Essential travel information and an independent Hotel Guide to France
officially the French Republic (French: République française French pronunciation: [ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃sɛz]), is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is often referred to as l’Hexagone ("The Hexagon") because of the geometric shape of its territory.
France is the largest country in Western Europe and the third-largest in Europe as a whole, and it possesses the second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world. France has its main ideals expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Over the past 500 years, France has been a major power with strong cultural, economic, military and political influence in Europe and around the world. From the 17th to the early 20th century, France built the second largest colonial empire of the time, including large portions of North, West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands.
France is a developed country, it possesses the world's fifth largest economy measured by GDP, the ninth-largest economy measured by purchasing power parity and is Europe's second largest economy by nominal GDP.France is the wealthiest nation in Europe – and the fourth wealthiest in the world – in aggregate household wealth. France enjoys a high standard of living as well as a high public education level, and has also one of the world's longest life expectancies. France has been listed as the world's "best overall health care" provider by the World Health Organization. It is the most visited country in the world, receiving 79.5 million foreign tourists annually
France has the world's fifth largest nominal military budget, as well as (in terms of personnel) the largest military in the EU, the third largest in NATO and one of the largest in the world.[verification needed] France also possesses the third largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world – with around 300 active warheads as of 25 May 2010 – and the world's second largest diplomatic corps (second only to that of the United States). France is a founding member of the United Nations, one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and a member of the Francophonie, the G8, G20, NATO, OECD, WTO, and the Latin Union. It is also a founding and leading member state of the European Union and the largest EU state by area.In 2011, France was listed 20th on the Human Development Index and 24th on the Corruption Perceptions Index (2010)
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