Covering an area of 672,000 square kilometres, including the overseas departments and territories, France is the world’s 41st-largest country, while its 67.5 million inhabitants make it the 20th-most populous nation on the planet. Mainland France is flanked by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Belgium and Luxembourg to the north-east, Germany and Switzerland to the east, Italy and Monaco to the south-east and Spain and Andorra to the south-west.
Though it has witnessed many political changes and upheavals during the course of its long and rich history, France is now a unitary constitutional republic with a semi-presidential form of government combining aspects of both a parliamentary and presidential system.
In terms of GDP, France is the world’s fifth largest economy and the second largest in the eurozone, behind neighbouring Germany and ahead of the UK. The French economy is essentially service-based, though agriculture and industry have always made significant contributions to it. In addition, its food processing, aerospace, automobile, luxury products, tourism and nuclear industries are particularly advanced.
Climate and tourism
Mainland France is located at the western edge of Europe, at the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator. Surrounded by sea to the north, west and south-east, it also boasts several mountain ranges, such as the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Massif Central, the Vosges and the Jura. France has a temperate climate, with winters that are relatively mild and summers that are warm but not overly hot. The country can be divided into four broad climatic zones: continental in the east, oceanic in the centre and south-west, Mediterranean in the south-east, and highland in mountainous areas.
France and tourism go hand in hand. According to the World Tourism Organisation, it has been the world’s leading tourist destination in terms of foreign visitors since the 1990s. The country’s appeal lies not just in the beauty and diversity of its countryside, but also in its outstanding historical, cultural and artistic heritage. With its many landmarks and historical buildings, Paris is the jewel in the national crown, though France boasts many other gems that are well worth visiting, from north to south and east to west.