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Current French regions since 2015.

"How can you govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six kinds of cheese?"
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People tend to forget this, but France is big. Really big. By land area it is the largest country in Western Europe and of The European Union, and the third-largest in Europe overall (after Russia and Ukraine); it's also about the same size as Texas, which of course prides itself on its size. As a result, despite the centralization of power in Paris, the government needs to divide the country up somehow in order to govern effectively.

Départements (often rendered in English as "departments") are the primary administrative divisions of France. As you can imagine given that bit about France being big, there's rather a lot of them. Nowadays they are grouped for administrative efficiency into eighteen régions—thirteen within "Metropolitan France" (i.e., in continental Europe, including Corsica), and the remaining five elsewhere, but this is a fairly recent creation. Several regional projects aborted, the first one in 1919, the second one during the Vichy regime, and the third one rejected by referendum in 1969 (which is what led to Charles de Gaulle's retirement from power). The current regions were created in 1972 by George Pompidou, but were only given significant power by 1983's decentralization law under François Mitterrand. In 2014, after a long, tedious, and at times very controversial political debate, the number of regions was brought down from 27 to 18, merging many regions. Reception to this reform was highly mixed, the reunification of Normandy being almost unanimously praised, while the merger of Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne, as well as the problems surrounding Brittany being blatantly ignored, left a lot of people very unhappy.

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Each département is allocated a numbernote , which appears on French postcodes and car registrations.

The départements are purely administrative, having been created during the French Revolution as a means to "rationalize" administration: originally, the idea was to divide along the lines of a rigid grid, and although that idea was quickly scrapped, boundaries are drawn with more consideration for compactness and equality of geographic size than anything else—nobody had to be "more than a day of horseriding" away from the main city of their department. Most of these departments are named after rivers, mountains or seas (or several at once like Pyrénées Atlantiques).

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The régions, on the other hand, tend to vaguely follow the old provinces of the Ancien Régime, although not always (Centre-Val de Loire, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Pays de la Loire, Grand Est, and Midi-Pyrénées in particular are noted for their artificiality). The historic provinces tend to be very much a focus for attachment for the ordinary French, as do the towns, cities, and other municipalities that form the next level down below the département. The old provinces tend to have their own characteristic dialectsnote , cuisines, customs, and traditions—to say nothing of the cheese and the wine. Although the dialects largely have been worn away into mere regional accents by generations of concerted attempts to impose Standard French as well as immigration, the rest have remained—and that's why we talk about it.

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Metropolitan France

    Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes 

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Auvergne-Rhone-Alps)

Capital (and largest city): Lyon
Area: 69,711 square kilometres (26,916 square miles) [3rd of 13]
Population (2022): 8,042,936 [2nd of 13]
Regional languages: Occitan (Vivaro-Alpine and Auvergnat variants), Arpitan
Alternate names: Auvèrnhe-Ròse-Aups (Occitan), Ôvèrgne-Rôno-Arpes (Arpitan)

The second most populated and third-largest region, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is largely mountainous, with the Alps to the east, the Massif Central to the west, and the deep Rhône valley in between (hence the region's name). It covers many historic and cultural regions: Auvergne, Beaujolais, Bourbonnais, Forez, Savoy, parts of Languedoc, and most of Dauphiné. The regional capital, Lyon, has been a major city since the time of the Romans, is famed in France for its food and cuisine, and is a large business center. Depending on what criteria you use (and who you ask), Lyon is either the second- or third-largest city in France. Other major cities include Grenoble, Saint Etienne, and Clermont-Ferrand.


01 — Ain

Capital (and largest city): Bourg-en-Bresse
Area: 5,762 square kilometres (2,225 square miles) [6th of 13 regionally; 56th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 652,432 [6th of 13 regionally; 38th of 97 overall]
A composite of four different regions—Bresse, Dombes, Bugey, and Pays de Gex—the otherwise agriculturally-oriented department contributes to 10% of France's plastic industry, as well as home to most of the Large Hadron Collider of CERN (which is otherwise headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland), while the town of Ars-sur-Formans is a Catholic pilgrimage site associated with its 19th-century parish priest St. John Vianney, who spent forty years working for the town's spiritual transformation.

03 — Allier

Capital: Moulins
Largest city: Montluçon
Area: 7,340 square kilometres (2,834 square miles) [3rd of 13 regionally; 13th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 335,975 [9th of 13 regionally; 65th of 97 overall]
Comprising much of the former Duchy of Bourbonnais, Allier played a major role during World War II, when the spa city of Vichy served as the capital of Philippe Pétain's Nazi-sponsored French government.

07 — Ardèche

Capital (and largest city): Privas
Area: 5,529 square kilometres (2,135 square miles) [8th of 13 regionally; 63rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 328,278 [10th of 13 locally; 69th of 97 overall]
A rural and sparsely populated department with appreciated natural features and many chestnut-based delicacies. It is named after a river which notably flows through a striking limestone canyon beloved by tourists and canoeing fans.

15 — Cantal

Capital (and largest city): Aurillac
Area: 5,726 square kilometres (2,211 square miles) [7th of 13 regionally; 59th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 144,692 [13th of 13 regionally; 93rd of 97 overall]
One of the most sparsely populated departments in France, Cantal is also one of France's most isolated, with its capital, Aurillac, being the farthest-removed capital from any major motorway. Its most famous son is probably the scholar Gerbert, who later became the first French Pope as Sylvester II.

26 — Drôme

Capital (and largest city): Valence
Area: 6,530 square kilometres (2,521 square miles) [4th of 13 regionally; 29th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 516,762 [7th of 13 regionally; 51st of 97 overall]
One of the three departments that composed the historical Dauphiné. Valence is situated in the Rhône valley and is usually seen as the door between Northern and Southern France due to being at the transition between continental and Mediterranean climate and because of the light southern accent of its inhabitants.

38 — Isère

Capital (and largest city): Grenoble
Area: 7,431 square kilometres (2,869 square miles) [2nd of 13 regionally; 10th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,271,166 [2nd of 13 regionally; 15th of 97 overall]
One of the three departments that composed the historical Dauphiné. Famed for its mountains. Grenoble, nicknamed "Capital of the Alps", is the second-largest city in the region and a major scientific and industrial hub in Europe, as well as centrepiece of the 1968 Winter Olympic Games. The combination of high-level education and beautiful nature makes the department a favored destination for many a New-Age Retro Hippie and Granola Girl.

42 — Loire

Capital (and largest city): Saint-Étienne
Area: 4,781 square kilometres (1,846 square miles) [10th of 13 regionally; 77th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 765,634 [4th of 13 regionally; 29th of 97 overall]
Saint-Étienne was long known in France as the city of the "weapon, cycle, and ribbon", from its history as an industrial center for arms manufacture, ribbons, and later bicycles. It also became a major coal mining center. In the 21st century, the city has been transforming itself into a design center, with some success.

43 — Haute-Loire (Upper Loire)

Capital (and largest city): Le Puy-en-Velay
Area: 4,977 square kilometres (1,922 square miles) [9th of 13 regionally; 75th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 227,570 [12th of 13 regionally; 82nd of 97 overall]
Le Puy-en-Velay is famous for its cathedral, which served as part of the route of the Camino de Santiago (the pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain) as well as a pilgrimage site in its own right.

63 — Puy-de-Dôme

Capital (and largest city): Clermont-Ferrand
Area: 7,970 square kilometres (3,077 square miles) [1st of 13 regionally; 8th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 662,152 [5th of 13 regionally; 37th of 97 overall]
Named after the dormant volcano that towers over the departmental (and regional) capital, Clermont-Ferrand, and a tourist destination in its own right, being the site of several religious compounds, including a Roman one dedicated to Mercury. Clermont-Ferrand is also known as the home of tire-making company Michelin (the one with a rubber-man for a mascot).

69D — Rhône

Capital: Lyon
Largest city: Villefranche-sur-Saône
Area: 2,715 square kilometres (1,048 square miles) [12th of 13 regionally; 88th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 253,618 [11th of 13 regionally; 78th of 97 overall]
Named after the river that flows through its old capital Lyon and known for Beaujolais wine, it had been expanded greatly from its original extent in order to keep all of the Lyon area in the same department. Although the department no longer includes Lyon, at the present that city still remains the department's provincial capital.

69M — Métropole de Lyon (Lyon Metropolis)

Capital (and largest city): Lyon
Area: 534 square kilometres (206 square miles) [13th of 13 regionally; 93rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,622,129 [1st of 13 regionally; 7th of 97 overall]
Separated from Rhône in 2015, Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area in France. Known as a major centre of French cuisine, and also with a significant place in the history of cinema, being where Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematograph, an early motion picture camera. The city also boasts numerous architectural and historic landmarks, as well as significant banking, pharmaceutical, biotech, and video game development industries. Also notable in French sports, with its football club Olympique Lyonnais being one of France's most historic clubs and its basketball club ASVEL being the country's most dominant in this century. Officially, the metropolis is now a "territorial collectivity" (collectivité territoriale) with the same powers as a department.

