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France
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.

France (French: [fʁɑ̃s] Listen), officially the French Republic (French: République française), is a transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and overseas regions and territories in the Americas and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Its metropolitan area extends from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea; overseas territories include French Guiana in South America, Saint Pierre and Miquelon in the North Atlantic, the French West Indies, and many islands in Oceania and the Indian Ocean. Due to its several coastal territories, France has the largest exclusive economic zone in the world. France borders Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Andorra, and Spain in Europe, as well as the Netherlands, Suriname, and Brazil in the Americas via its overseas territories in French Guiana and Saint Martin. Its eighteen integral regions (five of which are overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 km2 (248,573 sq mi) and over 67 million people (). France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre; other major urban areas include Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, and Nice.

Inhabited since the Palaeolithic era, the territory of Metropolitan France was settled by Celtic tribes known as Gauls during the Iron Age. Rome annexed the area in 51 BC, leading to a distinct Gallo-Roman culture that laid the foundation of the French language. The Germanic Franks formed the Kingdom of Francia, which became the heartland of the Carolingian Empire. The Treaty of Verdun of 843 partitioned the empire, with West Francia becoming the Kingdom of France in 987. In the High Middle Ages, France was a powerful but highly decentralised feudal kingdom. Philip II successfully strengthened royal power and defeated his rivals to double the size of the crown lands; by the end of his reign, France had emerged as the most powerful state in Europe. From the mid-14th to the mid-15th century, France was plunged into a series of dynastic conflicts involving England, collectively known as the Hundred Years' War, and a distinct French identity emerged as a result. The French Renaissance saw art and culture flourish, conflict with the House of Habsburg, and the establishment of a global colonial empire, which by the 20th century would become the second-largest in the world. The second half of the 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Huguenots that severely weakened the country. France again emerged as Europe's dominant power in the 17th century under Louis XIV following the Thirty Years' War. Inadequate economic policies, inequitable taxes and frequent wars (notably a defeat in the Seven Years' War and costly involvement in the American War of Independence), left the kingdom in a precarious economic situation by the end of the 18th century. This precipitated the French Revolution of 1789, which overthrew the Ancien Régime and produced the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day.

France reached its political and military zenith in the early 19th century under Napoleon Bonaparte, subjugating much of continental Europe and establishing the First French Empire. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of European and world history. The collapse of the empire initiated a period of relative decline, in which France endured a tumultuous succession of governments until the founding of the French Third Republic during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Subsequent decades saw a period of optimism, cultural and scientific flourishing, as well as economic prosperity known as the Belle Époque. France was one of the major participants of World War I, from which it emerged victorious at great human and economic cost. It was among the Allied powers of World War II, but was soon occupied by the Axis in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, the short-lived Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The current Fifth Republic was formed in 1958 by Charles de Gaulle. Algeria and most French colonies became independent in the 1960s, with the majority retaining close economic and military ties with France.

France retains its centuries-long status as a global centre of art, science and philosophy. It hosts the fifth-largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the world's leading tourist destination, receiving over 89 million foreign visitors in 2018. France is a developed country with the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by PPP; 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. It remains a great power in global affairs, being one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and an official nuclear-weapon state. France is a founding and leading member of the European Union and the Eurozone, as well as a key member of the Group of Seven, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and La Francophonie. (Full article...)

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The France national rugby union team (French: Équipe de France de Rugby à XV) represents France in men's international rugby union and it is administered by the French Rugby Federation. They traditionally play in blue shirts emblazoned with the national emblem of a golden rooster on a red shield, with white shorts and red socks; thus they are commonly referred to as Les Tricolores or Les Bleus. The team's home matches are mostly played at the Stade de France in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. France is currently ranked 2nd in the World Rugby Rankings. And the actual best team in the world with our champion Antoine DuPont

Rugby was introduced to France in 1872 by the British, and on New Years Day 1906, the national side played its first test match – against New Zealand in Paris. France played sporadically against the Home Nations until they joined them to form the Five Nations Championship (now the Six Nations) in 1910. France also competed in the rugby competitions at early Summer Olympics, winning the gold medal in 1900 and two silver medals in the 1920s. The national team came of age during the 1950s and 1960s, winning their first Five Nations title outright in 1959. They won their first Grand Slam in 1968. Since then they have won the title outright 18 times, including ten grand slams, and shared it eight times. (Full article...)
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Prost in 2012
Alain Marie Pascal Prost, OBE, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur is a French racing driver. A four-time Formula One Drivers' Champion, Prost has won more titles than any driver except for Juan Manuel Fangio (five championships), and Michael Schumacher (seven championships). From 1987 until 2001 Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories. Schumacher surpassed Prost's total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix. In 1999, Prost received the World Sports Awards of the Century in the motor sport category.

Prost discovered karting at the age of 14 during a family holiday. He progressed through motor sport's junior ranks before joining the McLaren Formula One team in 1980 at the age of 25. He finished in the points on his Formula One début in Argentina and took his first race victory at his home Grand Prix in France a year later, while he was driving for the factory Renault team.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Prost formed a fierce rivalry with mainly Ayrton Senna, but also Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell. In 1986, at the last race of the season, he managed to pip Mansell and Piquet of Williams to the title. Senna joined Prost at McLaren in 1988 and the two had a series of controversial clashes, including a collision at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix that gave Prost his third Drivers' Championship. Before the end of a winless 1991 season Prost was fired by Ferrari for his public criticism of the team. After a sabbatical in 1992, Prost joined the Williams team. With a competitive car, Prost won the 1993 championship and retired from driving at the end of the year.

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Cooking escargots
Cooking escargots
Escargot (French pronunciation: [ɛskaʁɡo] (listen)), from the French word for snail, is a dish consisting of cooked land snails. It is often served as an hors d'oeuvre and is common in France and parts of India (particularly among the Naga people and Manipur). Escargot is part of the typical cuisines of Cyprus, Malta, Crete, areas of mainland Greece, as well as the North African countries Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Escargot is also consumed in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. (Full article...)
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A contemporary illustration of the Women's March on Versailles, 5 October 1789
A contemporary illustration of the Women's March on Versailles, 5 October 1789

The Women's March on Versailles, also known as the October March, the October Days or simply the March on Versailles, was one of the earliest and most significant events of the French Revolution. The march began among women in the marketplaces of Paris who, on the morning of 5 October 1789, were nearly rioting over the high price of bread. The unrest quickly became intertwined with the activities of revolutionaries seeking liberal political reforms and a constitutional monarchy for France. The market women and their allies ultimately grew into a mob of thousands. Encouraged by revolutionary agitators, they ransacked the city armory for weapons and marched on the Palace of Versailles. The crowd besieged the palace and, in a dramatic and violent confrontation, they successfully pressed their demands upon King Louis XVI. The next day, the crowd forced the king, his family, and most of the French Assembly to return with them to Paris.

These events ended the king's independence and heralded a new balance of power that would ultimately displace the established, privileged orders of the French nobility in favor of the common people, collectively known as the Third Estate. By bringing together people representing the sources of the Revolution in their largest numbers yet, the march on Versailles proved to be a defining moment of the Revolution. (Full article...)
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Cathedral St. Nazaire and Pont Vieux at Béziers.

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