Is California Bigger Than France? A Detailed Comparison

Whether you’re a geography buff or simply curious, you may have wondered how the sizes of California and France compare. California, located on the west coast of the United States, and France, the largest country in Western Europe, are both sizable regions with diverse terrains and climates. But when it comes to total area, which one is bigger?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: France is about 210,000 square miles larger than California. Keep reading for a detailed comparison of how the two places stack up in terms of land area, population, economy, and other metrics.

Land Area

California vs. France

When comparing the land areas of California and France, it becomes evident that France is larger in size. California occupies around 163,696 square miles of land area, making it the third largest U.S. state by size. On the other hand, France encompasses around 212,935 square miles of land.

This means that France is about 49,239 square miles, or 30%, larger than California in terms of total land area.

France’s larger land area can be attributed to its diverse geography, which includes expansive plains, mountain ranges like the Alps and Pyrenees, and beautiful coastlines along the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the English Channel.

California, on the other hand, is known for its stunning coastline, rugged mountains like the Sierra Nevada, and diverse ecosystems, ranging from deserts to forests.

It is interesting to note that despite its smaller land area, California is home to a population of nearly 40 million people, making it the most populous state in the United States. On the other hand, France has a population of over 65 million people, making it one of the most populous countries in Europe.

To put the land area comparison into perspective, imagine California and France side by side. California would appear significantly smaller in size compared to France. However, both regions offer unique landscapes, cultural experiences, and attractions for visitors and residents alike.

Water Area

Inland Water Area

In addition to land area, both California and France include significant water areas. California boasts approximately 7,734 square miles of inland water, which includes lakes and rivers. On the other hand, France has a larger inland water area of around 13,000 square miles.

This means that France has a greater number of lakes and rivers within its territory compared to California.

Territorial Waters

When it comes to territorial waters from the ocean and other bodies of water, California has approximately 3,427 square miles. This includes coastal areas and other water bodies that fall within the state’s jurisdiction.

However, France takes the lead in this category with a much larger territorial water area of around 31,966 square miles. This vast expanse of territorial waters contributes to France’s overall water area.

Total Water Area

When we consider both inland water and territorial waters, France far surpasses California in terms of total water area. France has an impressive total water area of about 44,966 square miles, combining its inland water and territorial waters.

In comparison, California’s total water area amounts to approximately 11,161 square miles. So, in terms of water area, France has a significant advantage over California.

Total Area

When comparing the total area of France and California, it is important to consider both land and water. France boasts a total area of approximately 257,901 square miles, making it one of the largest countries in Europe.

On the other hand, California covers an area of 174,857 square miles, making it the third largest state in the United States.

Land Area

In terms of land area alone, France spans about 248,573 square miles, while California covers approximately 155,973 square miles. This means that France’s land area is around 92,600 square miles larger than California’s.

It’s worth noting that France’s diverse landscape includes stunning coastlines, picturesque countryside, and majestic mountain ranges, contributing to its significant land area.

Water Area

When it comes to water area, France has a total of around 9,328 square miles, while California has about 18,884 square miles of water. This means that California has a larger water area than France, thanks to its extensive coastline along the Pacific Ocean.

Total Size Comparison

When combining land and water, France has a total area of around 257,901 square miles compared to California’s 174,857 square miles. So in terms of total size, including both land and water, France is approximately 83,044 square miles or 47% larger than California.

This significant difference in size highlights the vastness and diversity present in both regions.

For more detailed information on the total area of France and California, you can visit the following authoritative sources:


In terms of population, as of 2023 California far exceeds France with around 39.5 million vs. 67.8 million residents respectively.

When it comes to comparing the population of California and France, the numbers speak for themselves. As of 2023, California has a population of approximately 39.5 million people, while France has around 67.8 million residents. That’s a significant difference in terms of sheer numbers.

California’s population has been steadily growing over the years, fueled by factors such as immigration, a high birth rate, and its reputation as a hub for technology and innovation. On the other hand, France, with its rich history and cultural heritage, has a more stable and gradually increasing population.

