France is a country located in Western Europe bordered by Spain, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco, Andorra, Switzerland and Italy. It comprises various overseas islands and territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica.
Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel (La Manche) and the North Sea and also from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean.
France is linked to the UK via the Channel Tunnel, which passes underneath the English Channel. Metropolitan France covers 547,030 sq km which makes it the largest country in the European Union.
France is a developed country and has the sixth largest economy in the world.
France is a founding member of both the European Union and the United Nations and is a member of the G8. It is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and is an acknowledged nuclear power.
Metropolitan France is situated on the western edge of Europe and lies within the northern temperate zone. In the west, the climate is mostly oceanic with a high level of rainfall, mild winters and cool summers. The north and north-west have a temperate climate while the climate inland is more continental with hot, stormy summers, colder winters and less rain. The south-east has a Mediterranean climate while in the Alps, over 150 days of each year see temperatures below freezing and snow cover lasting up to six months.
France is the most popular tourist destination in the world and offers coastlines, mountain ranges and cities with a rich cultural heritage. In 2006, France attracted 79.1 million foreign tourists, surpassing their population of 64.5 million. Tourism is accountable for 6% of the country's income.
France has the most extensive rail network in Western Europe stretching 31,840km (19,784 mi). There are three high speed trains in commercial use, the Thalys, the Eurostar and TGV which travel at speeds of 320 km/h (200 mph). Connections can be made with the United Kingdom via the Eurostar or Eurotunnel Shuttle through the Channel Tunnel.
There are rail connections between all neighbouring countries in Europe, except for Andorra. France has well developed intra-urban connections with both underground and tramway services complementing bus services.
There is approximately 893,000 kilometres (555,070 mi) of roadway in France which handles substantial international traffic, connecting with cities in neighbouring Belgium, Andorra, Switzerland, Monaco, Germany, Spain and Italy. There is no annual road tax or registration fee, however, tolls are to be paid on motorways. The world's tallest road bridge can be found in France, it is called the Millau Viaduct.
There are approximately 478 airports in France, including landing fields. The largest and busiest airport in the country is The Charles de Gaulle International Airport which is located within the vicinity of Paris. It handles the vast majority of private and commercial air traffic and connects Paris with virtually all major cities around the world.
France has ten major ports, the largest of which is Marseille, which is also the largest bordering the Mediterranean Sea. There are 14,932 kilometres (9,278 mi) of waterways that traverse France.
Paris is the capital of France and features many popular attractions such as the Sacré-Coeur, the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, the cathedral of Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower.
France is famous for its Mediterranean beaches and there are many spots to enjoy on the French Riviera, in Languedoc-Roussillon and in Corsica. Many tourists visit the French Polynesia, especially Tahiti and the Caribbean islands Guadeloupe, Martinique and others.
Photo credit: Flickr's Francois Schnell