France, officially the French Republic, is located in the continent of Europe. Its capital is Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. France has a population of 66.6 million and is the 20th most populous country in the world and the third-most populous in Europe. Its national motto is ?Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.?
The official language is French. The French Republic is divided into 2 regions- The European part (Metropolitan France) and the Overseas Regions. Metropolitan France is bordered by the North Sea in the north, the English Channel in the north-west, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean Sea in the south-east. It borders Belgium and Luxembourg in the north east. It also borders Germany and Switzerland in the east, Italy and Monaco in the south-east, Spain and Andorra in the south west. The borders in the south and in the east of the country are mountains: the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Jura, the border in the east is from the Rhine River, and the border in the north and the north east melts in no natural elements. Due to its shape, it is often referred to as ?The Hexagon". The Metropolitan France also includes different islands: Corsica and coastal islands. The Overseas regions of France are located across the world. These territories have varying statuses in the territorial administration of France outside of the European continent. These include island territories in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, French Guiana on the South American continent, and several periantarctic islands as well as a claim in Antarctica.
The European territory of France covers 551,500 square kilometres (212,935 sq. mi) and is the largest among European Union members. Due to its numerous overseas departments and territories scattered on all oceans of the planet, France possesses the second-largest Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, just behind the EEZ of the United States, but ahead of the EEZ of Australia. Its EEZ covers approximately 8% of the total surface of all the EEZs of the world. France has extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhone, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the Camargue. Corsica lies off the Mediterranean coast.
France is divided into a total of 18 administrative regions with 13 regions in metropolitan France (including the territorial collectively of Corsica) and five located overseas. The regions are further subdivided into 101 departments alphabetically.
France is a unitary semi-presidential democratic republic. According to its constitution, the authority of the executive is superior to that of the parliament. The Constitution of France declares the state as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people. The executive branch has two leaders: the President of the Republic, currently Fran?ois Hollande, who is head of state and is elected directly by universal adult suffrage for a 5-year term (formerly 7 years),and the Government, led by the president-appointed Prime Minister, currently Manuel Valls.
The French parliament is a bicameral legislature comprising a National Assembly (Assembl?e Nationale) and a Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the government, and thus the majority in the Assembly determines the choice of government. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6-year terms (originally 9-year terms), and one half of the seats are submitted to election every 3 years.
French citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and the country performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, civil liberties, and human development.
France is a founding member of the United Nations, where it serves as one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. It is a member of the Group of 7, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and La Francophonie. France is a founding and leading member state of the European Union (EU).
The victory of France in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) against England helped it emerge as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages, strengthening state-building and the political centralization. During the Renaissance, France experienced a vast cultural development and established the beginning of a global colonial empire. The 16th century was dominated by religious civil wars between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots).
France became Europe's dominant cultural, political, and military power under Louis XIV. A major development in French history took place in the late 18th century termed as the French Revolution. The revolution overthrew the absolute monarchy, established one of modern history's earliest republics, and saw the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which expresses the nation's ideals to this day. Napoleon took power and launched the First French Empire, whose subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe. Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments: the monarchy was restored, it was replaced in 1830 by a constitutional monarchy, then briefly by a Second Republic, and then by a Second Empire, until a more lasting French Third Republic was established in 1870.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, France possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world. It was a major player in both the World Wars. In World War I, France was one of the victors as part of the Triple Entente alliance fighting against the Central Powers. In World War II, it came under occupation by the Axis Powers in 1940. Following liberation in 1944, a Fourth Republic was established and later dissolved in the course of the Algerian War. The Fifth Republic, led by Charles de Gaulle, was formed in 1958 and remains to this day. Following World War II, most of the French colonial empire became decolonized.
France is third in income from tourism. It is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world, with 83 million foreign tourists in 2012, ahead of the US (67 million) and China (58 million). France has 37 sites in UNESCO's World Heritage List and features cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquillity (green tourism). The "Remarkable Gardens" label is a list of the over 200 gardens classified by the French Ministry of Culture. This label is intended to protect and promote remarkable gardens and parks. France attracts many religious pilgrims on their way to St. James, or to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyr?n?es that hosts several million visitors a year.
Paris, has some of the world's largest and renowned museums, including the Louvre, which is the most visited art museum in the world, the Mus?e d'Orsay, mostly devoted to impressionism, and Beaubourg, dedicated to Contemporary art. Disneyland Paris is Europe's most popular theme park. Unfortunately, the paintings and artefacts of the Louvre museum are being shifted due to the recent flash floods in France.
The French Riviera in south-east France is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after Paris. It benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants. Each year the C?te d'Azur hosts 50% of the world's super yacht fleet.
The most popular tourist sites of France are : Eiffel Tower , Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Mus?e d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe , Centre Pompidou, Mont Saint-Michel , Ch?teau de Chambord , Sainte-Chapelle , Ch?teau du Haut-K?nigsbourg, Puy de D?me , Mus?e Picasso and Carcassonne .
France is a highly urbanized country, with its largest cities (in terms of metropolitan area population in 2013) being Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg and Rennes.
An authentic French meal often consists of three courses, hors d'?uvre or entr?e (introductory course, sometimes soup), plat principal (main course), fromage (cheese course) and/or dessert, sometimes with a salad offered before the cheese or dessert. The dessert could be mille-feuille pastry, a macaron, an ?clair, cr?me br?l?e, mousse au chocolat, cr?pes, or Caf? li?geois.
French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of life and the attractiveness of France.  A French publication, the Michelin guide, awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. By 2006, the Michelin Guide had awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, at that time more than any other country, although the guide also inspects more restaurants in France than in any other country (by 2010, Japan was awarded as many Michelin stars as France, despite having half the number of Michelin inspectors working there).
In addition to its wine tradition, France is also a major producer of beer. The three main French brewing regions are Alsace (60% of national production), the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Lorraine.
Popular sports played in France include football, judo, and tennis and rugby union. The Stade de France in Saint-Denis is France's largest stadium and was the venue for the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2007 Rugby World Cup finals. Since 1903, France hosts the annual Tour de France, the most famous road bicycle race in the world. France is also famous for its 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car endurance race. Several major tennis tournaments take place in France, including the Paris Masters and the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments. French martial arts include Savate and Fencing. France will host UEFA Euro 2016. France has produced world-elite basketball players, most notably Tony Parker. The French National Basketball Team won gold at the FIBA EuroBasket 2013. The national team has won two Olympic Silver Medals: in 2000 and 1948.
- Turning the baguette upside down is considered unlucky in France.
- There are more than 400 kinds of cheese made here.
- 2 new cooking books are published in France each day.
- Some claim that the French toast isn?t actually French but was invented by a man named Joseph French.
- A 1910 law in France forbids couples from kissing on train platforms to avoid delayed departures.
- An average French citizen eats 500 snails per year.
- The French consume 11.2 billion glasses of wine each year.