Although they’re not as much a part of the French popular culture landscape as newspapers, French magazines can be a worthwhile way to expand your vocabulary and cultural knowledge, not to mention pass the time.
There’s a wide range of magazines in France. Here are some of the most popular among French readers. We’ll also talk about how you can read them, wherever you are in the world.
Helpful French magazine vocabulary
Before we get to our list, here are some words that are good to know if you want to find or subscribe to a French magazine.
- un magazine – a magazine
- un/le magazine papier – the print version of a magazine (as opposed to the online/digital version). When talking about a magazine in general conversation, there’s no need to specify this; you would just say un magazine.
- numérique – digital or online version
- hebdomadaire – weekly
- mensuel(le)/bimensuel(le) – monthly/bimonthly
- s’abonner – to subscribe
- un abonnement – subscription
- abonné(e)(s) – subscriber(s)
- lecteurs/lectrices – readers. Often, magazines in the presse féminine category will address or refer to its readers in the feminine form.
- la politique -politics
- l’actualité/actu – news. Actu is a shortened, less formal version of this word.
- la jeunesse – youth/children’s
- la presse féminine – women’s magazines. Of course, not all women are interested in these magazines, and some men are.
- les potins – (celebrity) gossip items. This term can also be used in its singular form, le potin, to mean “gossip”.
- (les) people – celebrities, stars. This informal word can be used as a plural noun: les people. Or it can be used as an adjective: Toute l’actualité people (All your celebrity news). La presse people refers to celebrity tabloids/gossip magazines.
- un reportage – a news story or report. This word usually means that the article in question goes at least a bit in-depth, rather than just being a news brief or blurb. This term is also used for TV news.
The most popular French magazines
According to recent statistics, the most popular print magazines in France are actually TV listings magazines. Although these aren’t of interest to anyone living outside France, it’s good to know they exist, since you may occasionally see or hear them mentioned in French pop culture.
Other popular French magazine categories include women’s magazines, parenting magazines, culture, and general information and news publications.
Here’s a selection of well-known French magazines that we think would be especially helpful for French learners.
Currently the most popular news magazine in France, this center left magazine covers news headlines and politics, as well as cultural topics like the literary world. Its name was officially shortened in 2014. Before that, it was officially known as Le Nouvel Observateur, although it was often called Le Nouvel Obs or L’Obs for short.
L’Express is a right-wing weekly magazine with a focus on economics, politics, and world news.
Founded in 1997, Marianne is a center-left news magazine. Its name refers to Marianne, the national symbol of the French Republic.
Inspired by Time Magazine, this centre-right weekly news magazine offers in-depth looks at headlines and tries to showcase different points of view.
Founded in 1949, Paris Match is a weekly magazine that features a mix of news and pop culture. It’s best known for its profiles of people in the news, from politicians, to celebrities, and its photo reporting.
Like “women’s magazines”, the term la presse féminine is the name typically given to publications whose intended audience is women. Personally, I have a hard time with both phrases. For one thing, not all women are interested in articles about fashion, cooking, and beauty tips. And not all men aren’t interested in those things.
So let’s just take this term as a vocabulary lesson, but not a rule.
According to the source I cited previously, this was the second-most read magazine in France. Unlike the other magazines on this list, Version Femina is sold as a weekly supplement included with several regional French newspapers. This means it’s hard to subscribe to internationally, but you can visit its website to read some of its coverage.
This weekly magazine is also a top seller in France. It covers topics like beauty, health, style, parenting, and more.
Biba is a women’s magazine that features articles on love, sex, relationships, beauty, lifestyle, arts and entertainment, and pop culture. Its print version is available in a standard magazine size and a poche (pocket-sized), smaller version.
There are many international versions of Marie Claire, but France is the country where it got its start, in 1937, to be precise. The magazine covers women’s issues, but also lighter topics like fashion and beauty.
Like Marie Claire, Elle was founded in France. It features sections on beauty and fashion, but also lifestyle, culture, and news, among other topics.
The legendary fashion and lifestyle magazine has a French version, officially called Vogue Paris.
Another top seller, this magazine combines traditional presse féminine topics like beauty tips with tips on things like saving money, parenting, guides to legal procedures (in France, there is A LOT of paperwork and complicated language to these), health, and more.
Founded in 2009, this monthly women’s magazine has a proudly feminist and intellectual stance, but does it with humor and flair. It’s the only women’s magazine in France recognized as a publication of political and general interest by the French cultural ministry.
Celebrity news and gossip
Okay, this is going to go against the symmetry of this article, since none of the other categories has an intro, but I can’t help it. I have been a fan of French celebrity gossip magazines (la presse people) for most of my life. They’re my guilty pleasure. I love making a quick stop a newsstand before getting onto a long train ride or flight and grabbing a few of these. I just wanted to share a little bit of information that you, dear reader, might find interesting.
They’re light reading, but over the years, reading celebrity gossip magazines has taught me a lot of slang and informal expressions, not to mention given me a perspective on how the French see (or are expected to see) the world and celebrities.
One very interesting thing that many foreigners (including myself) are often surprised about when it comes to French celebrity gossip magazines is that, in addition to featuring stories and paparazzi photos of Hollywood and French stars alike, they also cover politicians!
These aren’t necessarily articles exposing scandalous behavior; you might simply see a member of the government out for a walk with their spouse, or attending a popular event. It’s even normal for the press to make jokes about these figures from time to time, although they remain tasteful.
Okay, so, I’ve said what I wanted to say about my favorite French magazine genre. Now, here are the most popular French celebrity gossip magazines:
Published weekly, Voici is probably the most famous French celebrity gossip magazine. There are also sections on fashion, beauty, TV listings and blurbs and reviews about new releases in movies and other entertainment, and more.
