Until 2016, there were 22 regions in France. However, the institutional reform decided to amalgamate the smaller ones and reduce the number of French regions: as of 1 January 2016, there are now 13 French regions on European soil and 5 that are part of the French overseas territories. The latter are the former French colonies: French Guiana in South America, Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean Sea, and Réunion and Mayotte in the Pacific Ocean.
The process of amalgamating the old regions has led to the creation of new institutional realities, which can create doubt and confusion in those who are planning a trip to France.
Let’s take a look at how the new French regions (in bold) have been amalgamated and brought together, alongside those that have remained unchanged.
Paris, also known as the Ville Lumiere enchants millions of visitors every year, who flock from all over the world to savour its retro charm and enchanting romantic atmosphere.
Paris encompasses the best of France: from the Louvre Museum for ancient art, the Centre Pompidou for contemporary art and the Musée d’Orsay for the Impressionists, to the picturesque views of the Seine, from the iconic Eiffel Tower to the elegance of the Champs Élisées, the streets of luxury and shopping, and the romance of Montmatre and the Latin Quarter.
And just a stone’s throw from the centre of Paris we also find the richness of the Palace of Versailles, with its 2300 rooms and magnificent geometric gardens. Not to mention Disneyland Paris, the fabulous amusement park celebrating cartoons, a must-see attraction for families.
Sunny, elegant and colourful. Provence attracts visitors from all over the world for one of the most beautiful sights in Europe: the lavender fields in bloom, stretching as far as the eye can see, colouring the landscape with magic.
Provence is a complete region: on the one hand the Alps enclosing the deep Gorges du Verdon, on the other some of the most picturesque and dynamic cities in the South of France such as Marseille, Aix en Provence and Avignon, which bewitched impressionist painters of the calibre of Van Gogh, Cezanne and Paul Gauguin.
The mix becomes complete with the perched villages of the hinterland, such as Roussillon and Isle sur la Sorgue, and the Roman archaeological sites, such as the spectacular amphitheatre in Arles and the Roman theatre in Orange.
Making this region absolutely unique are the unspoilt landscapes of the Camargue, a land of salt marshes, wild horses, flocks of flamingos and gypsies.
The French Riviera is the stretch of French coastline between the Italian border and Provence and is one of France’s most popular destinations. Famous for being the haunt of VIPs and the jet set, the Côte d’Azur celebrates popularity with the famous Cannes Film Festival and is renowned for its nightlife and beaches in Nice, St Tropez and Antibes.
However, the Côte d’Azur also knows how to surprise with small, semi-hidden gems, perched on the heights of the hinterland: the villages of Roquebrune Cap Martin, Èze, Ramatuelle or Saint Paul de Vence are charming villages, all worth photographing.
Facing the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, Brittany is the westernmost tip of France and is loved by tourists for its rugged and wild character, which blends with its magical and mysterious aura.
Starting from picturesque Saint Malo, one follows the enchanting Pink Granite Coast, a coastline characterised by sheer cliffs where the stone takes on this pinkish colour. The Customs Trail follows this very profile for 1300 km, encountering deep fjords, lush green meadows and picture-postcard lighthouses.
Also not to be missed is Carnac, on the opposite side of the peninsula: here you will find one of the oldest sites in France, comparable to Stonehenge, a megalithic settlement with more than 3000 menhirs spread over an area of 6 kilometres.
On the border with Brittany lies Normandy, one of the most interesting regions of France, exquisitely vintage, medieval and rich in history.
On the other, the Normandy landing beaches and military cemeteries tell of one of the most dramatic pages of 20th century history: the D-Day landing of the Allies during World War II to combat the Nazi advance in Europe.
This land, home of Calvados and Camembert, is above all famous for its most famous attraction: Mont Saint Michel, the religious sanctuary built in medieval times on a small island surrounded by Europe’s most impressive tides.
One of the great architectural and cultural jewels of France is the Loire Valley, a large UNESCO World Heritage site.
Along the enchanting course of the Loire River, there is an idyllic landscape dotted with delightful, perfectly preserved medieval towns such as Bourges, Tours or Orleans, surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye can see.
But the real pride of this region are its castles, almost 300 of them, which leave visitors literally spellbound. In the Loire Valley, in fact, you can admire the best of French Renaissance architecture, thanks to the spectacular châteaux of Chambord, Chenonceau, Azay le Rideau and Blois, or the more imposing fortresses of Angers, Saumur and Chinon, or the masterpieces of Villandry and Cheverny.
If you love fine wines and fairytale atmospheres, the tiny region of Alsace is your ideal destination.
Recently incorporated into the Grand Est Region, along with Champagne, the Ardennes and Lorraine, and nestled between Switzerland and Germany, Alsace boasts some of the most beautiful cities in France, such as Colmar and Strasbourg, famous for their Gothic cathedrals and perfectly preserved medieval city centres.
Along the Wine Route, an itinerary that winds through vineyards as far as the eye can see, are a series of exceptional medieval villages: with their delightful half-timbered houses in delicate pastel colours, they look like something out of a storybook.
Riquewihr, Eguisheim, Ribeauvillé and Kaysersberg, are just a few of these beautiful villages that, during the Christmas Markets, take on a magical appearance, unleashing all the fabulous festive atmosphere.
Halfway between French and Italian culture, Corsica is a rugged and wild land that alternates, Caribbean-coloured beaches such as Santa Giulia, Rondinara or Saleccia, with lively and sparkling, wonderfully scenic towns such as Ajaccio, Bonifacio and Bastia.
But the island is above all a mountain in the sea, covered with unspoilt heights that are ideal to travel by car or motorbike before reaching its unspoilt, hidden beaches that are so reminiscent of nearby Sardinia.