Geography and climate

  • Calanques Cassis, Provence, France

    Calanques Cassis, Provence, France

    © Ryhor Bruyeu - Getty

  • Pointe de Pen-Hir, Brittany, France

    Pointe de Pen-Hir, Brittany, France

    © Philippe Devanne

  • Vineyards, Champagne, France

    Vineyards, Champagne, France

    © Alphotographic

  • Snowboarding, The Alps, France

    Snowboarding, The Alps, France

    © Atout France - Jean-François Tripelon-Jarry

Geography and climate

Geography

France is much larger than many people realise! Stretching 1,000km (600 miles) from north to south and the same from east to west, it’s the third largest country in Europe after Russia and Ukraine, covering an area of 551,500km² (213,000 square miles).

Metropolitan France has four coastlines – the North Sea, the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea – with a combined coastline length of 3,427km (2,129 miles). With the exception of its north-eastern border, the country is bounded either by water or by mountains – namely the Rhine and Jura, the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Outside metropolitan France, the national territory extends to the ‘départements d’outre-mer’ and ‘territoires d’outre-mer’, collectively referred to as ‘DOM-TOMs’. These are French Guiana in South America; the islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin in the Caribbean; the islands of Réunion and Mayotte off the coast of Africa; Saint-Pierre and Miquelon south-east of Canada; and French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna in the South Pacific. With the inclusion of these overseas territories, France’s total land area rises to 675,417km² (254,000 square miles).

Climate

France’s climate is temperate, but divided into four distinct climatic areas. The oceanic climate of western France brings average rainfall spread over many days, and modest annual temperature variations (Brittany, Normandy, Atlantic Loire). Central and eastern France’s continental climate harbours cold winters and hot summers (the Champagne region). The Mediterranean climate of south-eastern France is responsible for hot, dry summers, with rainfall from October to April (when the weather is damp but mild) and ample sunshine all year round (Provence and Côte d'Azur). Above 600-800m altitudes, France’s mountain climate brings heavy rainfall, and snow three to six months per year.

 

Weather forecasts are available by calling 0892 68 02 followed by the department number (calls are charged at €0.34/min), or by visiting www.meteo.fr. Forecasts are usually updated at least three times a day, given for the next seven days.