With frost mountain peaks, vast sandy beaches, villages that appear like they’ve been taken right out of a fantasy, and countless waterways, France is possibly the most diversified nation in West Europe.
But France is much more than this set of images. It is a country of jaguars, volcanoes, penguins, bamboo flutes, and war dances with a revolutionary history.
People often confuse that France is just a European country, but actually, no, it is not just European, but a transcontinental country, and it spans twelve time zones and thirteen when daylight saving is observed, which is more than any other country.
France’s top-tier territorial entities are regions. Metropolitan France, which includes continental France and the island of Corsica, is divided into 13 regions. There are five broad areas as well.
Due to the 2016 regional reforms, there are currently nine regions in northern France and just 3 in southern France. Each area has its own regional council, with members chosen by universal adult suffrage. The body is headed by a regional governor and is supported by a full local government. Metropolitan France makes up 82% of the land area and 96% of the population of France.
France is split into Eighteen administrative units, comprising Thirteen urban regions and five overseas regions. The 13 metro cities (containing the 12 mainland divisions and Corsica) are even further subdivided under Two to Thirteen departments, but the foreign territories each have only one department and are thus known as “overseas departments.”
The current legislative notion of the region was devised in 1982, and what had previously been 27 areas was decreased to 18 in 2016.
Regions have substantial responsibilities in transportation, infrastructure, economic development, tourism, and education (supply of lycées), and since these powers were transferred to them in 1981, regions have typically worked hard to build a regional character.
Regions are the highest level of a multi-tiered local government structure that comprises districts (départements), municipal areas (communautés de communes, or Intercommunalités), and boroughs (communes).
The region in France holds the same legal standing as Mainland France in the same civil and penal code and administrative social tax laws. However, some adjustable laws are particularly based on the local necessities of the people.
The autonomy of collectivities grows, and these regions are given the authority to determine their laws aside from certain areas like defence, currency, trade, and diplomatic relations.
1. Hauts de France
Pas de Calais, Nord, and Picardy constitute France’s northern region. Lille is the region’s capital, and it is home to the stunning Opal Coastal seashores, picturesque landscapes, and several WWI and WWII landmarks. It’s not a wine country, but it is a beer country!
It is the closest territory to the United Kingdom, separated by only 21 miles of the English Channel at its narrowest point. Tgv (Calais Frethun), Eurotunnel, or ship are all options for getting there.
2. Normandy (Normandie)
Upland and bottom Normandy were once divisions of Normandy. Beaches, farmland, fruit orchards, and old towns characterize this territory. It is famed because of its gastronomy, which includes butter, cheese (the most well-known of which is Camembert), and cider.
The most famous site is Mont Saint-Michel, a medieval island city, but there’s plenty more of it to adore, from Honfleur to Monet’s Park in Giverny. It is well-known for its WWII combat sites, and every year, quite a large crowd gathers to commemorate the D-Day landings. You may travel there by ship from the UK or by car from Calais.
Normandy is renowned for its cheese and oysters, but were you aware that it also makes wine? Even though it is not a recognized winemaking area in France, it is nonetheless valid. It’s so obscure that Normandy has just a single winery! Les Arpents du Soleil (Sun Fields) has just resurrected its vineyards and now produces four varietals of red and white wines.
Juno Beach and Omaha Beach are also fantastic places to see in Normandy, where so many troops invaded France on June 6, 1944, amid the Second World War. The American and German burials, the seashore itself, and Hoc Point, which is noted for its massive trenches and ruined anti-aircraft fortifications.
3. Brittany (Bretagne)
Brittany, located in northwestern France, is well-known for its sandy beaches and beautiful small villages. Brittany’s coast is the most popular among beachgoers in France.
Brittany’s landscape is lush and verdant, with charming cottages and towns. Cider and Breton pancakes are only two of its culinary highlights. Ships run directly from the south of the UK to Brittany.
Brittany is the residence of France’s most significant collections of Ancient and prehistoric sites, in addition to just being visually stunning. Ancient ruins are abundant throughout this historically rich area. The northern section of the area can be breezy; however, the southern part is warmer, having exceptionally hot days on the southern shore sometimes.
If you enjoy being outside, you might enjoy this area. Much of Brittany’s seaside sections, particularly in Finistère (literally as “the end of the planet”), are generally plain and stony, as well as bordered by mountains, making it simple to promenade along and then hike if desired.
La Pointe du Raz is considered one of the nicest sites in the area. It marks the westernmost point of the Sivan peninsula, which juts into the Iroise Sea, which meets the Atlantic Ocean. The scenery is beautiful, the trek is straightforward, and you’ll find a charming watchtower.
Ile-de-France, with Paris at its heart, receives the most tourists of any area in France, owing to attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. It also accommodates Disney Europe and several of the major castles, including Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. There are two major international airports and a train service going straight to Paris.
This region centred just on the French capital, Paris, may very well be regarded as the nucleus of French gastronomic activities, particularly if we limit it to simply Paris.
5. Centre-Val de Loire
The magnificent Loire Valley, also nicknamed the Valley of the Kings, is located in the central part of France and is where the rulers’ rural castles were constructed. Plan a prolonged vacation in the Loire Valley parallel to châteaux-hopping because, let’s admit it, this area is breathtaking.
