France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland, Monaco, and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions (five of which are situated overseas) span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.08 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice. France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. France is considered a great power in global affairs.
Best-selling daily national newspapers in France are Le Parisien Aujourd'hui en France, Le Monde and Le Figaro. In the past years, free dailies made a breakthrough, with Metro, 20 Minutes and Direct Plus. The most influential news magazines are the left-wing Le Nouvel Observateur, centrist L'Express and right-wing Le Point. Influential weeklies also include investigative and satirical papers Le Canard Enchaîné and Charlie Hebdo, as well as Paris Match. Like in most industrialized nations, the print media have been affected by a severe crisis in the past decade. Regional papers have remained relatively unaffected by the decline, with provincial newspapers commanding a higher degree of reader loyalty. It was only in 1981 that the government allowed free broadcasting in the territory, ending state monopoly on radio. Public broadcasting group Radio France run five national radio stations, including France Info and France Inter. Radio France Internationale, broadcasts programs in French all over the world. In 2006, the government created global news channel France 24. Other news channels include BFM TV, CNews (I>Télé), LCI and Euronews.
Gothic art and architecture originated in France in the 12th century around Paris and then spread to all of Europe. The origins of French art were very much influenced by Flemish art and by Italian art at the time of the Renaissance (Jean Fouquet). Two of the most famous French artists of the time of Baroque era, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, lived in Italy. The 17th century was the period when French painting became prominent and individualised itself through classicism. French artists developed the rococo style in the 18th century (Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard), as a more intimate imitation of old baroque style. The French Revolution brought great changes, as Napoleon favoured artists of neoclassic style (Jacques-Louis David, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres). At this time France had become a centre of artistic creation, the first half of the 19th century being dominated by two successive movements, at first Romanticism (Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix), and Realism (Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet), a style that eventually evolved into Naturalism. In the second part of the 19th century, France's influence over painting became even more important, with the development of new styles of painting such as Impressionism (Camille Pissarro, Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir) and Symbolism. The second generation of impressionist-style painters (Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat) were also at the avant-garde of artistic evolutions, as well as the fauvist artists (Henri Matisse, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck). At the beginning of the 20th century, Cubism was developed (Georges Braque, Spanish painter Pablo Picasso). Other foreign artists also settled and worked in or near Paris (Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, Wassily Kandinsky). A huge collection of old masterpieces created before or during the 18th century are displayed in the state-owned Musée du Louvre, French paintings from the second part of the 19th century (mainly Impressionism and Fauvism movements) in the Musée d'Orsay, modern works are presented in the Musée National d'Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou.
France has historical and strong links with cinema, with two Frenchmen, Auguste and Louis Lumière (known as the Lumière Brothers) credited with creating cinema in 1895. The world's first female filmmaker, Alice Guy-Blaché, was also from France. Several important cinematic movements, including the late 1950s and 1960s Nouvelle Vague, began in the country. The nation also hosts the Cannes Festival, one of the most important and famous film festivals in the world. Apart from its strong and innovative film tradition, France has also been a gathering spot for artists from across Europe and the world. French cinema is sometimes intertwined with the cinema of foreign nations. French films account for 35% of the total film revenues of France, which is the highest percentage of national film revenues in the developed world outside the United States. Paris has the highest density of cinemas (movie theaters) in the world.
