France has 22 “regions” plus 4 “overseas regions” (Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana), which also have the status of “department”.
France also has overseas territories: French Polynesia and New Caledonia. In addition, St Pierre et Miquelon and Mayotte also belong to France and are “territorial collectivities” (in French: Collectivités territoriales).
The 22 regions of France.
Each region in France is divided into several departments (at least two), which are administrative units. Overall, France has 96 departments plus 4 overseas ones. These local government divisions are headed by a state-appointed préfet, and administered by an elected Conseil général. Departments are usually named based on prominent geographical features such as rivers or mountain ranges.
Following is a list of the 22 regions in metropolitan France along with their departments; the numbers in brackets ( ) indicate the department’s number. Each region has its own capital and its own flag.
(90) Territoire de Belfort
- Overseas collectivities and territories
(984) Terres Australes et Antarctiques
(986) Wallis et Futuna
(987) Polynésie Française
- Overseas regions and departments
Map of the French departments. Click on the map to enlarge it.
The departments are in bold on the map along with their number (each department has a number). The main city for each department appears with a blue dot.
Map of the French overseas departments and territories.
There are 36, 565 “communes” in France. A commune is either urban or rural.
- An urban commune is a city.
- A rural commune is a village.
- Communes that have less than 2,000 inhabitants are villages.
Overall, the French governance system is highly decentralized with significant autonomy to the regions, departments, and communes.
- Each region is responsible for its economical growth and overall development. The French regions are also responsible for building, maintaining and furnishing their high schools. They also have considerable powers for infrastructural spending (education, public transportation, funding universities and research, and assistance for business owners). Because of this, being the regional head of a wealthy region such as Île-de-France or Rhône-Alpes can be quite a high-profile position. Each region has its own budget, which creates many regional inequalities. Finally, the French regions also have to maintain the regional natural parks.
- Each department is responsible for maintaining and furnishing its middle schools as well as its libraries and archives. Departments also manage the fishing harbours.
- Communes are the smallest administrative units. To overcome the disadvantage of their small size, many communes have decided to share their budget in order to respond more effectively to their inhabitants’ needs. Communes are responsible for building, maintaining and furnishing their primary schools as well as their librairies, museums and archives. They also manage the sailing harbours.