about France that you might find interesting. 

44) Tabloid-worthy or controversial facts about Ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy

If you’re familiar with the name Sarkozy, you probably know that Nicolas Sarkozy was the president of France from 2007 to 2012. What you may not know is that he has a fascinating history. Nothing compared to Ex-president Trump, but interesting nonetheless. 

Here are some of Sarkozy’s highlights.

Ex president Sarkozy, half brother Oliver, Olson twin Carla Bruni

  • Sarkozy’s third and last wife is an Italian-French singer-songwriter and fashion model Carla Bruni. She’s a household name in France. You should look up her songs; you’ll really like them. 
  • Sarkozy was sentenced to three years in jail (2 years suspended) for trying to bribe a judge in 2014. 
  • Sarkozy is the son of Hungarian Jewish refugees on his father’s side. His mother is half Greek, Jewish, and half French.
  • Sarkozy’s Hungarian father left the family when Nicolas was a young boy, moved to the US and remarried.
  • Sarkozy has a half-brother, Oliver Sarkozy, on his father’s side, who is a successful US banker and lives in the US. He was married to Mary-Kate Olsen, of the Mary-Kate and Ashly Olsen twins, from 2015 to 2021. Mary-Kate-Olsen is a famous American actress 20 years younger than Oliver Sarkozy.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION: In case you didn’t know, Mary-Kate Olsen gained fame as a child actress with her twin sister, Ashley Olsen, on the hit television sitcom Full House. Their co-stars were John Stamos and Lori Loughlin (the actress jailed over the college admissions scandal in the United States). 

45) The Mona Lisa is called LA JOCONDE in French (and fascinating facts)

LA JOCONDE or the Mona Lisa in English is located at the Louvre in Paris France

You probably already know the Louvre is home to the world-famous Mona Lisa, painted by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci around 1500. But there’s so much more you don’t know about this mysterious painting. 

  • In French, the Mona Lisa is called La Jaconde: There has long been debate about the Mona Lisa’s identity, but it’s widely accepted that the woman is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco Del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine silk merchant. In Italian, “Gioconda” means “happy” through language morphing; it became “La Jaconde” in French. 
  • Natalia and Irina Strozzi believe they are the direct descendants of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. 
  • The Mona Lisa may be Leonardo’s mother: According to art historian Angelo Paratico, the woman portrayed in Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece is his mother, a Chinese slave. 
  • The Mona Lisa portrait hangs behind bulletproof glass. 
  • The Mona Lisa was not world-famous until it was stolen in 1911. When the Mona Lisa was stolen, it received immediate attention; people rushed to the Louvre to see the gaping hole where the painting was found. 2 years later, it was recovered when the thief tried to sell it to an art dealer who alerted the police. Many French people saw the work as a national treasure they had lost and recovered. 
  • In 1919, Marcel Duchamp made the Mona Lisa even more famous: He created postcard reproductions of the Mona Lisa with slight modifications. He drew in a moustache and a beard and renamed it LHOOQ, a French PUN. The letters pronounced in French sound like “Elle a chaud au cul,” which means “She has a hot ass.” 

Marcel Duchamp Mona Lisa L.H.O.O.Q.

  • La Joconde nue or Monna Vanna may be Leonardo’s practice drawing before drawing the Mona Lisa. The woman’s hands and body are almost identical to that of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. This charcoal drawing is on display at the Condé Museum in Chantilly, France.

La Joconde nue or Mona Vanna

46) The French Army still uses carrier pigeons.

the French army using Carrier pigeons during the war for communication

The French army is the only one in Europe still to have carrier pigeons for long-distance communication. French soldiers initially used them in the First and Second World Wars to carry messages when all other means of communication were down.

French carrier pigeons are maintained near Paris at Mont Valérien in the event of a major disaster.

47) More French soldiers died during World War I than American soldiers in all wars.

Thousands of soldiers lost their lives in World War I. It was plain and simply a catastrophic event

France lost about 1,360,000 soldiers in WWI. The United States has recorded about 1,350,000 military deaths in all the wars since 1775. 

48) France is a popular setting for novels and films

France is a popular setting for books in the 21st century, such as The Nightingale and The Paris Wife. However, this isn’t the only era obsessed with French culture. Some of the most famous literary works of all time have been set in France.

One of the most famous examples is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, a work that tells the tale of the French Revolution through three prominent characters.

Madame Bovary and Les Miserables are two other prominent examples of literature set in France that showcase the daily lives of both noble and impoverished citizens in different centuries.

You might be interested in learning all the filming locations from the French movie Amelie or other Hollywood film locations in France

49) France is a nation of bohemians

‘Bohemians’- Victorians and Edwardians who believed in the Aesthetics movement– lived an unconventional lifestyle. They praised art, poetry, and beauty for its own sake. This movement was headed by Oscar Wilde, who was buried in Paris and once fondly stated that “when good Americans die, they go to Paris.”

In the 19th and 20th centuries, poets and playwrights often made their homes in the heart of France. Because the movement and the city of Paris embraced people from all walks of life, it became a haven for the LGBT community during this time. If you’re interested in art and culture, thousands of Bohemians know France is the place to be.

50) The Etch-a-Sketch is a French invention

In addition to Champagne, the hot air balloon, the camera and a multitude of French inventions that the world uses every day, the French also invented the Etch-a-sketch toy.

In the late 1950s, André Cassagnes, a French electrical technician, created the world-famous toy, which he called télécran aka L’Ecran Magique (the magic screen). Initially, no one was interested in the toy until the Ohio Art company invested $25k to purchase the license. They renamed it Etch a Sketch, and by the 1960’s it was a must-have toy for kids. It hasn’t changed much since it was first invented. It’s been sold in stores ever since. 

Etch A Sketch, Classic Red Drawing Toy with Magic Screen

  • No batteries required
  • No Wifi required
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02/24/2024 07:58 pm GMT

Beyond These Interesting Facts About France

Now that you know some interesting facts about France, it’s time to begin planning your trip. But before you do, you should read “Should I Move To France? 99 Useful Things Nobody Tells You About Living In France.”

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog annieandre.com for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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