73 — Savoie (Savoy)

Capital (and largest city): Chambéry
Area: 6,028 square kilometres (2,327 square miles) [5th of 13 regionally; 44th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 436,434 [8th of 13 regionally; 55th of 97 overall]
One of the two departments that composed the Duchy of Savoy. Dominated by the Alps, it's a major hub of mountain tourism; the 1992 Winter Olympics were held in and around the town of Albertville. Historically known for agriculture, especially the cheeses coming from its dairies, its rugged nature has lent itself in recent decades to extensive hydroelectric installations, in turn allowing for a large metals processing industry to develop.

74 — Haute-Savoie (Upper Savoy)

Capital (and largest city): Annecy
Area: 4,388 square kilometres (1,694 square miles) [11th of 13 regionally; 81st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 826,094 [3rd of 13 regionally; 26th of 97 overall]
The other department that composed the Duchy of Savoy. Its most distinctive feature is Mont Blanc (along the border with Italy), the highest peak of Western Europe at 4,810 metres (15,782 feet).note  Like its neighbour, it is a major hub of mountain tourism, with the town of Chamonix hosting the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. It is usually satirized as being basically Switzerland, being mostly known for beautiful mountains and gorgeous lakes, and being among the most wealthy parts of France. The TV show Les Revenants was filmed there.

    Bourgogne-Franche-Comté 

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (Burgundy-Free County)

Capital (and largest city): Dijon
Area: 47,784 square kilometres (18,450 square miles) [5th of 13]
Population (2022): 2,805,580 [11th of 13]
Regional language: Bourguignon-Morvandiau
Alternate name: Borgogne-Franche-Comtât (Arpitan)

As its name suggests, this region is made out of two entities, Bourgogne (Burgundy) and Franche-Comté (Free County), who have a long history of being united and separated. Both relics of the post-Roman Kingdom of Burgundy, which was much larger, the former became known as the "Duchy of Burgundy," and the latter the "County of Burgundy," which eventually became "Free County." The region is perhaps most famous for The Hundred Years War, where the dukes of Burgundy (who also ruled over the county, and... the Netherlands, of all places) played both sides, temporarily becoming one of the most powerful states in Western Europe. Since 2016, both Burgundies have been reunited, but they both retain a strong individual identity. Today, the region is the least densely populated in Metropolitan France, its terrain being largely composed of the northernmost part of the Massif Central and the Jura mountains (the Jurassic period is named after them), the plains of the Saone and Seine rivers separating the two.

Naturally, Bourgogne proper is famous for its cuisine, to which we owe a lot (including les escargots de Bourgogne, the famous snails; boeuf bourguignon, or the best damn beef stew in Western Europe; and, of course, Burgundy wine). Comté cheese, one of the most popular in France, is originally from historic Franche-Comté; vin jaune, a famous deep-yellow white wine, is native to Jura (and commonly drunk with Comté cheese).


21 — Côte-d'Or (Golden Slope)

Capital (and largest city): Dijon
Area: 8,763 square kilometres (3,383 square miles) [1st of 8 regionally; 4th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 534,124 [3rd of 8 regionally; 49th of 97 overall]
Côte-d'Or is home to some of France's most prestigious vineyards in Bourgogne, while much of the department's economic activity is centered on Dijon. The town of Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux is famed as the birthplace of the Cistercians, a Roman Catholic monastic order which stresses on austerity and began as a reform of the larger Benedictine order.

25 — Doubs

Capital (and largest city): Besançon
Area: 5,234 square kilometres (2,021 square miles) [6th of 8 regionally; 68th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 543,974 [2nd of 8 regionally; 48th of 97 overall]
A department of old Franche-Comté, built around the Roman-era trade post of Besançon, the birthplace of Victor Hugo, overlooked by an imposing hilltop fortress.

39 — Jura

Capital: Lons-le-Saunier
Largest city: Dole
Area: 4,999 square kilometres (1,930 square miles) [7th of 8 regionally; 74th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 259,199 [5th of 8 regionally; 77th of 97 overall]
Jura is a predominantly wine-making region from the old Franche-Comté, and for lack of industrial activity, much of the department's business is concentrated in small towns such as Lons-le-Saunier and Dole. Its location on the Jura Mountains also made it a favorite winter sports destination.

58 — Nièvre

Capital (and largest city): Nevers
Area: 6,817 square kilometres (2,632 square miles) [4th of 8 regionally; 21st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 204,452 [7th of 8 regionally; 84th of 97 overall]
A rural department that largely thrives on the wine industry and based on the former province of Nivernais, its capital, Nevers, is home to a cathedral literally made of two earlier ones patched together, as well as the final resting place of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the recipient of visions attributed to the Virgin Mary at the town of Lourdes farther south.

70 — Haute-Saône (Upper Saône)

Capital (and largest city): Vesoul
Area: 5,360 square kilometres (2,070 square miles) [5th of 8 regionally; 66th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 235,313 [6th of 8 regionally; 80th of 97 overall]
A quiet, rural department amidst a hotspot of economic activity that straddles the French-German border and a former part of Franche-Comté, the department saw some action during Franco-Prussian War, and later welcomed Alsatians fleeing the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine following Prussian victory.

71 — Saône-et-Loire (Saône and Loire)

Capital (and largest city): Mâcon
Area: 8,575 square kilometres (3,311 square miles) [2nd of 8 regionally; 6th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 551,493 [1st of 8 regionally; 47th of 97 overall]
Dominated by a series of hills, Saône-et-Loire is patched up from parts of southern Burgundy and Bresse (the other part now belonging to Ain). It is most famous for the Benedictine abbey at Cluny, once the center of medieval European monasticism, as well as the town of Taizé, home to a Christian ecumenical community.

89 — Yonne

Capital (and largest city): Auxerre
Area: 7,427 square kilometres (2,868 square miles) [3rd of 8 regionally; 11th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 335,707 [4th of 8 regionally; 66th of 97 overall]
Patched up from parts of Burgundy, Champagne, and Orléans, Yonne is an otherwise quiet department largely known for Sens, the town whose Roman Catholic Archdiocese once covered Paris and its surrounding areas until the 17th century.

90 — Territoire de Belfort (Territory of Belfort)

Capital (and largest city): Belfort
Area: 609 square kilometres (235 square miles) [8th of 8 regionally; 92nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 141,318 [8th of 8 regionally; 94th of 97 overall]
For such a small department, Belfort is distinct from the rest of the region by being a remnant of Alsace retained by the French after the rest was lost to the Germans after the Franco-Prussian War (partly as a show of respect to the 17,000 Frenchmen who defended the eponymous capital against 40,000 Germans during a 103-day siege; in their honour a massive stone lion was sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, finished shortly before he started work on the Statue of Liberty).

    Bretagne 

Bretagne (Brittany)

Capital (and largest city): Rennes
Area: 27,208 square kilometres (10,505 square miles) [11th of 13]
Population (2022): 3,354,854 [9th of 13]
Regional languages: Breton, Gallo
Alternate names: Breizh (Breton), Bertaèyn (Gallo)

Modern-day Brittany is actually only roughly 80% of the historical region, with the rest now belonging to Pays de Loire just because. Pretty Celtic in culture (it's part of the six Celtic nations with Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man), this is the last Celtic country in Continental Europe, established by Cornish/Welsh refugees from Britainnote  looking for somewhere like home. The local language, Breton, historically spoken in the western part of the region, is being revived as part of France's gradual relaxation of its restrictions on dissemination of local cultures. It is very closely related to Cornish and slightly more distantly related to Welsh. A romance language called Gallo is also still in use in the eastern part of the region, though it has much fewer speakers.

Famous for its crêpes (Krampouezh), buckwheat galettes (Kaletez) and its cider (Sistr). In France, it also holds a reputation for being perpetually rainy. Or in other words, it's the Wales of France. Go figure.


22 — Côtes-d'Armor (Coasts of Armorica)

Capital (and largest city): Saint-Brieuc
Area: 6,878 square kilometres (2,656 square miles) [1st of 4 regionally; 18th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 600,582 [4th of 4 regionally; 41st of 97 overall]
An unusually liberal department amidst an otherwise conservative region, centered on the former communist stronghold of Guingamp.

29 — Finistère (Ends of the Earth)

Capital: Quimper
Largest city: Brest
Area: 6,733 square kilometres (2,600 square miles) [4th of 4 regionally; 26th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 915,090 [2nd of 4 regionally; 24th of 97 overall]
Literally named after its location at the extreme end of the peninsula, Finistère remains Brittany's largest speaker of the Breton language, with an annual festival held at its capital, Quimper, while much of its economic activity revolves at the port city of Brest, only a few kilometres away from the tip of the peninsula.