Completely submerge yourself in the fairy tale scenery, lease a motorbike or embark on a strolling trip. In addition, the gastronomy throughout the Loire seems to be outstanding. It’s also a wine region with renowned Loire wineries. The country is easily accessible by rapid rail from Paris, but it is also ideal for exploring by vehicle or motorbike.
With enchanting fortresses, boundless grapevine fields, and verdant sceneries, the Loire Valley is not just a wine lover’s dream; it is also a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in addition to being a location with a vastly different temperature.
6. Pays de la Loire
The Pays de la Loire is among France’s most undervalued places, with its lovely west shores of the Loire-Atlantique and, indeed, the lush Vendée department, in addition to its gorgeous scenery. It serves as the home of Le Mans, and the capital, Nantes, is only two hours away by train from Paris.
The historic regions of Limousin, Poitou-Charentes, and Aquitaine combine to create France’s largest super region. Dordogne, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Limoges, wines, seaside, and landscapes this region has everything that you could desire from a French vacation.
Just have two words for you: The foie gras. If you’re a vegetarian, duck/goose liver isn’t something you’d want to taste, but it is perfect for people who eat meat and want to treat themselves in posh French restaurants. This cuisine (foie gras) comes from the Aquitaine area and is by far their finest and most popular food.
8. Grand Est
Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine, plus Alsace amalgamated to form the east super region Grand Est, and what a diverse terrain it is. Wineries everywhere: ancient cities, spectacular landscapes, highlands, waterways, plus breathtaking scenery.
Champagne is easily accessible via Calais; Reims is only a short distance away by vehicle. Major airports and rapid railways connect the urban centres, such as Strasbourg.
9. Burgundy-Franche-Comté (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)
There would be no prizes for predicting that the erstwhile Burgundy region amalgamated with Franche-Comté to establish a new area. Vineyards, the Alps, fantastic towns such as Dijon and Besancon, chateaux galore, and incredibly stunning landscapes end up making this a remarkable place that is curiously overlooked by travellers.
Commuter trains connect it to metropolitan areas. Apart from wine, escargot is a traditional dish in this region. Farming here is mostly focused on dairy goods, with a large cheese making and winemaking. Timber and furniture manufacturing are two significant sectors.
Bourgogne is well recognized for its vibrant geography, and it yields mainly red and white wines effectively. In France, Bourgogne has by far the most categorizations (officially defined and safeguarded wine regions). Remarkably, the area is the birthplace of both sorts of grapes and has gradually improved its cultivars from strong to powerful.
Burgundy is the birthplace of Epoisses, a renowned cleaned rind cheese. Epoisses is brushed in salt and liquor, which also enhances the taste but then also provides the crust with an amber hue and preserves the cheese hard.
Touring Beaune, the old capital of Bourgogne prior to Dijon, is a must to sip a selection of the world’s foremost wines, absorb this culture, and discover the land’s essence.
This also happens to be one of the most intriguing areas to visit wineries since the Bourgogne area stays true to its heritage by upholding the hundreds of years of winemaking procedures that made it so popular in the first place.
Another large super region, previously known as Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées, and France’s southern region (excluding Corsica). Toulouse, Carcassonne, Nimes, Albi, and Montpellier are all fantastic destinations to explore, and there are multiple international airports nearby for convenience.
The Auvergne & Rhône Alpes regions of France converged to form a single large region in the southeast of France. Hilly and famous for skiing and snowboarding, it is also host to the French side of Mont Blanc and even the culinary capital of Lyon.
The Rhône Valley in southeastern France, with its milder climate and neighbouring Rhône River, provides an ideal habitat for France’s greatest wine production. This lush region is home to a number of classic red wines created with grapes.
12. Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur
The most frequented of the French regions from outside Ile-de-France due to its multitude of tourist spots – Provence, Marseille, Nice, and the Coastline, to mention a few. Travelling by flight or rail is simple, and even the region is ideal for exploring by bicycle or automobile.
International flights and quick railway services are readily available. Provence is complemented by quince and aioli. Undoubtedly, this area is famed for numerous cuisines, but for sauce admirers (and all items drowned in sauces), nothing beats tasting aioli in its homeland. Aioli is garlicky mayo brought straight from heaven overhead.
The Luberon region (found in the centre of the Provence area) comprises the most characteristic landscape of pastoral Provence, with apparently infinite lavender gardens, verdant olive trees, sloping vineyards, and lovely medieval mountaintop towns studded with focal-length cottages.
Corsica attracts around three million tourists each year because of its bright environment and unique terrain. It is claimed to have Europe’s greatest beachfront, cultural attractions, distinctive food, and hilly terrain. You may get there by boat or plane from continental France. Bastia in the north and Bonifacio in the southeast are two places to explore.
Due to the dramatic topographical variations, the island is easily divided into north and south.
To Finish Off
You’ll notice that France offers something for everyone in terms of regions, sites, and excellent food. France is an emblematic destination, and it is one of the most visited nations in the world. It’s stunning. Some tourists like to visit this traditional European attraction, although Paris is just not France, and France isn’t really Paris.