20 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About France

Almost everyone knows something about France. You’ve probably heard of the Eiffel Tower, French cheese, and baguettes. But there’s much more to this European nation than meets the eye.

Ready to discover some cool facts about France that might surprise you? Let’s look at 20 interesting tidbits that’ll make you say, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”

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1. The Louvre Used to Be a Palace

The famous Louvre Museum wasn’t always filled with art. It started as a fortress in the 12th century and later became a royal palace. In 1793, it officially became a museum that holds the country’s rich history. Imagine sleeping in a room that’s now home to the Mona Lisa!

2. France Has the Most Time Zones

Believe it or not, France has 12 different time zones—more than any other country in the world! This is because France has territories spread across the globe, from the Caribbean to the Pacific Ocean. When it’s breakfast time in Paris, it might be bedtime in French Polynesia.

3. The French Army Still Uses Carrier Pigeons

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The French army keeps about 150 carrier pigeons in this age of smartphones and computers. These birds are trained to carry messages in case modern communication methods fail. It might sound old-fashioned, but pigeons can be very reliable in emergencies.

4. You Can Marry a Dead Person in France

In France, you can actually marry someone who has passed away. This is called “posthumous marriage,” and it’s only allowed in special cases. The catch is the president has to approve it, and it’s usually done when a person’s partner dies unexpectedly before their planned wedding.

5. France Produces Over 1,500 Types of Cheese

French people love their cheese, and they have plenty to choose from! There are more than 1,500 different types of cheese made in France. From soft Brie to stinky Roquefort. No wonder the average French person eats about 57 pounds of cheese yearly!

6. The French Invented the Hot Air Balloon

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In 1783, two French brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier, created the first hot-air balloon. They sent a sheep, a duck, and a rooster up in the air as their first passengers. This invention paved the way for human flight and changed the world forever.

7. Paris Was Once a Roman City

Long before it became the “City of Light,” Paris was a Roman city called Lutetia. It was founded around 250 BC and grew into an important hub. You can still see some Roman ruins in Paris, such as Nimes. It’s like a hidden history lesson right under your feet!

8. The French Eat 30,000 Tons of Snails Each Year

Snails, or “escargot” in French, might seem weird to some. But in France, they’re a popular dish. French people munch through about 30,000 tons of snails every year. That’s a lot of slimy snacks! They’re usually cooked with garlic, butter, and herbs.

9. France Gave the Statue of Liberty to the USA

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Standing tall in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France. It was given to America in 1886 to celebrate 100 years of French-American friendship. The statue was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and shipped across the ocean in pieces.

10. The World’s First Restaurant Opened in Paris

The very first restaurant as we know it today opened in Paris in 1765. It was called “Boulanger,” and it served mainly soups. Before this, people usually ate at inns or bought food from street vendors. This new idea of sitting down to order from a menu changed how we eat out forever.

11. France Has Europe’s Highest Mountain

Mont Blanc, which means “White Mountain” in French, is the highest mountain in Western Europe. It is 15,774 feet tall and is part of the Alps mountain range. It’s so big that it spreads across the border between France and Italy.

12. The French Invented Canned Food

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In 1809, Nicolas Appert figured out how to preserve food in cans. He did this to win a prize offered by Napoleon, who wanted better ways to feed his armies. This invention changed how we store and eat food. We can enjoy canned fruits, veggies, and soups today, thanks to Appert!

13. Potatoes Were Once Illegal in France

It’s hard to imagine French fries being banned in France, but potatoes were once illegal there. In 1748, growing them was forbidden because people thought they caused diseases. It took until 1772 for this law to be canceled. Now, these starchy root vegetables are a big part of French cuisine.

14. France Has a Village with Just One Resident

The tiny village of Rochefourchat in southeastern France has only one permanent resident. This makes it the least populated village in the country. Imagine being the only person in your town! Despite its small size, the village still holds local elections and has its own mayor.

15. The French Invented the Metric System

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The metric system, used by most countries today, was created in France during the French Revolution. It was designed to be a simple, logical way to measure things. The system is based on units of 10, making it easy to calculate. This made Mathematics a bit easier!

16. France Has the World’s Oldest Bridge Still in Use

The Pont Neuf in Paris is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine. Despite its name, which means “New Bridge” in French, when it’s actually the oldest! It was completed in 1607 and is still used today. That’s over 400 years of people crossing back and forth!

17. The French Invented Photography

The world’s first photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France in 1826. It took 8 hours to capture! This groundbreaking invention paved the way for the cameras we use today. Next time you take a selfie, remember to thank this French inventor.

18. France Is the Most Visited Country in the World

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More people visit France each year than any other country. In 2019, before the pandemic, France welcomed about 90 million tourists! People come to see the Eiffel Tower, taste French food, explore beautiful villages, and soak up the culture.

19. The French Invented the Stethoscope

In 1816, French doctor René Laennec invented the stethoscope. Before this, doctors had to put their ear directly on a patient’s chest to hear their heartbeat. Laennec’s invention made it easier and more comfortable for doctors and patients. It’s still a crucial tool in medicine today.

20. France Has the Highest Average Number of Pets in Europe

French people really love their furry companions! On average, 49% of their local households have a pet. That’s the highest rate in Europe.

Dogs and cats are the most popular, but you’ll also find a lot of fish, birds, and even rabbits. It seems furry (and scaly) friends are a big part of French family life!

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There you have it – 20 fascinating facts about France you might not have known. From inventing photography to having the most time zones, this place is full of surprises. Next time you think of it, remember there’s much more to this country than just the Eiffel Tower and delicious croissants!


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Mary Apurong

Mary Apurong is an experienced editor and ghostwriter who enjoys writing and reading. She loves researching topics related to life and creating content on quotes, gardening, food, travel, crafts, and DIY. Mary spends her free time doing digital art and watching documentaries.

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