Like all countries, France is divided up: it has broad regions, smaller départements, or counties, and finally, cities, towns and villages (and a few other small subdivisions).
Each France region has its specialities (many of them culinary) and often, even towns and villages have things that make them stand out.
Understanding my country's structure will help you uncover what we are like as a people and just how diverse and large we actually are.
France is, in fact, more than twice the size of the United Kingdom and 1.5 times the size of Germany. Of course size comparisons pale when the US comes into play, although we are roughly the same size as Texas (and similarly modest).
This is the list of regions in France
How many regions in France? There are 18 administrative regions, 13 of them in mainland France and the other five, products of colonial adventures, scattered around the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.
These regional boundaries reflect a relatively recent (2016) decision to reduce the number of regions in Metropolitan France from 22 to the present 13. This was not a painless process, and many parts of France have felt disenfranchised after centuries-old historical and names were removed to make way for larger administrative entities, and boundaries were shuffled in ways that at times ignored history.
The designations of the former regions remain in everyday culture, however. For example, while it is now part of the Grand-Est region, the area formerly called Alsace, or Alsace-Lorraine, are still referred to by their old name. No one says they going to visit the "Grand-Est" – they would say, "I'm going to Alsace."
For the purposes of this particular article, I'll only be dealing only with the areas of France located on the mainland (Corsica, although an island, is politically part of mainland or metropolitan France, "la métropole".)
A region would be, say, like a grouping of US states, for example, the Southwest, or New England, or Sussex in the UK, except that our areas of France are formal – in other words, we have similar rules about certain things across a region, like school dates or railway systems.
Here's a map of France's regions:
The 18 France regions – some might liken them to French provinces – are broken down into 101 departments, including those located overseas, which we are supposed to know by heart but which we don't, except for those that are near where we live or spend our summer vacations.
This regions of France list contains all the "mainland" regions, or provinces of France, with their prefecture (capital city), the departments they contain, and a list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites you'll find in each, just to give you a bit of local flavor.
Includes the departments of: Ain (01), Allier (03), Ardèche (07), Cantal (15), Drôme (26), Isère (38), Loire (42), Haute-Loire (433), Puy-de-Dôme (63), Rhône (69), Savoie (73), Haute-Savoie (74)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes
- Historic site of Lyon – known for its gastronomy and its history and architecture and giant murals, from the secret traboule passageways of Old Lyon all the way to Croix Rousse hill
- Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps – they were built from about 5000 to 500 BC on the edges of water, and many remains are now underwater (also located in Burgundy)
- Decorated Cave of Pont d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet-Pont d’Arc, Ardèche – contains some of the world's best-preserved cave paintings – and the rest of the Ardeche is wild and green
- Chaine des Puys - Limagne fault tectonic arena – volcanoes provide evidence of tectonic action
- Great Spa Towns of Europe – covers the town of Vichy, one of 11 European spa towns in 7 countries
Includes the departments of: Côte-d'Or (21), Doubs (25), Jura (39), Nièvre (58), Haute-Saône (70), Saône-et-Loire (71), Yonne (89), Territoire de Belfort (90)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
- Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay – founded in the early 12th century and very much intact
- Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene at hill at Vézelay – Burgundian Romanesque place of pilgrimage and monastic church
- Sainte-Croix-Notre-Dame church of La Charité-sur-Loire – one of several sites listed as part of the French routes to Santiago de Compostela
- From the Great Saltworks of Salins-les-Bains to the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, the Production of Open-pan Salt – both the architecture of the Royal Saltworks and the salt-mining technique are recognized, along with the 18th-century pipeline carrying brine between the two for 21km
- Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps – they were built from about 5000 to 500 BC on the edges of water, and many remains are now underwater (also located in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes)
- The Climats, terroirs of Burgundy – certain plots and parcels of vineyards which produce Burgundy wine
Other sights worth seeing
Includes the departments of: Côtes-d'Armor (22), Finistère (29), Ille-et-Vilaine (35), Morbihan (56)
Brittany seems to be the only one of the French regions that doesn't boast any UNESCO sites, yet it is a strikingly beautiful region of menhirs and dolmens (think Asterix) and of a multitude of beaches, quaint fishing villages and dramatic cliff backdrops. This is also where you'll come for authentic crêpes!
