France has 45 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List and has cities and gorgeous villages of high cultural regard, beaches, alpine geography, ski resorts, and rural regions for those who want a retreat.
French history can be traced to 5th century BC, when a Gallic identity consisting of the Belgae, Aquitani and Gauls (Celts) began to be forged. Despite the Gauls crossing the Alps in 390 BC, beseiging the fledgling power of Rome and remaining a threat for centuries, it eventually succumbed to Rome in 52 BC and remained a part of the Roman empire until the late 5th century.
By the Early Middle Ages, Gaul was fragmented and eventually came to be known as Francia. By the 10th century Viking invasions led to the region of Normandy (from the word 'northman') which became significant as William Duke of Normandy conquered England, becoming king and the equal of the French king, but technically a vassal of the king of France, leading to tension between England and France which would last for hundreds of years.
The Middle Ages saw heavy French involvement in the Crusades to restore the Holy Lands for Christianity. Much of France was ruled by the English kings but The Hundred Years War between England and France, ending in 1453, saw France win back territories from England, eventually leaving just the port of Calais in English hands until as late as 1532.
An explosion of French culture and gave rise to the first colonial empire, claiming parts of the Americas, India, amd Africa, while engaging in a long set of wars called the Italian Wars, as well as going to war with Spain. It lost overseas possessions yet expanded in Europe, but a financially ruinous decision to successfully support the American fight for independence from Britain contributed to the French Revolution.
Discoveries in science, of which France was a major player in the Enlightenment, further undermined the monarchy, leading to revolution, the creation of a Republic, 10 years of strife, external wars, and an extremely busy Madame Guillotine.
By 1799 Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic, and went on to conquer much of Europe, disastrously overextending in Russia and succumbing to General Winter in 1812. Fatally weakened, Napoleon was beaten by its many enemies and exiled to the British island of St Helena.
A new monachy, another revolution, another republic... fast forward to the 1920s and France had reached it's apogee, ruling about 8% of the world's land mass.
Despite this apparent strength, France was shattered by World War 1, losing 1.4m troops by its end in 1918 - nearly 4% of its population.
In World War 2 it was rapidly defeated by Germany, and lost many of its colonial possessions in Asia to the Japanese. After World War 2, many of France's colonial possessions became embroiled in anti-colonial conflicts, with first French Indochina and then Algeria gaining bloody independence.
Today, France still retains overseas territories, many of which have the same status as mainland France but it's focus is now on developing the European Union, of which it was a founding member whose origins are traced back to 1951.