France at a glance | The regions of France

Written by on September 5, 2019 in Culture & Language

Regional map of France

France is the most visited country in the world with a whopping 90 million people coming to discover its charms in 2018. It’s no wonder l’Hexagone as France is nicknamed by the French (due to its shape) is so popular: with a diverse landscape which includes mountains, glorious countryside, beautiful beaches, vineyards, historic cities and towns and gorgeous villages. Here are the regions of France at a glance…

The regions of France

There are 13 metropolitan regions in France as at January 2016 when some regions merged to become super regions. There were previously 22 regions but an internal administrations reorganisation under President Hollande saw several areas join together with the aim to reduce bureaucracy and cut costs. The regions of France are divided into 96 departments

There are also 5 overseas regions/departments outside of the European continent: French Guiana in South America; Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean; Mayotte and Réunion in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Africa.

1 Hauts-de-France

Stone fort in the English Channel along the Opal Coast of northern France

The northernmost region of France is made up of Pas de Calais, Nord and Picardy. The capital is Lille and the region has the lovely Opal Coast beaches, beautiful countryside and many memorials to WWI and WWII. It’s not a wine producing region – it’s beer country! It’s the nearest region to the UK, separated by just 21 miles of the English Channel at its closest point. Get there by Eurostar (Calais Frethun), Eurotunnel and ferry.

2 Normandy (Normandie)

Normandy used to be broken down to upper and lower Normandy. A land of beaches, countryside, apple orchards and historic cities. It’s famous for its food – butter, cheese (Camembert is one of its best known) and cider. The no. 1 attraction is Mont Saint-Michel, a medieval island town but there’s much more to fall in love with from Honfleur to Monet’s garden at Giverny. It is much visited for its WWII battlefield sites and each year sees a huge gathering of remembrance for the D-Day memorial. Get there via ferry direct from the UK and a few hours’ drive from Calais. The

3 Brittany (Bretagne)

Port of St Goustain, Brittany lined with ancient half timbered houses

In the northwest of France Brittany is famous for its beaches and pretty country villages. The coast of Brittany is the most popular in France for beach lovers (after the Mediterranean). The countryside of Brittany is lush and green, filled with beautiful hamlets and villages. Cider and Breton pancakes are just two of its foodie favourites. Ferries go direct from southern England to Brittany.

4 Ile-de-France

With Paris at its centre, Ile-de-France receives the most visits of any region in France with showstoppers like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. It’s also home to Disney Europe and many of the big chateaux such as Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. Easy to reach by Eurostar direct to Paris plus there are two international airports.

5 Centre-Val de Loire

Castle of Chenonceau in the Loire Valley, pointed turrets and grey slate roof over white stone

In the centre of France, this is where you’ll find the famed Loire Valley AKA the Valley of the Kings where the country chateaux of the nobles were built. Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau, Blois, Chambord, Amboise. It’s wine country too – the vineyards of the Loire are renowned. Easy to reach via fast train from Paris but this is great touring by car or bike country.

6 Pays de la Loire

With its stunning western beaches of the Loire-Atlantique and the green Vendée department plus gorgeous countryside, the Pays de la Loire is one of the most underrated regions of France. It’s home to Le Mans and the capital Nantes is just 2 hours from Paris by train.

7 Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Water sculpture in a paved area in Bordeaux in front of the old stock exchange

This is the biggest super region of France consisting of the former regions of Limousin, Poitou-Charentes and Aquitaine. Dordogne, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Limoges, vineyards, beaches, countryside – there’s everything you could possibly want from a holiday in France here.

8 Occtanie

Another big super region, formerly Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées and the southernmost region of France (excluding Corsica). Toulouse, Carcassonne, Nimes, Albi, Montpellier – there’s no shortage of fabulous places to visit here and several international airports for ease of access.

9 Grand Est

Cobbled street alongside a river in Strasbourg, half timbered houses and people sitting at a restaurant

The former regions of Champagne-Ardenne, Lorraine and Alsace joined to become the north-eastern super region Grand Est and what a varied landscape this is. Vineyards galore, historic towns, pictures villages, mountains, lakes and unforgettable countryside. Champagne is easy to reach from Calais, it’s just a couple of hours by car to Reims. There are international airports and fast trains to the major towns including Strasbourg.

10 Burgundy-Franche-Comté (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)

No prizes for guessing that the former regions of Burgundy linked up with Franche-Comté to create this new region. Wine, mountains, wonderful cities like Dijon and Besancon, chateaux galore and truly beautiful countryside make this a standout region that’s strangely not that well known to visitors. Connected by fast train to major cities.

11 Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes

Bridge over the river Garonne in Lyon leading from the city centre to the historic centre

In the south east of France the Auvergne and Rhone Alpes regions joined to form one big super region. Mountainous and popular for winter sports, home to the French side of Mont Blanc, as well as home to the foodie city of Lyon.

12 Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur

Small stone house with green shutters in a field of lavender in Provence

The most visited of the French regions outside of Ile-de-France thanks to its many attractions – Provence, Marseille, Nice, the Mediterranean to name but a few. Easy to reach by plane or train and great touring country by car and bike. Served by international airports and fast train services.

13 Corsica

With its sunny climate and diverse landscape, the island of Corsica lures some 3 million visitors a year. Said to have the best beaches in Europe, historic cities, unique gastronomy and mountainous interior. Reach it by ferry from mainland France or by air.

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