France

France Geography

Looking to learn about France in under 1 minute? Check out our Where is France? page, or What is the Capital of France? page.

France, the second largest country in Europe, is partially covered central, north and west by a relatively flat plain that's punctuated by some time-worn low rolling hills and mountains.

Rugged cliffs front its coastline along the English Channel. There, to the northwest of Caen, the Cotentin Peninsula shields the Channel Islands, while a bit further to the west, the Brittany Peninsula juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Assorted coastal islands dot the western coastline south of Brest, where white-sandy beaches stretch along the Atlantic Ocean to the border with Spain.

A few scattered islands are found along the pebbled beaches of the Mediterranean coast. Corsica, a mountainous island and the country's largest island, is located 160 km (99 miles) southeast of Nice.

Mountains dominate eastern, south central and southern France, including the snowcapped Alps that stretch along its border with Italy, then on into Switzerland and across southern Europe. The country's highest point, and the second highest point in Europe is located here; Mont Blanc at 15,770 ft. (4,807m)

Further to the north the limestone peaks of the Jura range front the country's eastern border with Switzerland. The heavily forested Vosges Mountains in the far-northeast stretch along the Rhine River valley.

In the far-southeast, directly to the west of Nice and dissected by the Verdon River, stands the Gorges du Verdon. This spectacular and massive canyon is up to 700 meters deep in places, and about 11 miles long.

Volcanic in origin, the Massif Central is a mountainous plateau divided by steep canyons and valleys. These mountains (or Massifs) stretch south toward the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees, a jagged mountain range, covers the entire southern borders with Andorra and Spain.

The country is drained by dozens and dozens of rivers. The longest river in France is the Loire at 630 miles (1,020 km) in length. Other significant rivers include the Garonne, Lot, Rhine, Rhone Seine, each with many smaller tributaries.

For a colorful and most interesting view of the topography of France, view this map.

France Photographs

france from space

Topography of France

french alps

A mountain peak in the French Alps

France metropolitan regions & their capitals

Region Capital Quick Reference
Alsace Strasbourg Alsace
Aquitaine Bordeaux Aquitaine
Auvergne Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne
Brittany Rennes Brittany
Burgundy Dijon Burgundy
Centre-Val de Loire Orleans Centre-Val de Loire
Champagne-Ardenne Chalons-en-Champagne Champagne-Ardenne
Corsica Ajaccio Corsica
Franche-Comte Besancon Franche-Comte
Ile-de-France Paris Ile-de-France
Languedoc-Roussillon Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon
Limousin Limoges Limousin
Lorraine Metz Lorraine
Lower Normandy Caen Lower Normandy
Midi-Pyrenees Toulouse Midi-Pyrenees
Nord-Pas-de-Calais Lille Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Pays-de-la-Loire Nantes Pays-de-la-Loire
Picardy Amiens Picardy
Poitou-Charentes Poitiers Poitou-Charentes
Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur Marseille Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur
Rhone-Alpes Lyon Rhone-Alpes
Upper Normandy Rouen Upper Normandy