12 Most Popular Sports in France

France, like other countries, has popular sports in that people are avid players. The Rugby World Cup (2007), the FIFA World Cup (1938 and 1998), and the Tour de France, the world’s largest cycling race, have all been held in France. They were a strong supporter of the Olympic Games’ resurrection at the end of the nineteenth century. The most popular French sports are as much a part of French culture as croissants and red wine. The level of participation and attention is strong, and the French people are tremendously proud of their athletes.

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Listed below are some of the best sports the French love:

1. Football

Football, most known as soccer in the United States, is one of France’s most popular sports. France hosted the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and the public and media were enthralled by the event. They believe that the tournament will aid the future development of this sport in the female division. Only three countries have won three major tournaments in a row, including the FIFA World Cup 2018, the UEFA European Football Championships, and the FIFA Confederations Cup. Football’s popularity in France began to develop in 1897, and the French National Football Team was formed seven years later. The French football federation was founded in 1919 as a result of its international success, and it eventually gained control of the French cup.

2. Tennis

Tennis is another popular French sport, and every year in the spring, the top clay-court experts in the world descend on Roland Garros to put their skills to the test. Tennis is so popular in France that there are websites dedicated to tennis vacations in France, such as World Travel Tennis.

Tennis is a French name that first appeared in English in the mid-1300s, derived from an old French term that means “hold”, “get”, or “take” a signal sent by the server to the other player that he is preparing to serve.

 3. Horse Riding

Horseback riding is surprisingly common in France, with 670,000 registered riders. While the competition does not get much attention, it is a popular activity for many people.

France is known for its horse breeds, particularly in Normandy. The “Arc de Triomphe” race in Paris and the “Longchamp” racetrack are two of the country’s most prominent horse races.

4. Basketball

Basketball is highly popular in France, which may come as a surprise. The Fédération Française de Basket-Ball oversees the national basketball team, and they won their first major title in 2013 at the EuroBasket 2013 championship in Slovenia Basketball’s pop culture aspects contributed to its popularity in France. Players like Michael Jordan and businesses like famous sports shoes and apparel made their way into mainstream fashion and culture, inspiring French citizens to follow suit.

5. Judo-jujitsu

While there are many talented judokas in France, two, in particular, stand out. With two Olympic gold medals, four World Champion titles, and one European Champion title, David Douillet was one of the finest in his category. After him came Teddy Riner, the greatest judoka in history, with two Olympic gold medals, ten World Championship titles, and five European Championship titles.

6. Handball

The men’s handball team had never won a title before 1995, but France has recently become a worldwide success story. For the previous two decades, it has most certainly been the most powerful country, challenged only by northern European countries. The squad has won six World Championships, two Olympic Games, and three European Championships.

7. Rugby

Rugby is on seven on the list, which may surprise you, but the reason is simple: while it is popular throughout the country, it is particularly popular in the south and in Paris.

In terms of competition, national teams competing in the “Top 14” are among the best in Europe. ASM Clermont, Stade Toulousain, and RCT Rugby Club Toulonnais are among them.

The national team may be unpredictable, losing to weak countries such as Italy on occasion and dethroning the renowned All Blacks in the 2007 World Cup quarterfinals after one of the most dramatic hakas in history.

8. Golf

The first golf course in France was established in Pau in 1856 by British residents in the area. In 1912, the “Fédération Française de Golf” was established, and it now governs amateur and professional golf in France. There are over 600,000 golfers in France today, including 410,000 licensed players. Women golfers make up 27.5 percent of the country’s 733 clubs.

 9. Canoeing


France, believe it or not, can be a wild country with many breathtaking sceneries. Beautiful rivers that run through the country, as well as magnificent mountains such as the Alps or Pyrenees, are common examples.

As a result, canoeing has become extremely popular in France. Tony Estanguet, the most successful French athlete in this sport, has three Olympic gold medals and is currently working on the 2024 Paris Olympics. 

10. Sailing

In France, sailing is also very popular. The country not only has rivers and mountains, but it also has an ocean which is the Atlantic, and a sea, the Mediterranean. There are many beautiful and best beaches to visit in France. There is so much to feast on and submerge yourself as you explore this amazing place. Furthermore, several renowned sailing tournaments, such as the “Route du Rhum” and the “Vendée Globe,” began in France, boosting the sport’s appeal.

11. Auto Racing

In June of 1906, the French Grand Prix, “Great Prize” was held for the first time. Grand Prix races were held on public highways around towns until the first permanent autodrome was established in Paris.

To demonstrate how popular auto racing events are in France, the country hosts at least 15 major car racing events on a regular basis. It also has many Formula One racing champions.

12. Cycling

It’s impossible to discuss popular French sports without discussing the world-famous Tour de France. Every year in July, this three-week cycling event takes place. While Lance Armstrong contributed significantly to the Tour’s popularity in the United States, there is no doubt that France’s terrain had a role as well. Although dangerous at times, especially when it rains, this beautiful environment helped to raise and sustain awareness of this sport. 

In summary, the sports listed above are just some of the popular sports the French love.  Though this is just a short list, it’s clear that these games have had a global impact. Furthermore, it is evident that France has a lot to be proud of, as its athletes are extremely gifted and continue to create headlines throughout the world.