35 — Ille-et-Vilaine (Ille and Vilaine)

Capital and (largest city): Rennes
Area: 6,775 square kilometres (2,616 square miles) [3rd of 4 regionally; 24th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,079,498 [1st of 4 regionally; 21st of 97 overall]
The heart of eastern Brittany, the bustling city of Rennes serves as the heart of both the department and the region (in the absence of Nantes), while the tidal fortress-island of Saint-Malo was a primary destination for merchants and pirates alike.

56 — Morbihan

Capital: Vannes
Largest city: Lorient
Area: 6,823 square kilometres (2,634 square miles) [2nd of 4 regionally; 20th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 759,684 [3rd of 4 regionally; 30th of 97 overall]
The department completely surrounds the eponymous gulf, which is a famous surfing and bird-watching destination, but is better-known as home to what is said to be some the largest megalithic structures in the world, of which the most famous is the stone formations at Carnac, which predates even Stonehenge in England.

    Centre-Val de Loire 

Centre-Val de Loire (Centre-Loire Valley)

Capital: Orleans
Largest city: Tours
Area: 39,151 square kilometres (15,116 square miles) [6th of 13]
Population (2012): 2,573,180 [12th of 13]

Simply known as "Centre" until 2014, it is located in the centre of France (well, more in the northwest-ish). It is known for two things: the Loire Valley and its famous châteaux, and the fact that it is the only region with no individual cultural identity whatsoever. In fact, it's constituted of various smaller historical provinces (Berry, Touraine, and Orléans), and some of them were even in conflict. It is often said that Centre was made with the leftovers when all the other regions where created. After a long campaign, it was renamed "Centre-Val de Loire" in January 2015.


18 — Cher

Capital (and largest city): Bourges
Area: 7,235 square kilometres (2,793 square miles) [1st of 6 regionally; 14th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 302,306 [5th of 6 regionally; 72nd of 97 overall]
Half of the ancient province of Berry, which was also ruled from the city of Bourges, famed for its massive thirteenth-century cathedral, built at around the same time as that of Chartres.

28 — Eure-et-Loir (Eure and Loir)

Capital (and largest city): Chartres
Area: 5,880 square kilometres (2,270 square miles) [6th of 6 regionally; 51st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 431,575 [3rd of 6 regionally; 56th of 97 overall]
A largely agricultural region, Eure-et-Loir is created from parts of the old province of Orléans. The skyline of its capital, Chartres, is dominated to this day by the twin towers of its cathedral, arguably the best-preserved Gothic church in France.

36 — Indre

Capital (and largest city): Châteauroux
Area: 6,791 square kilometres (2,622 square miles) [2nd of 6 regionally; 23rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 219,316 [6th of 6 regionally; 83rd of 97 overall]
The other half of the former province of Berry and least populous department in the region.

37 — Indre-et-Loire (Indre and Loire)

Capital (and largest city): Tours
Area: 6,127 square kilometres (2,366 square miles)
Population (2022): 610,079 [2nd of 6 regionally; 40th of 97 overall]
Formerly part of the province of Touraine, Indre-et-Loire is famed for some of the most scenic châteaux of the Loire Valley, in particular those in Chinon, which once served as a residence of French and English kings in the eleventh century, and Chenonceau, built over an old flour mill straddling the Cher River. The capital, Tours, was the historic seat of the Merovignian and Carolignian dynasties.

41 — Loir-et-Cher (Loir and Cher)

Capital (and largest city): Blois
Area: 6,343 square kilometres (2,449 square miles) [4th of 6 regionally; 30th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 329,470 [4th of 6 regionally; 68th of 97 overall]
Created from portions of Orléans and Touraine, this department is best known for the Château de Chambord, the largest of its kind in the Loire Valley and distinctive for its strong French architectural style.

45 — Loiret

Capital (and largest city): Orléans
Area: 6,775 square kilometres (2,616 square miles) [3rd of 6 regionally; 25th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 680,434 [1st of 6 regionally; 36th of 97 overall]
Formerly of the province of Orléans, its eponymous capital was the capital of Merovignian France and played a particular role in The Hundred Years War, especially for the role played by a nineteen-year-old peasant girl and visionary from Lorraine named Joan of Arc to repel an English siege in 1429 and turn the tide of the war.

    Corse 

Corse (Corsica)

Capital (and largest city): Ajaccio
Area: 8,680 square kilometres (3,350 square miles) [13th of 13]
Population (2022): 340,440 [13th of 13]
Regional languages: Corsican

Nicknamed Île de Beauté (Isle of Beauty), the island of Corsica is located in the Mediterranean, right to the north of the Italian island of Sardinia.note  Occupied for a long time by various countries, it was briefly independent in 1735, until 1769 where it was definitely conquered by France.

Even today, Corsicans are a pretty independent bunch. A 2003 referendum on greater autonomy was voted down by a very thin majority: 50.98% against to 49.02% in favor. Ironically, the island also contributed to the history of France by being the birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte himself.

Common jokes involve Corsicans being lazy, insanely protective of their women, and highly irritable and violent (which combined with the long-running low-level separatist bombing campaign led to Corsica being jokingly called Île de Boum: the island of "BOOM"!). There are sometimes jokes about their kind of cheese, which even the cheese-loving French are horrified at. Corsican girls also hold a reputation for being extremely beautiful, but since it brought us women such as Laetitia Casta or Alizée, this might not be just a stereotype.

Corsica used to have the number "20". This changed when it was separated in two départements.


2A — Corse-du-Sud (Southern Corsica)

Capital (and largest city): Ajaccio
Area: 4,014 square kilometres (1,550 square miles) [2nd of 2 regionally; 84th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 158,507 [2nd of 2 regionally; 91st of 97 overall]
Directly facing Sardinia, the capital Ajaccio is the birthplace of Napoleon, while Bonifacio is a scenic town located atop a seaside cliff.

2B — Haute-Corse (Upper Corsica)

Capital (and largest city): Bastia
Area: 4,666 square kilometres (1,802 square miles) [1st of 2 regionally; 79th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 181,933 [1st of 2 regionally; 87th of 97 overall]
Its capital, Bastia, is the island's principal port, directly facing continental France, while the smaller town of Calvi claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (then a Genoan territory).

    Grand Est 

Grand Est (Greater East)

Capital (and largest city): Strasbourg
Area: 57,433 square kilometres (22,175 square miles) [4th of 13]
Population (2022): 5,556,219 [6th of 13]
Regional languages: Alsatian, Lorrain, Champenois
Alternate name: Großer Osten (German)

Merged from three major regions—Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne-Ardenne. For centuries Alsace and Lorraine, known in German as, respectively, "Elsass" and "Lothringen" (though the latter applied only to one-fourth of the area, covering what is now Moselle), constantly changed hands between France and Germany (France since the Thirty Years' War; Imperial Germany in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War; France in 1919 after World War I; Nazi Germany in 1940, at the start of World War II; and back to France in 1945 at the end of the latter war), as well as being unusual for being the home of many Frenchmen with Swiss German heritage. In contrast, the latter region is a patchwork of the historic province of Champagne (obviously famous for its wine-making industry) and the Ardennes forest.

The merger is contested to this day, especially by Alsatiansnote , citing no significant cultural homogeneity (except between Moselle and the two Alsatian departments) to justify screwing centuries of historical/cultural delimitations, as well as a ploy by the socialist government of then-president François Hollande to drown Alsace's consistently strong right-wing votes, and revived regionalism there as a resultnote .


08 — Ardennes

Capital (and largest city): Charleville-Mézières
Area: 5,229 square kilometres (2,019 square miles) [8th of 10 regionally; 69th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 270,582 [8th of 10 regionally; 75th of 97 overall]
Named after a heavily-wooded valley cut by the Meuse river, giving it a strategic importance that never went unseen throughout the two World Wars—in the first, Ace Pilot Roland Garros (namesake of the tennis centre in Paris which hosts the French Open) was shot down, and in the runoff to the second, this was the northern end of the Maginot Line. The capital Charleville-Mézières is home to pre-surrealist author Arthur Rimbaud, as well as a medieval fair.

10 — Aube

Capital (and largest city): Troyes
Area: 6,004 square kilometres (2,318 square miles) [5th of 10 regionally; 45th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 310,242 [7th of 10 regionally; 70th of 97 overall]
The capital, Troyes, was a former centre of international trade and namesake of a system of weight measurement for precious metals and stones once used widely in Britain and America. The village of Clairvaux is home to St. Bernard, a major leader in the reform of the Cistercians.