The difference in population between California and France can be attributed to a variety of factors. California’s booming economy, attractive job opportunities, and diverse culture have attracted people from all over the world, leading to a significant increase in its population.

In contrast, France has a more established population, with a slower rate of growth.

So while France is much larger geographically, California actually has around 72 million more people living there.

It’s interesting to note that while France is geographically much larger than California, with an area of approximately 551,695 square kilometers compared to California’s 423,970 square kilometers, California actually has around 72 million more people living there.

This highlights the density of population in California and the significant number of people who have chosen to make it their home.

California’s population density is significantly higher than that of France. With its bustling cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, California attracts millions of residents and tourists alike.

The state’s vibrant cultural scene, beautiful beaches, and diverse landscapes make it an attractive destination for people from all walks of life.

It’s worth noting that while California has a larger population than France, it does not necessarily mean that it is more densely populated. France’s population is spread out over a larger area, with a greater proportion of rural areas compared to California’s more urbanized landscape.


Both California and France boast diverse climates, thanks to their large sizes. In California, you can experience everything from scorching hot deserts to picturesque alpine regions to pleasant temperate coastal zones.

Similarly, France offers a range of climates, including coastal, mountainous, and continental.

California’s Climate

California’s climate is heavily influenced by its size and geographical features. The state stretches over 800 miles from north to south, encompassing various microclimates. For instance, the northern part of California experiences a Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers.

As you move inland towards the Central Valley, the temperatures become hotter, and the region is known for its sweltering summers.

However, California’s climate isn’t just about the heat. The state’s diverse topography also gives rise to different climate zones. For instance, the Sierra Nevada mountain range experiences alpine climates, with colder temperatures and heavy snowfall during the winter months.

Meanwhile, the coastal regions enjoy a more temperate climate, with cooler summers and milder winters.

France’s Climate

While California’s climate is influenced by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and its Mediterranean climate, France’s climate is shaped by its latitude and its surrounding bodies of water, including the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, and the Mediterranean Sea.

As a result, France generally experiences cooler winters and milder summers compared to most parts of California.

France’s coastal areas benefit from the moderating effects of the ocean, leading to more temperate climates. In regions like Brittany and Normandy, the summers are pleasant and the winters are not excessively cold.

On the other hand, the mountainous regions of France, such as the French Alps, have colder climates due to higher elevations.


California’s Economic Dominance

California, known for its vibrant tech industry and thriving agricultural sector, boasts the largest economy among all U.S. states. As of 2021, California’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at around $3.4 trillion, making it an economic powerhouse.

In fact, if California were an independent country, its economy would rank as the fifth-largest in the world.

France’s Impressive Economic Output

France, on the other hand, has a GDP of around $2.6 trillion, making it the third-largest economy in Europe. While France’s economic output is substantial, it falls short of California’s impressive figures. This comparison highlights the economic prowess of California, despite its smaller land size.

Diversification vs. Sector Dependency

Although California surpasses France in terms of economic output, it’s important to note the difference in economic diversification between the two regions. France has a more diversified economy, with significant contributions from industries such as manufacturing, aerospace, tourism, and luxury goods.

On the other hand, California’s economy heavily relies on the tech industry, agriculture, and services. The state is home to some of the world’s largest technology companies, contributing significantly to its GDP.

The agricultural sector, with its vast farmlands and favorable climate, also plays a crucial role in California’s economic success.

While California’s economy may be more concentrated in certain sectors, it continues to innovate and lead in those areas, driving its economic growth and global influence. France’s diversified economy, on the other hand, allows for resilience and stability across a range of industries.

For more information on California’s economy: You can visit the Bureau of Economic Analysis website.For more information on France’s economy: You can visit the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies website.


While many people assume the large country of France far exceeds the relatively small state of California in size, the actual difference is smaller than you might think. France is only about 47% larger than California in total land and water area.

However, France surpasses California significantly in other metrics like population, climate diversity, and economic diversification. So while the two are closer in pure geographical size, they differ greatly in other comparing factors.

Hopefully this detailed overview gave you a clear sense of how California and France stack up. Let us know if you have any other head-to-head location comparisons you’d like explored!

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