The French Flag

The "tricolour" (three-colour) flag is an emblem of the Fifth Republic. It had its origins in the union, at the time of the French Revolution, of the colours of the King (white) and the City of Paris (blue and red). Today, the "tricolour" flies over all public buildings. It is flown at most official ceremonies, both civil and military.


In the early days of the French Revolution, the three colours were initially brought together in the form of a cockade. In July 1789, just before the taking of the Bastille, Paris was in a state of high agitation. A militia was formed; its distinctive sign was a two-colour cockade made up of the ancient colours of Paris, blue and red. On July 17, Louis XVI came to Paris to recognize the new National Guard, sporting the blue and red cockade, to which the Commander of the Guard, Lafayette, it appears, had added the royal white.

The law of 27 pluviôse, Year II (February 15, 1794), established the "tricolour" as the national flag. At the recommendation of the painter David, the law stipulated that the blue should be flown nearest the flagstaff.

Throughout the 19th century, the blue of the legitimist royalists contended with the three colours inherited from the Revolution. The white flag was re-introduced under the Restoration, but Louis-Philippe reinstated the "tricolour," surmounting it with the Gallic rooster.

During the Revolution of 1848, the provisional Government adopted the "tricoloure," but the people on the barricades brandished a red flag to signal their revolt.

Under the Third Republic, a consensus gradually emerged around the three colours. From 1880 onwards, the presentation of the colours to the armed forces, each July 14, came to be a moment of high patriotic fervour.

While the Comte de Chambord, claimant to the French throne, never accepted the "tricolour," the royalists ended up rallying round the national flag at the time of the First World War.

The french flag today

The constitutions of 1946 and 1958 (article 2) instituted the "blue, white and red" flag as the national emblem of the Republic.
Today, the French flag can be seen on all public buildings. It is flown on the occasion of national commemorations, and it is honoured according to a very precisely-defined ceremonial. The French flag frequently serves as a backdrop when the French President addresses the public. Depending on the circumstances, it may be accompanied by the European flag or the flag of another country.

Slogan of the French Republic

“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood), the slogan of France is part of our national heritage.

The notions of liberty, equality and brotherhood, associated by Fénelon at the end of the 17th century, became more widespread during the Age of Enlightenment.

The slogan “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” stems from the French Revolution: it appeared in public debate before the proclamation of the First Republic as of 1790.

Like many revolutionary symbols, the slogan fell into disuse during the Empire. It reappeared during the Revolution of 1848, with a religious dimension: the priests celebrated the Brotherhood of Christ and blessed the trees of liberty that were planted at that time. When the Constitution of 1848 was drafted, the slogan “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” was defined as a “principle” of the Republic.

It was rejected during the Second Empire, but finally became established under the 3rd Republic. There is still some resistance, even among partisans of the Republic: solidarity is sometimes preferred to equality, which implies social levelling, and the Christian connotation of brotherhood is not always unanimously accepted.

The slogan was inscribed on the pediments of public buildings for the celebration of 14 July 1880. It appears in the Constitutions of 1946 and 1958 and is now an integral part of our national heritage. It can be found on widely distributed objects such as coins and stamps.

The Eiffel Tower, symbol of Paris and of France

The Eiffel Tower, a symbol of Paris and France, has enjoyed a level of success that no one could have possibly imagined when it was built in 1889. It attracts some 7 million visitors every year and over the decades has become one of the country's most important monuments.

An icon of Paris and an icon of France, the Eiffel Tower, or “Iron Lady” as it is affectionately known, rises 324 meters above the city of light. A vertiginous emblem of the Industrial Revolution right in the heart of Paris and cornerstone of the Universal Exhibition of 1889, the Eiffel Tower just keeps getting younger, scarcely betraying its true age. Bathed in a golden light at nightfall (since 1985), the tower sparkles for five minutes at the start of every hour. Once again, this feature was intended to be a temporary one to mark the transition to the year 2000 but it remains in place to this day. With its gracious and vertiginous fragile silhouette, the Eiffel Tower was only ever intended as an ephemeral landmark when it was built by Gustave Eiffel, in 1889.

A tourist favorite… for the past 120 years

Its ultimate destiny has turned out to be quite different: it was never dismantled, saved by its immense public success at the Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900, as well as Eiffel's scientific experiments. Initially dedicated solely to radio transmission (the first radio transmissions in 1898 and first public radio broadcast in 1925) followed by telecommunications (up to and including digital terrestrial television), the tower really took off as a tourist attraction during the 1950s, becoming the most visited attraction in France behind the gardens of the Château de Versailles. Since then, visitor numbers have been rising steadily. Today, of the 7 million people that visit the monument annually, 75% come from abroad and consider the Eiffel Tower to be an absolute must on their itinerary. It has to be said the “Iron Lady” has pride of place in any report on Paris. It has provided an inspiring backdrop to numerous films, starting with Abel Gance's La Fin du Monde (The End of the World), in 1930. Disproportionate, it has everything required to embody Paris, France and the Parisian imagination.

An out-of-the ordinary monument, boasting restaurants and attractions

Gustave Eiffel's construction is an imposing feature. Rising 303 metres into the sky (excluding antennae), it weighs in excess of 10,000 tonnes and is made up of 18,000 individual metal sections assembled using 2,500,000 rivets. It has been repainted around twenty times and was even lightened by 1,340 tonnes during the major make-over carried out in 1985. To reach the first two levels, people must take the lifts or use the steps – 704 steps to the second level. The ascent offers an atypical tour of the heart of the Tower's metal structure, with unique views over the capital.