51 — Marne

Capital: Châlons-en-Champagne
Largest city: Reims
Area: 8,162 square kilometres (3,151 square miles) [1st of 10 regionally; 7th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 566,855 [5th of 10 regionally; 44th of 97 overall]
Home to the Champagne vineyards and their famed sparkling wine, gathered in the town of Épernay. Near Châlons-en-Champagne is a military camp which served both as training grounds and exhibition centre, while Reims is a cathedral town where the most Kings of France were crowned, from Henry I in 1027 to Charles X in 1825 (British readers, think Westminster Abbey, only French and Catholic).

52 — Haute-Marne (Upper Marne)

Capital: Chaumont
Largest city: Saint-Dizier
Area: 6,211 square kilometres (2,398 square miles) [joint 3rd of 10 regionally; joint 35th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 172,512 [10th of 10 regionally; 89th of 97 overall]
An otherwise quiet department mostly known for Lake Der-Chantecoq, the largest manmade lake in Europe and its game-rich forests appreciated by hunters. The capital Chaumont bore witness to an accord between Prussia, Russia, Britain, and Austria refusing any peace deal with Napoléon Bonaparte, leading to his final defeat at Waterloo. The town of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises was also Charles de Gaulle's home for the last years of his life.

54 — Meurthe-et-Moselle (Meurthe and Moselle)

Capital (and largest city): Nancy
Area: 5,246 square kilometres (2,025 square miles) [7th of 10 regionally; 67th of 97 iverall]
Population (2022): 733,760 [4th of 10 regionally; 32nd of 97 overall]
The capital Nancy was the centre of Lorraine, and is the birthplace of art nouveau.

55 — Meuse

Capital: Bar-le-Duc
Largest city: Verdun
Area: 6,211 square kilometres (2,398 square miles) [joint 3rd of 10 regionally; joint 35th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 184,083 [9th of 10 regionally; 86th of 97 overall]
Another department carved out of Lorraine. The strategic valley around Verdun saw its fair share of conflict, but one during World War I saw one of the worst battles of attrition in history, claiming over 700,000 Frenchmen and Germans in the span of almost all of 1916.

57 — Moselle

Capital (and largest city): Metz
Area: 6,216 square kilometres (2,400 square miles) [2nd of 10 regionally; 34th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,046,543 [2nd of 10 regionally; 23rd of 97 overall]
Moselle is a centre of Lorraine culture, and Metz has both a very old city centre, a policy of eco-friendly urban planning, and home to the oldest active theatre in France.

88 — Vosges

Capital (and largest city): Épinal
Area: 5,874 square kilometres (2,268 square miles) [6th of 10 regionally; 52nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 364,499 [6th of 10 regionally; 63rd of 97 overall]
A little-known part of Lorraine whose most famous daughter is Joan of Arc, born in Domrémy (now suffixed "-la-Pucelle" in her honour).

European Collectivity of Alsace

The constant and significant backlash against the Grand Est in the two departements (Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin) that once formed the Region of Alsace prompted the government of Emmanuel Macron to patch up yet another administrative layer to try calming things down, the "European Collectivity of Alsace", which is the merging of the two departments in practice, with a limited set of competences and with aims that would include better economic cooperation with the neighboring German and Swiss areas, while still not taking Alsace out of the Grand Est. There is sustained local political activity to have the latter secession happen.

67 — Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine)

Capital (and largest city): Strasbourg
Area: 4,755 square kilometres (1,836 square miles) [9th of 10 regionally; 78th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,140,057 [1st of 10 regionally; 19th of 97 overall]
The more populous of the two Alsatian departments, its capital Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament (largely as a symbolic gesture given Alsace's history as a flashpoint of Franco-German conflict), as well as the second-largest cathedral in France (after that in Rouen) and the birthplace of Gustave Doré, Marcel Marceau, Thierry Mugler, Germain Muller, Tomi Ungerer and Arsène Wenger, among others. Facing the German border is Ouvrage Schoenenbourg, the largest visitable fortification of the Maginot Line.

68 — Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine)

Capital: Colmar
Largest city: Mulhouse
Area: 3,525 square kilometres (1,361 square miles) [10th of 10 regionally; 87th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 767,086 [3rd of 10 regionally; 28th of 97 overall]
The other Alsatian department. Disproportionately for its size and population, Haut-Rhin is one of the richest in France. Mulhouse hosts a Peugeot car factory (and was the birthplace of William Wyler), while Colmar and takes pride as the "capital of Alsatian wine" as well of its native son Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, of the Statue of Liberty fame.

    Hauts-de-France 

Hauts-de-France (Upper France)

Capital (and largest city): Lille
Area: 31,813 square kilometres (12,283 square miles) [8th of 13]
Population (2022): 6,004,947 [4th of 13]
Regional languages: Picard, Western Flemish

Created from the merger of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie, themselves made out of many different provinces, coming up with a name for this region was a... complicated issue, to say the least. The final result, Hauts-de-France ("Upper France"), had a mixed receptionnote . Nord is the historical western half of Flanders, while Pas-de-Calais, as its name implies, contains the port of Calais. This area played key roles in both World Wars. Picardie has a long history and strong cultural identity, but modern Picardie is much larger than the old province, and its southern parts have more in common with Ile de France and Champagne. In France, it used to hold a very bad reputation for being extremely poor, polluted and backward. The extremely successful movie Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis did a lot to change that vision of things. Nord-Pas-de-Calais retains a strong working class identity, with people whose origins come from all over Europe. Think of northern industrial England, only French. The best French beers come from there; Nord in particular shares in the Flemish brewing tradition with Belgium.


02 — Aisne

Capital: Laon
Largest city: St. Quentin
Area: 7,369 square kilometres (2,845 square miles) [1st of 5 regionally; 12th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 531,345 [5th of 5 regionally; 50th of 97 overall]
Made up of parts of three old provinces—Vermandois in the north, Île-de-France in the centre, and Champagne in the south—Aisne was the site of some of the biggest battles of World War I, as well as saw the first known application of trench warfare.

59 — Nord (The North)

Capital (and largest city): Lille
Area: 5,743 square kilometers (2,217 square miles) [5th of 5 regionally; 58th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 2,608,346 [1st of 5 regionally; 1st of 97 overall]
The western half of the historic realms of Flanders and Hainaut (the other halves being in Belgium), Nord is France's most populous department (even more so than Paris, although obviously at a much lower density) and is the only one with its own Flemish dialect. Nord once stood at the forefront of France's nineteenth-century industrial renaissance, and has slowly rebuilt itself as a commercial and tourist hub following the devastation of World War II. Its capital, Lille, is the fourth-largest urban area in France (after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille).

60 — Oise

Capital (and largest city): Beauvais
Area: 5,860 square kilometres (2,263 square miles) [4th of 5 regionally; 53rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 829,419 [3rd of 5 regionally; 25th of 97 overall]
Pronounced "wahz", this department is economically and culturally turned towards Paris and Île-de-France. Its most noteworthy sites are the Parc Asterix theme park and Beauvais's unfinished cathedral, which has the highest vault of any Gothic church.

62 — Pas-de-Calais (Strait of Calais)

Capital: Arras
Largest city: Calais
Area: 6,671 square kilometres (2,576 square miles) [2nd of 5 regionally; 28th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,465,278 [2nd of 5 regionally; 8th of 97 overall]
Named after the French designation for the Strait of Dover, this is a surprisingly rural department in spite of its large population. Its capital, Arras, is a historic town and centre of the Artois region along the eastern half of the department, while its largest city, Calais, serves as the French end of the Channel Tunnel which serves as Britain's principal link to continental Europe (the other end being near Dover in Kent, England). Half of the action of the TV show The Tunnel takes place here.

80 — Somme

Capital (and largest city): Amiens
Area: 6,170 square kilometres (2,382 square miles) [3rd of 5 regionally; 38th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 570,559 [4th of 5 regionally; 43rd of 97 overall]
The core of old Picardie, Somme was the site of one of the biggest battles of World War throughout the second half of 1916 and, with three million deaths, one of the deadliest in history. Its capital is home to one of France's largest cathedrals, which unlike that of Beauvais, is complete.

    Île de France 

Île-de-France (Island of France)

Capital (and largest city): Paris
Area: 12,011 square kilometres (4,637 square miles) [12th of 13]
Population (2022): 12,262,544 [1st of 13]
The heart of France, covering its capital Paris and its outskirts (la banlieue), whose inhabitants are known as Franciliens. Urban and businesslike in culture of course, it is the most populated of the regions, though the most far-off outskirts still manage to remain rural. Can be divided into three "rings": the city of Paris; the petite couronne ("little crown") of inner-ring suburbs, which might as well be part of the city; and the outer ring of departments which are less densely populated. The petite couronne, together with Paris, have a population two-thirds that of New York City on only half the land. Probably the biggest victim of France's Land of One City syndrome; even its inhabitants don't know it very much. Americans, compare upstate New York; Brazilians, compare the state of Sao Paulo.