Another weekly celebrity gossip magazine, like Voici and Closer, Public also includes sections on things like fashion and beauty, as well as blurbs and reviews about new entertainment releases.
The major French celebrity gossip magazines trifecta is completed by Closer, another weekly (which also has a UK and German edition). Like Voici and Public, it features celebrity gossip and news, as well as fashion and beauty and other lifestyle and entertainment topics.
Published weekly, Gala covers entertainment, fashion, and other topics. It’s a bit more highbrow than the other magazines on this list.
There are magazines dedicated to many different kinds of sports in France, from motorsports, to football (soccer), to golf. These are two of the most popular:
This magazine is about all things football (soccer, to us Americans). But it’s not just the basic sports coverage you’d expect: the magazine often invites illustrious contributors like talented French author and personality Frédéric Beigbeder and British author and football fan Nick Hornby to write about football.
A weekly supplement of bestselling sports newspaper L’Équipe, offering in-depth coverage of many different sports stories.
Arts and culture
Télérama covers TV, music, cinema, and more. Interestingly, when researching for this article, I found out that it’s supposed to have a “Christian worldview”, but I’ve never noticed anything like that when reading it.
Often referred to as “Les Inrocks”, as its name suggests, this weekly magazine started out just covering rock music. Today, while still keeping both its leftist viewpoint and appreciation for rock, it features critiques, essays, and stories about all sorts of events and releases in the entertainment and cultural landscape.
Founded in the ‘60’s, this magazine covers rock, hip-hop, and many other genres of music, although not a lot of folk.
As you might have guessed from its title, LiRE is a monthly magazine about books and literature.
Founded in 1976, Première is a bimonthly magazine that covers movies, TV, and pop culture.
Science and geography
Founded in 1947, this popular science magazine is published weekly.
A monthly magazine devoted to travel and learning about places around the globe, Geo is similar to National Geographic, which means it also includes stunning photos.
With a title that means “This interests me”, this monthly magazine covers interesting topics in subjects like science, culture, health, and society.
This monthly magazine explores psychology in a mainstream way, with a focus on personal development. Not only are the articles interesting; the quizzes can be a fun way for French learners to practice.
Whether you’re a kid at heart or looking for a way to pick up or perfect some unexpected vocabulary, including instructions, school, and child -related words, children’s magazines can be a great tool for French learning.
There are a lot of French children’s magazines. The most popular of these have an edutainment bent. Some are for very young kids, while others target a pre-teen or teen demographic. Here’s just a small selection.
If you want more, you can have a look at this extensive list of French magazines for children and teens. Or type “magazines pour enfant” or “magazine pour adolescent” into your search engine of choice.
Founded all the way back in 1934, this weekly is the bestselling magazine for kids from 8-13. Each issue features comics, activities, interviews with people of interest to kids, and more. You might be surprised that Mickey Mouse is such a big deal in France, but the French love Disney, even though they’re uneasy about globalization and capitalism…well, the adults, anyway. Here’s a list of other French children’s magazines featuring classic Disney characters.
The title of this popular monthly magazine means “I love to read”, and it’s fitting; each issue contains an illustrated short novel. You’ll also find games and comic strips. There are a few different versions of J’aime lire, including one for slightly older or more advanced readers, and one for younger readers, making the overall target age range kids who are 6-13 years old.
Geared towards 3- to 7-year-old readers, this monthly magazine features characters from popular, homegrown French kids’ shows, most notably the charming Petit Ours Brun. Each issue contains comics, educational games, and other activities.
This monthly magazine for kids ages 8-12 features photos and drawings that illustrate information about all sorts of topics, from history to science. In a typical issue, you might find things like an illustrated, comic-strip format article about everyday life for kids in Ancient Rome, a series of funny squirrel photos, and a photo report on robots.
You can go to this site for reviews and a peek inside of some of the children’s magazines on our list.
Other French magazines
We’ve tried to choose some categories of French magazines that are popular, likely to be accessible to foreign readers in some way (online version, overseas subscriptions, etc.), and cover a range of different interests.
But if you don’t see a French magazine that seems interesting to you here, don’t worry; there are French magazines in many different categories, including ones we didn’t put on our list.
Other magazine categories we didn’t cover here include history, parenting, travel, photography, art, pets and animals, hunting and fishing, gardening, crafting, and more.
Have a look at this extensive list of French magazines to see if you can find a few that interest you.
Where to find French magazines
Most French magazines’ websites offer a lot of content that you can enjoy for free. But if you want to read an issue from cover to cover, it gets a bit more complicated.
You can subscribe to some French magazines via their website. If you’re overseas, you may only have access to the digital version, though.
In many cases, subscriptions to French magazines are done through a third party. For people living outside of France, some services that let you subscribe to French magazines include online platforms like UNI-Presse and Newsstand, which delivers to the UK and several other countries, including the US
Before using any magazine subscription site you’re not familiar with, do an online search to make sure the site actually exists and is trustworthy. A simple search with the site’s name can bring up helpful results. Or use a platform like Trustpilot.
If you live in or near a big city, you might also be in luck: many cities, especially ones with a large expat Francophone population, have French bookstores that sell at least a few periodicals. And in some places, you might even be able to find a few French-language magazines on mainstream newsstands. I know that was the case for me when I lived in New York.
If you can’t find a way to subscribe to a particular French magazine, or if you’re on a budget, check your local library. Many libraries have subscriptions to at least a few foreign magazines, in their print and/or digital editions. You can also make a request for your library to subscribe to a particular French magazine. It may not be a sure thing, but it’s worth a shot.
Hopefully, it’s not too hard to get your hands on a French magazine. They’re a fun way to increase your vocabulary and get to know more about specific topics.
Do you have a favorite French magazine – or a favorite subscription service? Let us know in the comments!