France, officially the French Republic, is a country with territory status in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country’s largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban centres include Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Nice, Toulouse and Bordeaux.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy. France is a developed country with the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest by purchasing power parity. In terms of aggregate household wealth, it ranks fourth in the world. France performs well in international rankings of education, health care, life expectancy, and human development. France was one of the first countries to create an environment ministry, in 1971. Although it is one of the most industrialized countries in the world, France is ranked only 17th by carbon dioxide emissions, behind less populous nations such as Canada or Australia.
With 83 million foreign tourists in 2012, France is ranked as the first tourist destination in the world. France has 37 sites inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List and features cities of high cultural interest, beaches and seaside resorts, ski resorts, and rural regions that many enjoy for their beauty and tranquility. With more than 10 millions tourists a year, the French Riviera (or Côte d’Azur), in south-east France, is the second leading tourist destination in the country, after the Paris region. It benefits from 300 days of sunshine per year, 115 kilometres (71 mi) of coastline and beaches, 18 golf courses, 14 ski resorts and 3,000 restaurants. France has been a centre of Western cultural development for centuries. Many French artists have been among the most renowned of their time, and France is still recognized in the world for its rich cultural tradition. Fashion has been an important industry and cultural export of France since the 17th century, and modern “haute couture” originated in Paris in the 1860s. Today, Paris, along with London, Milan, and New York City, is considered one of the world’s fashion capitals, and the city is home or headquarters to many of the premier fashion houses.
The French health care system is one of universal health care largely financed by government national health insurance. In its 2000 assessment of world health care systems, the World Health Organization found that France provided the “close to best overall health care” in the world.