75 — Paris

Area: 105 square kilometres (41 square miles) [8th of 8 regionally; 97th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 2,165,423 [1st of 8 regionally; 2nd of 97 overall]
See its own page for more details.

77 — Seine-et-Marne (Seine and Marne)

Capital: Melun
Largest city: Meaux
Area: 5,915 square kilometres (2,284 square miles) [1st of 8 regionally; 50th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,421,197 [5th of 8 regionally; 11th of 97 overall]
Best known for Disneyland Paris, as well as the Palace of Fontainebleau, which used to be Napoléon Bonaparte's seat of power. It also roughly corresponds to the historic region of Brie Française, the western part of the Brie region historically under the direct authority of the Kings of France, and is the source of the two varieties of the famous Brie cheese that have AOC appellations (Brie de Melun, from the departmental seat, and Brie de Meaux, from the department's largest settlement).

78 — Yvelines

Capital (and largest city): Versailles
Area: 2,284 square kilometres (882 square miles) [2nd of 8 regionally; 89th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,448,207 [4th of 8 regionally; 9th of 97 overall]
Yveline's capital, Versailles, is best known for its iconic château, built as a royal residence under Louis XIV and occasionally used to this day by subsequent republican governments. The department is also home to music duos Air and Daft Punk.

91 — Essonne

Capital (and largest city): Évry
Area: 1,804 square kilometres (697 square miles) [3rd of 8 regionally; 90th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,301,659 [7th of 8 regionally; 14th of 97 overall]
Home to the École Polytechnique, one of the most prestigious engineering universities in France, as well as Arianespace, builders of the Ariane rockets frequently launched from French Guiana.

92 — Hauts-de-Seine (Upper Seine)

Capital: Nanterre
Largest city: Boulogne-Billancourt
Area: 176 square kilometres (68 square miles) [7th of 8 regionally; 96th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,624,357 [3rd of 8 regionally; 5th of 97 overall]
Forming the western half of the "Petite Couronne", its largest city, Boulogne-Billancourt, is the largest and richest of the Parisian suburbs. Hauts-de-Seine is also home to La Défense, Europe's largest purpose-built business district, Manhattan-esque skyscrapers that house France's major corporate headquarters, and the famous modernist Grande Arche (designed to form a line with the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre; it houses a museum and government offices as well as a train station).

93 — Seine-Saint-Denis

Capital: Bobigny
Largest city: Saint-Denis
Area: 236 square kilometres (91 square miles) [6th of 8 regionally; 95th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,644,903 [2nd of 8 regionally; 4th of 97 overall]
The northeastern part of the Petite Couronne, the department is home to several French hip-hop acts. The cathedral of its largest city, Saint-Denis, is also the final resting place of the Kings of France since the tenth century, built on the spot where, so legend goes, the eponymous first Bishop of Paris expired after preaching to the masses carrying his severed head after being beheaded in Paris. The city is also home to Stade de France, home of the French national football and rugby teams.note 

94 — Val-de-Marne (Valley of the Marne [River])

Capital (and largest city): Créteil
Area: 245 square kilometres (95 square miles) [5th of 8 regionally; 94th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,407,124 [6th of 8 regionally; 12th of 97 overall]
Completing the "Petite Couronne", Val-de-Marne is famous for its ginguettes, while the town of Vincennes is famed for its château.

95 — Val-d'Oise (Valley of the Oise [River])

Capital: Pontoise
Largest city: Argenteuil
Area: 1,246 square kilometres (481 square miles) [4th of 8 regionally; 91st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,249,674 [8th of 8 regionally; 17th of 97 overall]
Its largest city, Argenteuil, is the second-largest Parisian suburb after Boulogne-Billancourt. Rather overlooked despite the scenery along the Oise and Seine Rivers inspiring such painters as Vincent van Gogh. Charles de Gaulle Airport, the principal airport serving the Paris area, is located in the town of Roissy-en-France, 23 kilometres (14 miles) northeast of Paris.

    Normandie 

Normandie (Normandy)

Capital: Rouen
Largest city: Le Havre
Area: 29,907 square kilometres (11,547 square miles) [10th of 13]
Population (2022): 3,325,032 [10th of 13]
Regional languages: Norman
Alternate name: Normaundie (Norman)

In the tenth century, King Charles III of France granted territory to a group of Vikings (then known as "Normans") led by the jarl Rollo on the condition that they stopped raiding his lands. Thus, Normandy was born. At various points in history, the region has been divided into Haute ("Upper") and Basse ("Lower") Normandie, though since 2016, the two regions have been reunited. Normandy is famous for its food (cream! fruits! Camembert!), apple beverages (cider! Calvados!) and beautiful rural landscapes. Birthplace of a certain Norman conqueror.

14 — Calvados

Capital (and largest city): Caen
Area: 5,548 square kilometres (2,142 square miles) [5th of 5 regionally; 62nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 694,905 [2nd of 5 regionally; 33rd of 97 overall]
A mostly rural department, though it contains Caen, one of the two capitals of pre-2016 Normandy (specifically, Basse Normandie, the other being Rouen for Haute Normandie). The D-day landings took place here, while the town of Bayeux is home to a tapestry depicting the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century and one of the most iconic pieces of medieval art.

27 — Eure

Capital (and largest city): Évreux
Area: 6,040 square kilometres (2,332 square miles) [3rd of 5 regionally; 43rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 599,507 [3rd of 5 regionally; 42nd of 97 overall]
Another mostly rural department, with a relatively large but evenly spread out population. The town of Giverny is home to painter Claude Monet, a founder of impressionism.

50 — Manche (The Sleeve [i.e., the English Channel])

Capital : Saint-Lô
Largest city : Cherbourg
Area: 5,938 square kilometres (2,293 square miles) [4th of 5 regionally; 49th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 495,045 [4th of 5 regionally; 52nd of 97 overall]
The westernmost department of Normandy, it consists mainy of the Cottentin peninsula, that juts into the Channel. The famous tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel is located in the southwest, right next to the border with Brittany. Cherbourg, its capital, is famous for its umbrellas.

61 — Orne

Capital (and largest city): Alençon
Area: 6,103 square kilometres (2,356 square miles) [2nd of 5 regionally; 41st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 279,942 [5th of 5 regionally; 73rd of 97 overall]
The only landlocked department of Normandy, Orne is also the least populated. The legendary Camembert cheese comes from here.

76 — Seine-Maritime (Coastal Seine)

Capital: Rouen
Largest city: Le Havre
Area: 6,278 square kilometres (2,424 square miles) [1st of 5 regionally; 32nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,255,633 [1st of 5 regionally; 16th of 97 overall]
The largest and most populated Norman department. At the mouth of the Seine, Le Havre, the largest city, is one of the largest ports in France. Further upstream, the capital, Rouen, is one of the two capitals of Normandy (along with Caen) and has a rich cultural heritage. The city notably has one of the largest (and most spectacular) cathedrals in France ; Joan of Arc was famously burnt here on 1431 on charges of heresy which were ultimately overturned 25 years later. Other noteworthy sites include the coastal town of Dieppe and the famous cliffs of Étretat, the secret hideout of famed fictional Gentleman Thief Arsène Lupin.

    Nouvelle-Aquitaine 

Nouvelle-Aquitaine (New Aquitaine)

Capital (and largest city): Bordeaux
Area: 84,785 square kilometres (32,736 square miles) [1st of 13]
Population (2022): 6,010,289 [3rd of 13]
Regional languages: Occitan (Gascon, Languedocian, Limousin), Basque
Alternate names: Nòva Aquitània (Occitan), Akitania Berria (Basque)

The largest region in France by area (surpassing Austria), Nouvelle Aquitaine includes a large variety of subregions, cultures, and landscapes, but also has a strong historic cohesion, Aquitaine having existed as a group, kingdom, duchy, or region for over 2,000 years. The region's current name, meaning "New Aquitaine", was chosen to distinguish it from a previous, smaller region that existed between 1982 and 2016. "Grande Aquitaine," or just "Aquitaine," were popular favourites for the name, but were met with political resistance, "Grande Aquitaine" being accused of implying a sense of superiority (*cough* Grand-Est *cough*). Among the many historical sub-regions are Bearn (in the southeast), the Basque Country (in the southwest), Gascony (south of the Garonne), Guyenne (in the center, used in medieval times as an alternative name for the region), Limousin and La Marche (to the east), Poitou (in the north), and Saintonge (along the the river Charente). The region's landscape consists mainly of green, rolling plains, gradually rising from the Atlantic to the highlands of the Massif Central, but there are also the dramatic high peaks of the Pyrenees, in the far south. Despite being scarcely populated for it size, Nouvelle Aquitaine is one of the most dynamic regions economically, and one of the fastest growing demographically thanks to its growing transport network.


