France is located in Western Europe and is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Mediterranean Sea, Monaco, Spain and Andorra, Bay of Biscay and the English Channel. France is linked to the United Kingdom by the Channel Tunnel, which passes underneath the English Channel. The island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea, belongs to France as well as a number of territories in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the southern Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica. France mainland covers 211,209 square miles, having the largest area among European Union. Its overseas departments and territories then cover 493,49 square miles.
France is divided into 26 administrative regions, including 21 in the continental part of metropolitan France, the territorial collectivity of Corsica, and four overseas regions. The regions are further subdivided into 100 departments numbered, these numbers are also used in postal codes and license plates. The departments are subdivided into arrondissements which are, in turn, subdivided into cantons. The capital city is Paris, which is also the largest.
The French Republic is a unitary state and semi-presidential republic, the French have strong democratic traditions. The President of the Republic, is head of the state and is elected directly by adult suffrage, current President Nicolas Sarkozy. The Government is led by the president- appointed Prime Minister, currently François Fillon. The overseas territories have different forms of governance, some are an overseas department, other foreign collectivity.
France has a wide variety of landscapes in the north and west coastal plains to mountain ranges of the Alps in the southeast, south-central Massif Central and the Pyrenees in the south-west. The highest point in Europe, Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet above sea-level, is situated in the Alps on the border between France and Italy. Metropolitan France also has major rivers, including the River Loire, the Seine, the Garonne and the Rhone.
The many religious palaces, were usually built in Gothic architecture, one of the most important examples is the Palais des Papes in Avignon. Important French Gothic cathedrals are Notre-Dame de Chartres and Notre-Dame d’Amiens. Another important Gothic church in which the kings were crowned is Notre-Dame de Reims. French architects these days have modern and old architectural styles combined. A good example of modern architecture used in combination with an older building is the Louvre Pyramid. The most difficult buildings to fit in to the French cities are skyscrapers, often visible from afar. The Eiffel Tower is an icon of both Paris and France.
In France, the annual Tour de France held, the most famous cycling race in the world. The 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car endurance race held in the Sarthe department is known worldwide. Several big tournaments take place in France, as the French Open, one of the four Grand Slam tournaments and the Paris Masters. Other popular sports include football, rugby football and in certain regions basketball and handball.
Many cities in France are of great cultural interest, such as Paris, but the beaches and resorts, ski resorts, and rural areas, where tourists come for the beauty and tranquility are always busy. Many religious pilgrims come to Lourdes, a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées, though a few million visitors annually receives. Other popular tourist sites include: Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles , Arc de Triomphe, Centre Pompidou and more.
Many countries in Europe have no visa requirement for visiting France, for a stay less than 3 months. Visitors from other countries can request a visa at the France Embassy or Consulate.