From the second level, visitors can admire the whole of Paris and its symbolic monuments, including Notre-Dame, the Louvre and its Pyramid, the Arc de Triomphe and even, in the distance, the Château de Versailles. Each level offers visitors a broad range of visual, cultural and taste experiences: “l'Epopée tour Eiffel” or Tales of the Eiffel Tower, and Cineiffel on the first level offering original images of the tower, the Jules Verne restaurant on the second level and the vertiginous champagne bar at the top … The tower is open until 11 p.m. allowing visitors to admire the City of Light in all its glory, a festival of bright and colourful lights against the backdrop of a starry night.

120 years of spectacular kick-offs and final flourishes

With the Champ-de-Mars, the magnificent Parisian park laid out at its feet, and, on the other side of the river Seine, the esplanade du Trocadéro offering a glorious view of the Tower, the Iron Lady has long since been a theatre of spectacular lighting effects and outstanding events: Bastille Day fireworks on July the 14th, firework display for the year 2000, Blue Tower to coincide with the French Presidency of the EU and a multi-coloured display to mark its 120th anniversary, various facilities (ice rink, garden, etc.). From the outset, it has inspired artists, painters (Bonnard, Vuillard, Dufy, Chagall, etc.), singers and writers. The cubist painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) dedicated many of his works to the tower. During the Belle Epoque, the cabaret artist Mistinguett expressed her amazement at its continued existence. In the 1970s, the singer Jacques Dutronc was concerned it might have cold feet. Rather than just a brief moment in time, the Tower has become the “soul” of the City of Light, dominating the Seine and the Paris skyline. “A useless and irreplaceable building, a familiar world and heroic symbol, the witness to a century and a permanently new monument, an inimitable and endlessly reproduced object…”, said Roland Barthes (La tour Eiffel, published by Delpirre in 1964).

France, dream destination for river tourism

France can be discovered by water, thanks to its 6,700 km of developed rivers and canals. It has the largest network of waterways in Europe.

There are no "dry regions" in France, according to the specialists. From the Loire to the Vézère, from the Marne to the canals of the North, river tourism is a different way of visiting the country. Since the early 1980s, increasing numbers of people come for short boat rides or cruises lasting several days, on board "river liners" or "hotel-barges". Slightly removed from traditional tourist circuits, water tourism allows visitors to travel at a different rate, taking the time to admire the countryside. In sectors such as small pleasure boats (house-boat) rental or hotel-barges, the majority of clients are foreign - German, Swiss, English and American - and are able to appreciate this France which is revealed progressively along the banks.

This type of tourism also allows visitors to discover the vast heritage which borders French waterways and canals. The public body Voies Navigables de France (Navigable Waterways of France) (VNF) manages and develops the French network. According to VNF, cruise boat and small pleasure boat companies generate an annual turnover of around 230 million Euros, with at least equivalent economic effects for the areas travelled through.

The administrative map of Navigable Waterways of France (pdf) provides an overview of the French waterway network. A map of the state of the network is also available on the website of Navigable Waterways of France.

Canals dedicated to pleasure sailing

Since they were closed to freight transport during the 1970s and 1980s, many canals in France have been fully dedicated to pleasure sailing. The Midi Canal, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most famous and most popular of these canals. The Bourgogne Canal, created in the 18th century, passes close to remarkable monuments in the region, such as Cîteaux Abbey, the Hotel Ducal and Dijon Cathedral, the Gallo-Roman site of Alesia, the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay, etc. Another remarkable site, the Briare Canal Bridge, the longest canal bridge in Europe, allows the Loire to be crossed.

For centuries, many French villages became rich from these canals. The banks of the waterways, from the Marne to the Rhône, attract open-air cafes and various festivities, including recent events such asParis Plage and its many variations in Toulouse, Rodez and Tourcoing! The banks of the Saint-Martin Canal in Paris are very popular with young Parisians who have taken over this now festive venue close to the Place de la République. The section in the 19th district (Ourcq Canal, La Villette Basin) is also increasingly popular.

The return of river cruises

Great river cruises are also becoming fashionable again. For several years, the département of Oise has been rediscovering its river and wants to make the most of the widening of the Seine Nord Canal, which will connect the Seine Basin to northern Europe, to relaunch tourism in the Oise. Compiègne and Nogent-sur-Oise hope to entice the tourists who are likely to sail between Paris and the Benelux countries.

 French waterways and canals are generally divided into seven basins:

  • The Western basin includes the Loire, the Breton canals and the Maine basin (Mayenne and Sarthe). It crosses the entire Armor peninsula and connects the Loire from Nantes to Brest.
  • The South-West Basin includes the canals of Marais Poitevin, the Dordogne and its tributaries (such as Vézère), the Garonne, the Lot and the Adour network. Culinary pleasures and historic sites abound.
  • The South-East Basin crosses several regions - Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence-Côte-d'Azur and Rhône-Alpes. The jewel in this very popular network is the second part of the Midi Canal, from Toulouse to Sète.
  • The Central Basin, which crosses the Central regions of Bourgogne, Auvergne and Franche-Comté, allows visitors to discover picturesque groves and towns, with a choice of stopovers such as Sancerre and Auxerre.
  • The northern Basin, connected to Belgium, crosses large Northern towns such as Lille, Arras and Douai. The Saint-Quentin canal forms the longest navigable passage in France.
  • The North-West Basin attracts the largest number of visitors. It includes the Seine and the Parisian canals (Saint Denis Canal, Saint-Martin Canal).


Article Courtesy Of France Tourism