16 — Charente

Capital (and largest city): Angoulême
Area: 5,956 square kilometres (2,300 square miles) [8th of 12 regionally; 48th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 352,015 [9th of 12 regionally; 64th of 97 overall]
A quiet department and is home to the Cognac brandy and the Angoulême International Comics Festival, the third largest in the world after the Lucca Comics & Games in Italy and Comiket in Tokyo, Japan.

17 — Charente-Maritime (Coastal Charente)

Capital (and largest city): La Rochelle
Area: 6,864 square kilometres (2,650 square miles) [6th of 12 regionally; 19th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 651,358 [3rd of 12 regionally; 39th of 97 overall]
A coastal department, this Charente contains such popular holiday islands as Aix, Madame, Oléron, and Ré. A Protestant stronghold, the capital La Rochelle was famously besieged and largely destroyed by Cardinal Richelieu in 1628. The siege is depicted in The Three Musketeers and most of its sequel, 20 Years After, takes place there. The iconic Fort Boyard is both set and located off the coast.

19 — Corrèze

Capital: Tulle
Largest City: Brive-la-Gaillarde
Area: 5,857 square kilometres (2,261 square miles) [9th of 12 regionally; 54th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 240,073 [11th of 12 regionally; 79th of 97 overall]
An otherwise quiet department which produced two French presidents (Jacques Chirac and François Hollande, who began as deputies for the department in the Assemblée Nationale, the national lower house) and three Popes (Clement VI [Pierre Roger], Innocent VI [Etienne Aubert], and Gregory XI [Pierre Roger de Beaufort], the latter being the last French Pope to date).

22 — Creuse

Capital (and largest city): Guéret
Area: 5,565 square kilometres (2,149 square miles) [10th of 12 regionally; 60th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 116,617 [12th of 12 regionally; 96th of 97 overall]
Least populated department of the region and second least populous across Metropolitan France, the capital, Guéret, is home to some of the last native wolves in France, while Aubusson is a town renowned for its tradition of tapestry-making.

24 — Dordogne

Capital (and largest city): Périgueux
Area: 9,060 square kilometres (3,498 square miles) [3rd of 12 regionally; 3rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 413,223 [6th of 12 regionally; 58th of 97 overall]
Corresponding to the ancient county of Périgord, Dordogne is known for its truffles (the other "black gold") and preserved medieval towns and castles, which regularly attract filmmakers for their period pieces. At its Eastern frontier lie the caves of Lascaux, famed for their prehistoric paintings.

33 — Gironde

Capital (and largest city): Bordeaux
Area: 10,725 square kilometres (4,141 square miles) [1st of 12 regionally; 1st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,623,749 [1st of 12 regionally; 6th of 97 overall]
The largest department of France by area, its capital Bordeaux is considered the seat of the world's wine industry, and holds an annual wine exhibit. 60 kilometres (37 miles) to the southwest is the Dune of Pilat, the tallest sand dune in Europe. Named after the Gironde estuary, by which the Garonne river goes into the Atlantic after merging with the Dordogne river.

40 — Landes (The Heathlands)

Capital (and largest city): Mont-de-Marsan
Area: 9,243 square kilometres (3,569 square miles) [2nd of 12 regionally; 2nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 413,690 [5th of 12 regionally; 57th of 97 overall]
Created from parts of the ancient provinces of Guyenne and Gascony, Landes is the second-largest department of France by area, as well as home to the largest maritime-pine forest in Europe. It was artificially planted on a now largely dried-up swamp during the nineteenth century that ironically gave its name to the department.

47 — Lot-et-Garonne (Lot and Garonne)

Capital (and largest city): Agen
Area: 5,361 square kilometres (2,070 square miles) [12th of 12 regionally; 65th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 331,271 [10th of 12 regionally; 67th of 97 overall]
Corresponds roughly with the historical county of Agenais. The area is especially famous for its dried prunes and its numerous bastides, fortified towns built during the Middle Ages.

64 — Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Pyrenees [Mountains]-Atlantic [Ocean])

Capital (and largest city): Pau
Area: 7,645 square kilometres (2,952 square miles) [4th of 12 regionally; 9th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 682,621 [2nd of 12 regionally; 35th of 97 overall]
The western part of this department is the other half of the "Basque country" (including that in Spain, just beyond the Pyrenees), and is also the home department of such glamorous beach towns as Biarritz. The eastern half is a part of Gascogne called Béarn, where politician François Bayrou was born.

79 — Deux-Sèvres (The Two Sèvre Rivers [i.e., Nantaise and Niortaise])

Capital (and largest city): Niort
Area: 5,999 square kilometres (2,316 square miles) [7th of 12 regionally; 46th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 374,878 [7th of 12 regionally; 60th of 97 overall]
Another quiet department of Poitou, Deux-Sèvres is also one of the fastest growing and developing.

86 — Vienne

Capital (and largest city): Poitiers
Area: 6,990 square kilometres (2,699 square miles) [5th of 12 regionally; 16th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 438,435 [4th of 12 regionally; 54th of 97 overall]
Halfway between Bordeaux and Paris, the capital Poitiers is a bustling university city, as well as home to the Futuroscope theme park. The department was also home to the original Acadians, early French immigrants to what is now Nova Scotia in Canada during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

87 — Haute-Vienne (Upper Vienne)

Capital (and largest city): Limoges
Area: 5,520 square kilometres (2,130 square miles) [11th of 12 regionally; 64th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 372,359 [8th of 12 regionally; 62nd of 97 overall]
The capital, Limoges, is best-known for its porcelain, enamels, and cork barrels used to store cognac wine. To the northwest lay the ghost town of Oradour-sur-Glane, infamous for a 1944 massacre by the Nazis, said to have been their retribution for the alleged kidnapping of an SS commander.

    Occitanie 

Occitanie (Occitania)

Capital (and largest city): Toulouse
Area: 72,724 square kilometres (28,079 square miles) [2nd of 13]
Population (2022): 5,933,185 [5th of 13]
Regional languages: Occitan (Gascon, Languedocian, Provençal), Catalan (Roussillonais variant)
Alternate names: Occitània (Occitan), Occitània (Catalan)

The southernmost and second-largest region of Metropolitan France, Occitanie owes its name to the Occitan languages that were traditionally spoken throughout southern France. Roughly corresponds to the medieval county of Toulouse, or the early-modern Parliament of Toulouse, but like all regions has many subcultures. A large eastern half corresponds to the old province of Languedoc, while the west was historically part of Guyenne and Gascony, Toulouse being on the cultural border. Also includes the small county of Foix, in the Pyrenees mountains, and the Catalan Roussillon, who weren't exactly happy about the name. Maintains a sense of unity thanks to the rather homogenous culture of southwestern France, though the easternmost parts are closer to Provence than the rest of the region. This is rugby country—they even prefer it to the beautiful game.


09 — Ariège

Capital: Foix
Largest city: Pamiers
Area: 4,890 square kilometres (1,888 square miles) [10th of 13 regionally; 76th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 153,287 [12th of 13 regionally; 92nd of 97 overall]
Part of the old Gascony region, whose capital Foix is home to a castle sitting on a rocky outcrop.

11 — Aude

Capital: Carcassonne
Largest city: Narbonne
Area: 6,139 square kilometres (2,370 square miles) [4th of 13 regionally; 39th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 374,070 [6th of 13 regionally; 61st of 97 overall]
Aude has a long culture of wine-making, inherited from the Greeks, while during the early thirteenth century it was a hotbed of Catharism, a Christian sect that denied Christ's divinity and enjoyed tacit support from the Counts of Toulouse (partly as a gesture of autonomy from Paris), against which the Catholic Church condemned it as a heresy and sent French crusaders on them. Its capital, Carcassonne, is well-known for its restored medieval fortresses, while the slightly larger city of Narbonne to the coast existed since Roman times, remains of which era survive to this day.

12 — Aveyron

Capital (and largest city): Rodez
Area: 8,735 square kilometres (3,373 square miles) [1st of 13 regionally; 5th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 279,595 [7th of 13 regionally; 74th of 97 overall]
Home to several scenic castles and monasteries, including the one in Conques, a stopover on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. The town of Miliau is also well-known for what is now known as the highest bridge in the world, spanning the gaping Tarn Valley.

30 — Gard

Capital (and largest city): Nîmes
Area: 5,853 square kilometres (2,260 square miles) [6th of 13 regionally; 55th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 748,437 [3rd of 13 regionally; 31st of 97 overall]
Gard is best known the Roman arena of Nîmes, still used to this day, and the Pont du Gard, the highest aqueduct bridge throughout the Roman Empire.