Centre-Val de Loire
Includes the departments of: Cher (18), Eure-et-Loir (28), Indre (36), Indre-et-Loire (37), Loir-et-Cher (41), Loiret (45)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Centre-Val de Loire
- Bourges Cathedral – highly decorated portals and major stained glasswork
- Chartres Cathedral – looks much as it did in the 13th century, with beautiful stained glass and flying buttresses, a Gothic masterpiece
- The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes – stretches into the Pays de la Loire region next door and famous for its chateaux
Other sights worth seeing
Includes the departments of: Haute-Corse (2B), Corse-du-Sud (2A)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Corsica
- Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve – plenty of wildlife, clear waters and inaccessible caves result in rich marine life
Includes the departments of: Ardennes (08), Aube (10), Marne (51), Haute-Marne (52), Meurthe-et-Moselle (54), Meuse (55), Moselle (57), Bas-Rhin (67), Haut-Rhin (68), Vosges (88)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Grand Est
- Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and Palace of Tau, Reims – masterpieces of Gothic art
- Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière, and Place d'Alliance in Nancy – harmonious urban landscape and an outstanding example of 18th-century town planning
- Strasbourg - From the Grande Île to the Neustadt – the Grande Île is Strasbourg's historical center, while Neustadt is the area built by the Germans
- Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars – various elements and places that have contributed to the production and sale of champagne
Other sights worth seeing
Includes the departments of: Aisne (02), Nord (59), Oise (60), Pas-de-Calais (62), Somme (80)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Hauts-de-France
- Amiens Cathedral – one of the largest 13th-century Gothic cathedrals, the crowning glory of the city of Amiens
- Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin – coal has been extracted for three centuries in the area, which highlights an important period in European industrialization
- Belfries of Belgium and France – 23 in northern France are protected
Includes the departments of: Paris (75), Seine-et-Marne (77), Yvelines (78), Essonne (91), Hauts-de-Seine (92), Seine-Saind-Denis (93), Val-de-Marne (94), Val-d'Oise (95)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Île-de-France
- Palace and Park of Fontainebleau – a royal residence south of Paris and one of the largest royal castles
- Palace and Park of Versailles – adopted by Louis XIV as the royal residence, the complex is a symbol of power and of unparalleled beauty
- Paris, Banks of the Seine – both banks are on the list, and we know just how gorgeous they are
- Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs – medieval architecture, ramparts, inscriptions in underground tunnels, and once hosted a major annual trade fair
Includes the departments of: Calvados (14), Eure (27), Manche (50), Orne (61), Seine-Maritime (76)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Normandy
- Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret – the city was heavily bombed during World War II and rebuilt by August Perret, a pioneer in the use of reinforced concrete
- Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay – well defended at high tide, when it is surrounded by water; more than 60 of its buildings are national monuments, and it is an important medieval Christian site
Includes the departments of: Charente (16), Charente-Maritime (17), Corrèze (19), Creuse (23), Dordogne (24), Gironde (33), Landes (40), Lot-et-Garonne (47), Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64), Deux-Sèvres (79), Vienne (86), Haute-Vienne (87)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
- Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe – a Roman Catholic Romanesque church with beautifully preserved 11th-12th century murals
- Bordeaux, Port of the Moon – the historic center of the city, for its outstanding urban architecture along the moon-shaped bend in the Garonne River
- Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion – includes the medieval city of Saint-Émilion, the seven villages that surround it and their vineyards
- Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley – 15 prehistoric sites around Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, often called the "Capital of Prehistory"
- Cordouan Lighthouse – the 10th tallest lighthouse in the world, located at sea, near the estuary of the Gironde River (plenty of sites in this region in France!)
Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the largest of the French regions.
Other sights worth seeing
Includes the departments of: Ariège (09), Aude (11), Aveyron (12), Gard (30), Haute-Garonne (31), Gers (32), Hérault (34), Lot (46), Lozère (48), Hautes-Pyrénées (65), Pyrénées-Orientales (66), Tarn (81), Tarn-et-Garonne (82)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Occitanie
- Canal du Midi – at 240 km in length it is one of the most important 17th-century constructions in France
- The Causses and the Cévennes – mountains and valleys with strong traditions of pastoralism and where remnants of transhumance still taking place
- Episcopal City of Albi – medieval architecture on the banks of the Tarn River dating back to the 10th century
- Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct) – an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge and the only three-story antique bridge still standing, the most visited of France's Gallo-Roman ruins
- Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne – stunning fortified medieval citadel, with massive defences and a Gothic cathedral, restored by Viollet-le-Duc
- Pyrénées - Mont Perdu – straddles the Spanish border, where the summit is located, but then extended into France
Pays de la Loire
Includes the departments of: Loire-Atlantique (44), Maine-et-Loire (49), Mayenne (53), Sarthe (72), Vendée (85)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Pays de la Loire
- The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes – also stretches next door into the Centre-Val de Loire – this is the region of France with all the chateaux!
Includes the departments of: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04), Hautes-Alpes (05), Alpes-Maritimes (06), Bouches-du-Rhône (13), Var (83), Vaucluse (84)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in PACA
- Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments – the area in the center of Arles which contains a multitude of monuments and was extensively painted by van Gogh
- Historical centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge – architecturally important, and the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century
- Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the "Triumphal Arch" of Orange – one of the best-preserved Roman theaters, and the arch is a beautiful and rare Roman example
- Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera – the French Riviera is a cosmopolitan mix, the result of many successive waves of winter visitors and famous for its mild winter climate
Other sights worth seeing
Provence: The Beautiful Cookbook is one of those classics many of us have on our shelves (along with its companion, France: The Beautiful Cookbook).
The reason it is a classic is because it combines beautiful photographs of France with authentic, comforting recipes our ancestors used to make (my mother was from Provence). Buy this book if you want to try traditional recipes wrapped in beautiful images.
Related articles: How to see France's regions
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