Geography of France

Geography of France

According to necessaryhome, France lies in an advantageous position, washed to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwest by the English Channel and on the other side, to the south, by the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees border Spain in the southwest, the Alps in the southeast with Italy, and the Jura Mountains in the east with Switzerland. The Rhine River forms part of the border with Germany. Only in the north and northeast, where the lowlands and highlands pass into Belgium and Germany, can we speak of a natural border.


The two largest natural geographical units of France are the French Plain with the Paris Basin and the French Central Mountains (Massif Central). From the Paris basin, the hills of the old Armorican massif extend to the west as far as Brittany. To the east and southeast the basin rises into the hills and highlands of Ardennes, Champagne and Burgundy. The coastal plain falls from Calais in the north to the Cotentin peninsula in the west of Normandy by steep chalk cliffs to the beaches of the English Channel. The southwestern coast of the Bay of Biscay with its large lagoons is lined with sandbanks up to 80 m high and beaches.

The vast French Central Highlands are made up of several mountainous areas: in the south, the limestone Causses cut by deep river canyons are part of the Cévennes drive. The Rhône and Saône valleys are lined by steep granite massifs, the northwestern and western parts are characterized by deep river valleys divided by stepped plateaus falling into the Limousin. The central area is filled by the young volcanic Auvergne mountain range with the highest mountain Puy de Sancy (1885 m) and numerous manifestations of recent volcanic activity.

To the southwest, beyond the Aquitaine basin, France is separated from Spain by the high ridges of the Pyrenees. The south-eastern coast of the Gulf of Lion (Golfe du Lion) is lined by an alluvial plain with lagoons up to the large Rhone delta with the Camargue marshes. The low Maures and Esterel mountain ranges extend to the Côte d’Azur with the resorts of the French Riviera, and further to the east the higher Maritime Alps drop sharply to the sea.

Stretching to the north, the vast system of the crystalline Central and Outer Limestone Alps creates a communication barrier on the Italian border. Further north, on the border with Switzerland, it is joined by the limestone ridges of the Jura Mountains. The Rhine Valley is then bordered by the mid-mountain Vosges. On the border with Belgium and Luxembourg, the highlands of the Ardennes stretch.

The greater part of France is drained into the seas of the Atlantic Ocean. The northwest with the Paris basin is drained by the Seine into the English Channel, the center-west by the longest river, the Loire (1012 km) into the Bay of Biscay. The Garonne River, which originates in the Pyrenees and flows from the Massif Central to the Tarn, Aveyron, Lot and Dordogne, also opens there through the wide funnel of the Gironde. The northeast is drained by the tributaries of the Rhine, the Meuse and the Moselle. Only the weight of the southeast belongs to the Mediterranean sea. Originating in the Swiss Alps, the Rhone flows through Lake Geneva, makes its way between the Alps and the Jura, and in Lyon it joins the Saone flowing from the foothills of the Vosges from the right.


The climate of France is globally temperate, oceanic. Within the country, however, we can distinguish three climatic subregions. The Atlantic current brings significant humidity and unpredictable weather changes to the western half of France, especially in Brittany. Summers here are relatively cool, but winters are mild.

To the east of the Paris Basin, continentality increases, the climate is characterized by abundant precipitation in spring and autumn, and numerous storms in summer. Overall, however, precipitation is decreasing. Eastern France and the French Central Highlands have colder winters, with significant amounts of snow falling on the mountains. The city of Strasbourg, near the German border, shows the largest temperature differences in the country.

In the southeast, in the Mediterranean climate region of Provence, frosty days are rare. Summers here are hot and dry. In the winter months, a cold and dry wind called the mistral blows from the Alps to the coast.

Flora and fauna

Fertile plains in the north and west rise to hills covered with heather and heather, and oaks grow in more sheltered places. The northeastern regions and most of the Paris Basin have loess soils with discontinuous mixed forests. The western slopes and plateaus of the French Central Highlands are covered with lush pastures and mountain meadows. The largest complexes of mainly coniferous forests are found in the Landes region south of Bordeaux. The typical Mediterranean vegetation of olive, boxwood, thyme, rosemary and cork oak grows in the southeast. In drier areas there are characteristic dwarf thickets of garigues and maquis (maquis). Unique animals are represented by ibex in the Alps, bear and wolf in the Pyrenees, herons, flamingos and many migratory birds in the Rhône delta (Camargue).

Geography of France