31 — Haute-Garonne (Upper Garonne)

Capital (and largest city): Toulouse
Area: 6,309 square kilometres (2,436 square miles) [2nd of 13 regionally; 31st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,400,039 [1st of 13 regionally; 13th of 97 overall]
A department dominated by Toulouse, the fourth-largest city in France, which prides itself as the heart of the European aerospace industry (Airbus has its main office in the suburb of Blagnac).

32 — Gers

Capital (and largest city): Auch
Area: 6,257 square kilometres (2,416 square miles) [3rd of 13 regionally; 33rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 191,377 [10th of 13 regionally; 85th of 97 overall]
Created from parts of the old provinces of Guyenne and Gascony, the capital, Auch, is best known as the designated hometown of Charles d'Artagnan.

34 — Hérault

Capital (and largest city): Montpellier
Area: 6,101 square kilometres (2,356 square miles) [5th of 13 regionally; 42nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,175,623 [2nd of 13 regionally; 18th of 97 overall]
A department carved from the old province of Languedoc and known for long stretches of beaches. The capital, Montpellier, is home to the oldest school of medicine in the world still in operation.

46 — Lot

Capital (and largest city): Cahors
Area: 5,217 square kilometres (2,014 square miles) [8th of 13 regionally; 70th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 174,094 [11th of 13 regionally; 88th of 97 overall]
The departmental capital, Cahors, is known for its wine industry that predates that of Burgundy, while the town of Rocamadour features a Benedictine abbey and pilgrimage site atop a plateau, upon which a sword was embedded, allegedly belonging to folk hero Roland.

48 — Lozère

Capital (and largest city): Mende
Area: 5,167 square kilometres (1,995 square miles) [9th of 13 regionally; 72nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 76,604 [13th of 13 regionally; 97th of 97 overall]
The most sparsely populated department in France, Lozère made headlines almost 300 years ago through a bunch of lupine man-eaters which terrorized the countryside.

65 — Hautes-Pyrénées (Upper Pyrenees)

Capital (and largest city): Tarbes
Area: 4,464 square kilometres (1,724 square miles) [11th of 13 regionally; 80th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 229,567 [9th of 13 regionally; 81st of 97 overall]
A former part of Gascony, home to several popular ski resorts, and a near-permanent fixture on the Tour de France, but perhaps better known for the town of Lourdes, where on 1858 fourteen-year-old shepherdess Bernadette Soubirous received visions attributed to the Virgin Mary, turning the town into one of France's most popular Catholic pilgrimage destinations.

66 — Pyrénées-Orientales (Eastern Pyrenees)

Capital (and largest city): Perpignan
Area: 4,116 square kilometres (1,589 square miles) [12th of 13 regionally; 83rd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 479,979 [4th of 13 regionally; 53rd of 97 overall]
Originally the other half of the Principality of Catalonia just across the Pyrenees Mountains, this department still maintains a nominal Catalan identity, and its capital, Perpignan, is considered the third largest Catalan city (after Barcelona and Lerida) in Europe.

81 — Tarn

Capital (and largest city): Albi
Area: 5,758 square kilometres (2,223 square miles) [7th of 13 regionally; 57th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 389,844 [5th of 13 regionally; 59th of 97 overall]
The departamental capital, Albi, was known both as the hometown of Art Nouveau pioneer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the site of an imposing, fortress-like cathedral, built as a show of power by the Roman Catholic Church over the former Cathar stronghold (thus their other denonym, the "Albigensians") and one of the largest brick buildings in the world.

82 — Tarn-et-Garonne (Tarn and Garonne)

Capital (and largest city): Montauban
Area: 3,718 square kilometres (1,436 square miles) [13th of 13 regionally; 85th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 260,669 [8th of 13 regionally; 76th of 97 overall]
A patchwork department formed from leftovers of Lot, Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Gers, and Aveyron. The people of Montauban complained to Napoleon that it was unfair their city wasn't the capital of a department, he thought "sure, why not", and thus Tarn-et-Garonne was born.

    Pays de la Loire 

Pays de la Loire (Loire Countries)

Capital (and largest city): Nantes
Area: 32,082 square kilometres (12,387 square miles) [7th of 13]
Population (2022): 3,806,461 [8th of 13]
Alternate name: Broioù al Liger (Breton)

Made from Anjou (Maine-et-Loire), Maine (Mayenne and Sarthe), and pieces from Brittany (Loire-Atlantique) and Poitou (Vendée). Its capital, Nantes, happened to be the capital of Brittany in the pastnote . The question of whichever region the Nantes area should belong to is... a sensitive issue. Some argue Nantes is Brittany's rightful capital, and that its culture and history make it a Breton city, while others argue that Nantes is the obvious cultural, political, and economic capital for the lower Loire Valley, and that for the remainder of the region, not having Nantes as a capital makes little sense. Polls show Nantes very largely favors reunification with Brittany, but there is a sizable (and vocal) minority that ardently opposes it. There is a campaign to have Loire-Atlantique (the Breton part containing Nantes) reattached to Brittany and move the capital of the smaller Pays de la Loire from Nantes to Angers (historic capital of Anjou) or Le Mans (historic capital of Maine and seat of Sarthe département). Another proposal is to attach Vendée to Poitou, and have the rest merge with Centre-Val de Loire. The other provinces are famous for the châteaux of the Loire Valley.


44 — Loire-Atlantique (Atlantic Loire)

Capital (and largest city): Nantes
Area: 6,815 square kilometres (2,631 square miles) [2nd of 5 regionally; 22nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,429,272 [1st of 5 regionally; 10th of 97 overall]
No matter what administrative divisions say, Loire-Atlantique is very much Breton at heart. Reunification with the rest of Bretagne has been a local issue ever since regions were created, but as of the 2016 reforms the situation remains the same. The department is located around the Loire's estuary into the Atlantic Ocean, as its name seems to suggest. It is the flattest department in France, and is home to many wetlands and salt marshes. Nantes is a young and dynamic city, and as previously mentioned is the historic capital of Brittany (see why people are making a big deal out of it?). Jules Verne was born here. At the mouth of the river, Saint-Nazaire is one of the world's most important shipyards, many of the largest ships in history having been built here.

49 — Maine-et-Loire (Maine and Loire)

Capital (and largest city): Angers
Area: 7,166 square kilometres (2,767 square miles) [1st of 5 regionally; 15th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 818,273 [2nd of 5 regionally; 27th of 97 overall]
Roughly corresponds to the old province of Anjou, the homeland of House Plantagenet, which at its peak ruled over England and all of western France and once owned a large castle in Angers. Other noteworthy sites are the town of Saumur, famed for its annual horse shows and surrounding vineyards, and Cholet, once a powerhouse of handkerchief manufacturing.

53 — Mayenne

Capital (and largest city): Laval
Area: 5,175 square kilometres (1,998 square miles) [5th of 5 regionally; 71st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 307,062 [5th of 5 regionally; 71st of 97 overall]
A quiet department, with a strong agricultural industry and a diversity of flora and fauna. Its southern third was once part of Anjou, the remainder being part of Maine.

72 — Sarthe

Capital (and largest city): Le Mans
Area: 6,206 square kilometres (2,396 square miles) [4th of 5 regionally; 37th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 566,412 [4th of 5 regionally; 45th of 97 overall]
Sarthe corresponds to the eastern half of the old province of Maine. Le Mans is a Roman-era city and is famously home to the "24 heures du Mans", an endurance sports car race that first happened in 1923.

85 — Vendée

Capital (and largest city): La-Roche-sur-Yon
Area: 6,720 square kilometres (2,595 square miles) [3rd of 5 regionally; 27th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 685,442 [3rd of 5 regionally; 34th of 97 overall]
Part of the old province of Poitou, Vendée is a bastion of conservative Catholicism, dating back to the ministry of St. Louis de Montfort in the late seventeenth century, culminating in a major counter-uprising during The French Revolution, which was brutally repressed by the Republican Government. Home to Philippes de Villiers, traditionalist politician and founder of the "Puy du Fou" medieval theme park, the second most visited in France.

    Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur 

Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (Provence-Alps-French Riviera [lit., Azure Coast])

Capital (and largest city): Marseille
Area: 31,400 square kilometres (12,124 square miles) [9th of 13]
Population (2022): 5,081,101 [7th of 13]
Regional Languages: Occitan (Provençal and Vivaro-Alpine)
Alternate name: Provença-Aups-Còsta d'Azur (Occitan)

The southeasternmost region of France, its name is very often abridged as PACA (pronounced "paka"). Besides the Alps, PACA is very touristic, especially the Côte d'Azur (also known as the French Riviera).