Some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of the current territory of France, and this occupation spread to the rest of France between the 5th and 3rd century BC. The Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next centuries. Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans. Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix in 52 BC. From the beginning of the 5th century, the Barbarian Invasions resumed. Teutonic tribes invaded the region from present-day Germany, the Visigoths settling in the southwest, the Burgundians along the Rhine River Valley, and the Franks (from whom the French take their name) in the north. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty. Pepin the Short, seized the crown of Francia from the weakened Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pepin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe. During the 9th and 10th centuries, continually threatened by Viking invasions, France became a very decentralized state. The Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France, which was fully declared in 1190 by Philip II of France (Philippe Auguste). During the reign of Philip of Valois, the French monarchy reached the height of its medieval power. The French Renaissance saw a spectacular cultural development and the first standardisation of the French language. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire. The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century and the reign of Louis XIV. An unpopular king, Louis XV's weak rule, his ill-advised financial, political and military decisions – as well as the debauchery of his court – discredited the monarchy, which arguably paved the way for the French Revolution 15 years after his death. Facing financial troubles, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General in May 1789 to propose solutions to his government. As it came to an impasse, the representatives of the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, signalling the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fearing that the king would suppress the newly created National Assembly, insurgents stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a date which would become France's National Day. Ex-King Louis XVI was convicted of treason and guillotined in January 1793. Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799 becoming First Consul and later Emperor of the French Empire (1804–1814; 1815). In 1852, the president of the French Republic, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I's nephew, was proclaimed emperor of the second Empire, as Napoleon III. France was a member of the Triple Entente when World War I broke out. A small part of Northern France was occupied, but France and its allies emerged victorious against the Central Powers at a tremendous human and material cost. World War I left 1.4 million French soldiers dead, 4% of its population. Between 27 and 30% of soldiers conscripted from 1912 to 1915 were killed. In 1940, France was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany and Italy. From 1942 to 1944, about 160,000 French citizens, including around 75,000 Jews, were deported to death camps and concentration camps in Germany and occupied Poland. On 6 June 1944, the Allies invaded Normandy and in August they invaded Provence. Over the following year the Allies and the French Resistance emerged victorious over the Axis powers and French sovereignty was restored. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries France has been at the forefront of the development of a supranational European Union.
The earliest French literature dates from the Middle Ages. During the 17th century, Madame de La Fayette published anonymously La Princesse de Clèves, a novel that is considered to be one of the very first psychological novels of all times. Jean de La Fontaine is one of the most famous fabulists of that time. Jean Racine, whose incredible mastery of the alexandrine and of the French language has been praised for centuries, created plays such as Phèdre or Britannicus. He is, along with Pierre Corneille (Le Cid) and Molière, considered as one of the three great dramatists of France's golden age. Molière, who is deemed to be one of the greatest masters of comedy of Western literature, wrote dozens of plays, including Le Misanthrope, L'Avare, Le Malade imaginaire, as well as Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. His plays have been so popular around the world that French language is sometimes dubbed as "the language of Molière" (la langue de Molière). French literature and poetry flourished even more in the 18th and 19th centuries. Denis Diderot's best-known works are Jacques the Fatalist and Rameau's Nephew. He is however best known for being the main redactor of the Encyclopédie. Charles Perrault was a prolific writer of famous children's fairy tales including Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard. At the start of the 19th century, symbolist poetry was an important movement in French literature, with poets such as Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé. The 19th century saw the writings of many renowned French authors. Victor Hugo is sometimes seen as "the greatest French writer of all times". His novel Les Misérables is widely seen as one of the greatest novel ever written. Other major authors of that century include Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Émile Zola, Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Théophile Gautier and Stendhal. Important writers of the 20th century include Marcel Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre. As of 2014, French authors had more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation.
France has a long and varied musical history. It experienced a golden age in the 17th century thanks to Louis XIV, who employed a number of talented musicians and composers in the royal court. French composers played an important role during the music of the 19th and early 20th century, which is considered to be the Romantic music era (Hector Berlioz, Georges Bizet, Gabriel Fauré, Charles Gounod, Jacques Offenbach, Édouard Lalo, Jules Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns). Later came precursors of modern classical music (Érik Satie, Francis Poulenc). Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy are the most prominent figures associated with Impressionist music. French music then followed the rapid emergence of pop and rock music at the middle of the 20th century. Among the most important French artists of the century are Édith Piaf, Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour and Serge Gainsbourg.
France was visited by 89 million foreign tourists in 2018, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world. France, especially Paris, has some of the world's largest and most renowned museums, including the Louvre, which is the most visited art museum in the world, the Musée d'Orsay and the Centre Georges Pompidou. The most popular tourist sites include: Eiffel Tower, Château de Versailles, Musée national d'Histoire naturelle, Pont du Gard, Arc de Triomphe, Mont Saint-Michel, Sainte-Chapelle, Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, Puy de Dôme, Musée Picasso, and Carcassonne. The French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), in Southeast France, is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after the Paris region. The castles (châteaux) of the Loire Valley and the Loire Valley itself are the third leading tourist destination in France. France has 44 World Heritage sites.