August 19, 2022

A department (French: départements) is an administrative division of France and its former colonies. It is similar to the English county. There are 100 departments in France, 96 of which are in the metropolitan area of ​​the country while the other four are outside the country. They are grouped into 26 regions and divided into 342 arrondissements. The capital city of a department is called a prefecture.

General characteristics

Compared to other administrative units in other countries

In continental France (metropolitan France except Corsica) the average land area of ​​a department is 5,965 km² (2,303 square miles), which is 2.5x the average land area of ​​a ceremonial county in England and 3.5 x is the average land area of ​​a county in the United States. In the 1999 census, the median population of a department in continental France was 511,012, which was about two thirds (2/3) of the median population of a ceremonial county in England and 21x the median population of a county in the U.S.


Each department is governed by a General Council that is elected every six years. Since 1982, due to the decentralization policy of the national government, the chief executive of a department is the president of the council. Before this, the préfet, representative of the national government and chosen by the president of the Republic, was the chief executive of a department. The préfet resides in the préfecture. He was assisted by the sous-préfets of each arrondissement; the capital city of an arrondissement is called a sous-préfecture

Size and population

Departments usually have an area of ​​4,000–8,000 km² and a population of 250,000–1,000,000. The largest is the Gironde (10,000 km²) and the smallest (based on the area) is the city of Paris (105 km², not including the surroundings that are now organized as other departments). The largest population is Nord (2,550,000) while the smallest population is Lozère (74,000). See also the list of French departments by population.

Number of departments

Each department has its own number: the two-digit number can be found in the postal code, in the INSEE (including social security numbers), and in the car license plates (but this last use will be eliminated due to the new vehicle numbering system that was started in 2006). There is no number 20, but there are 2A and 2B. The code "98" is used in Monaco and not in one of the French departments. The ISO 3166-1 code for France is "FR"; the ISO 3166-2 code of French metropolitan departments is their number prefixed with "FR". (Those abroad have their own two-letter code.)


The departments were created on January 4, 1790 by the National Constituent Assembly in place of the provinces. The purported purpose is to replace the provincial system with a system that is more understandable, but part of the purpose is to break down cultural differences to create a more united nation. The English version of this page can be translated into Binisayang Sinugubanon.

See also

List of regions and departments of France List of French departments by number List of former departments of France