While the regional language Provençal is considered a variant of Occitan, it uses a different spelling norm called "Mistralian spelling" (writer Frédéric Mistral was a famous proponent of the language), which is a little more phonetic and also closer to French spelling ("gn" instead of "nh", "ill" instead of "lh", "ou" instead of "o", etc.)


04 — Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (Alps of Upper Provence)

Capital (and largest city): Digne-les-Bains
Area: 6,925 square kilometres (2,674 square miles) [1st of 6 regionally; 17th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 164,308 [5th of 6 regionally; 90th of 97 overall]
One of the most sparsely populated departments in Metropolitan France, this mountainous region is a favourite of gliders, and in winter, of skiiers.

05 — Hautes-Alpes (Upper Alps)

Capital (and largest city): Gap
Area: 5,549 square kilometres (2,142 square miles) [3rd of 6 regionally; 61st of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 141,220 [6th of 6 regionally; 95th of 97 overall]
Third least populous department in Metropolitan France, Hautes-Alpes is a constant fixture at the Tour de France and bore witness to Napoléon Bonaparte passing through the Alpine town of Gap on his return from exile at Elba in Italy and beginning his "Hundred Days" of resurgence until his final defeat at Waterloo.

06 — Alpes-Maritimes (Maritime Alps)

Capital (and largest city): Nice
Area: 4,299 square kilometres (1,660 square miles) [5th of 6 regionally; 82nd of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,094,283 [2nd of 6 regionally; 20th of 97 overall]
A very tourist-friendly department, ranging from skiing and hiking activites in the Alps to basking under the sun at the beaches of the French Riviera ("Côte d'Azur" or "Azure Coast" in French), which features such major cities as Nice, its Roman-era capital, and Cannes, which hosts one of the most prestigious annual film festivals in the world. The department also completely surrounds the independent Principality of Monaco.

13 — Bouches-du-Rhône (Mouths of the Rhône [River])

Capital (and largest city): Marseille
Area: 5,087 square kilometres (1,964 square miles) [4th of 6 regionally]
Population (2022): 2,043,110 [1st of 6 regionally; 3rd of 97 overall]
The capital, Marseille, is the second-largest city in France and its oldest (having been founded by Greek merchants around 600 BC), as well as famed for being one of France's largest container ports, a hotspot of diversity through immigrants from former French colonies, a storied football club with a fierce rivalry with Bordeaux, home to Marcel Pagnol, and later many French rappers (most famously the band IAM and anarchist female rapper Keny Arkana), and namesake of the French national anthem (though it was penned in Strasbourg, it was first sung in Paris by volunteers from Marseille, which was one of the fiercest supporters of The French Revolution). To the north lies Aix-en-Provence, former capital of Provence, and to the west Arles, which has some of the best preserved Roman structures in France and surrounded by the wetlands of the Camargue, the largest of its kind in France and home to semi-feral horses and cattle.

83 — Var

Capital (and largest city): Toulon
Area: 5,973 square kilometres (2,306 square miles) [2nd of 6 regionally; 47th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 1,076,711 [3rd of 6 regionally; 22nd of 97 overall]
Toulon is a major port of the French Navy and headquarters of its Mediterranean Fleet, while Saint-Tropez to the east was the first town on the French Riviera liberated from the Nazis towards the end of World War II, and is now a world-renowned seaside resort.

84 — Vaucluse

Capital (and largest city): Avignon
Area: 3,567 square kilometres (1,377 square miles) [6th of 6 regionally; 86th of 97 overall]
Population (2022): 561,469 [4th of 6 regionally; 46th of 97 overall]
The capital, Avignon, is a well-preserved medieval city that was once the seat of Popes from 1309 to 1377, while the rest of the department was a hotbed of resistance activity against the Nazis during World War II.

Overseas France

    Oversea régions 
Those régions used to be colonies but 4 were made into départements shortly after World War II at their inhabitants request (Mayotte became one in 2011). When régions were created in 1983, each of these also became a région on top of being a département.

Guadeloupe (971)

The biggest of the two Caribbean French régions, located between Montserrat in the north and Dominica in the south. Its capital is Basse-Terre but the biggest city is Pointe-à-Pitre. Guadeloupe has a volcano, La Grande Soufrière (simply La Soufrière in French), still active but asleep since a long time.

Many little French islands of the Lesser Antilles are under Guadeloupe's rule.

Martinique (972)

The other French Caribbean région, Martinique is much smaller and less populated. It is located between Dominica in the north and Saint Lucia in the south. The capital is Fort-de-France.

Martinique also has a volcano, the Montagne Pelée (Mount Pelée), but it is much more dangerous than the Soufrière. In 1902, it completely destroyed Martinique's former capital, Saint-Pierre, leaving only two survivors, one of them a criminal convict.

Memories of slavery are still very vivid and touchy there, as it still shapes mentalities despite having been abolished more than 150 years ago.

Martinique, like Guadeloupe, is renowned for its rum and bananas.

Guyane française (French Guiana, 973)

The biggest of all the French régions before the 2016 reorganization (Nouvelle-Aquitaine is slightly larger): it is as big as Belgium or Portugal. It is the only one which isn't an island, being located between Suriname at the west and Brazil at the east − which means that, amusingly, France's longest border is with Brazil (more than 700km). Guyane remains for its overwhelming part a chunk of the Amazonian rainforest, where several indigenous tribes still live. But most of the population lives on the shores, where you'll also find basically all infrastructure.

The capital is Cayenne, but the economic heart is Kourou and its European Space Center, from where the Ariane rockets are lauched. French Guiana is also known for still having gold prospectors and having been the location of the most infamously renowned French penal colony, the "Bagne de Cayenne", from which Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman once escaped. It was nicknamed "la guillotine sèche" (the dry guillotine), for crying out loud! The economic situation is notably worse than in mainland France but better than in many countries of the region. Ahead of the 2017 Presidential elections there were major youth protests against economic woes and France's "hands off" approach at governing, which brought non Kourou related news about the department into European focus for the first time in ages. Still, independence is if anything a fringe movement without political relevance.

Mayotte (976)

Located in the Indian Ocean, Mayotte is a tiny island which is geographically a part of the Comoros Islands, to the west of Madagascar. Pretty much East African in its culture (like Kenya or Zanzibar), Islam shapes most of its society. Capital is Mamoudzou.

La Réunion (974)

Mauritius' sister, Réunion is the most populated of the French Overseas régions. It is a rocky island of volcanic origin, much like Hawaii. Its volcano is very active but usually benign (it sometimes destroys some roads and village, but people are seldom killed). Formerly known as "Île Bourbon", Réunion never had an indigenous population and thus is very racially mixed, and has a very tolerant society.

Capital is Saint-Denis (not to be confused with the metropolitan city of the same name). Réunion is renowned for its volcano, food (a surprising mix of French, Indian and African cooking), surf spots and awesome inner mountains and landscapes. It is also said to be a paradise for botanists given the range of completely unique species it shelters.

    Overseas collectivities & others 
These are bits of French-owned land all across the globe, with varying status, administrative divisions, etc. Generally not considered as integrated into the country as the overseas departments, but they are nevertheless part of the French Republic as well. However, they are generally not part of the European Union, and generally don't use the Euro, but there are obviously exceptions.

French Polynesia (overseas collectivity)

An archipelago of about 118 islands in the Pacific, spread out roughly over the same area as Europe, with the largest, most populated, and most famous of these being Tahiti.

Saint Pierre and Miquelon (overseas collectivity)

Two islands near the coast of Newfoundland in Canada, the only remaining part of New France that is still under French control. The least populated French overseas dependency. Their main importance used to be fishing, but due to overfishing that part of the economy has largely broken down making it heavily import dependent (almost 50% of GDP are imports) and reliant on French subsidies.

Wallis et Futuna (overseas collectivity)

A tiny group of islands in the Pacific, sometimes wrongfully grouped along with French Polynesia, even though it is on the complete opposite side of the Polynesia region.

Saint Martin (overseas collectivity)

The French side of a small island in the Caribbean divided between France and the Netherlands. Used to be administered as part of Guadeloupe until it separated in 2003. It has remained part of the European Union.

Saint Barthélemy (overseas collectivity)

Yet another French island in the Caribbean, had the same status as Saint Martin until the same vote in 2003 separated it from Guadeloupe.

Nouvelle Calédonie (special collectivity)

Located East of Australia, New Caledonia consists of the Grande Terre, which is the second largest island of France after Corsica, and some smaller islands in the pacific.

Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (overseas territory)

The French Southern and Antarctic Lands consists of roughly all the non-inhabited French islands between Africa and Antarctica. This also includes the French territorial claim on Antarctica, Terre Adélie (Adélie Land), though this isn't recognized by a lot of countries.

Clipperton Island (private state property)

A small ring-shaped island West of Mexico. Hasn't had a permanent population since the 1940s.


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