Map of France Regions

The map of France is divided up into 22 régions and 96 départements. The regions are usually defined by historical events or geographical attributes, and the old French names are still in use. For example, the Languedoc region is so called because the old language spoken in the south of France was the langue d'Oc, as opposed to the north of France where the langue d'Oil was spoken, referring to the different ways of saying ' oui ' in old French. Although the regions are characterised by their different traditions and, above all, local culinary fare, they were artificially created by the government to improve on a previous system of management.

For the purposes of administration, France was divided up into départements in 1790. Each department is approximately 6100 square kilometres and is identified by a name, which commonly refers to a local geographical feature such as a river, and a two-digit code that forms part of the postcode and car registration plates for that area. The departments are too small to be a useful way of governing the country, however, and so the 22 regions were created and given limited powers in 1972.

France has five overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer) including Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean islands; Réunion island in the Indian ocean; St-Pierre-et-Miquelon off Newfoundland in the Atlantic ocean; and French Guiana (Guyane) in South America, between Brazil and Suriname. There are also the three French overseas territories (territoires d'outre-mer) in the south Pacific: French Polynesia, including Tahiti; New Caledonia; and the Futuna and Wallis islands. Not to mention a large slice of Antarctica!

You can buy road and city maps of France in one of the many national Maisons de la Presse news agencies, tourist offices, bookshops or from a street news stand. No matter where you are in France, you can guarantee that there will be a tourist office (office de tourisme) close at hand, where you will be able to obtain a local map at the very least. Michelin's Atlas Routier France comes highly recommended for those of you who will be driving around France a lot because it covers the whole country in 1cm:2km scale. Michelin produces yellow-jacketed fold-up maps of the regions, in 1:200,000 scale, which are useful if you are concentrating on one region. There are also special walking and cycling maps, produced by IGN or Didier et Richard.

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