There are many ways to get to know a country and culture. One is by reading its newspapers – or at least knowing what those newspapers are and what they stand for.
As is the case for most countries with a free press, France has a number of newspapers, and each one has a particular connotation. For instance, a bobo (bourgeois- bohemian, roughly equivalent to a hipster) will probably buy Libération at the news kiosk, while a businessman will tuck a copy of Le Monde into his briefcase.
As someone learning French, there is another advantage to learning about the major French newspapers: reading one(s) that interest(s) you can be a great way to expand your language skills and vocabulary.
Let’s look at the best-known French newspapers, from the key differences between them, to how to read them wherever you are in the world.
Helpful French newspaper vocabulary
Before we begin, if you’re interested in French newspapers, here are some words it’s good to be familiar with:
- un journal – a newspaper
- un quotidien – a daily newspaper. The word quotidien can also mean “daily” or “every day”. Here are some examples of how to use it.
- hebdomadaire – weekly. This is where the word “Hebdo”comes from in the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
- numérique – digital/online version
- le journal papier – the print version of a newspaper. Note that you only use this term when explicitly indicating that it’s the print version; otherwise, just say le journal.
- un canard – an informal term for “newspaper”.
- un/une journaliste – journalist. Note that this can be masculine or feminine. Examples: Jacques est journaliste. (Jacques is a journalist.) Alors, c’est elle la journaliste qui a écrit cet article fascinant ! (Ah, so she’s the journalist who wrote that fascinating article!)
- le journalisme – journalism
- l’actualité – news, current events
- abonné(e)(s) – subscriber(s)
- s’abonner – to subscribe
- un abonnement – a subscription
- lecteurs – readers
- à la une – front page story/top story or stories
14 must-know French newspapers
There are many newspapers in France, but these are the best-known.
Note that, as this helpful article about the press in France points out, France doesn’t have a tradition of Sunday newspapers; most of its major newspapers are published daily.
Founded at the demand of Charles de Gaulle at the end of the Second World War, Le Monde is one of the most widely-distributed French newspapers, and the easiest to find in print outside France.
Published daily, it covers French current events, world news, economy, politics, and culture.
Founded in 1846, Le Figaro is the oldest French newspaper still in print and one of the oldest newspapers in the world.
Considered centre-right, Le Figaro is the equivalent of conservative newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal or the Times. It’s published daily.
Madame Figaro is a magazine supplement published with the Saturday edition. As its name suggests, it’s considered a “women’s magazine” in the traditional sense, and features articles on beauty and fashion – but also some pieces about issues like feminism and the condition of women around the world.
Founded by famous philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and journalist Serge July, Libération started with a rather revolutionary stance following the protests of May 1968.
This daily newspaper is now considered centre-left, although it’s clearly more on the left than Le Monde, for example. It’s the typical newspaper for serious Leftists, but also bobos (bourgeois-bohemians) to read. Many of its readers refer to it as Libé.
Le Parisien – The Paris newspaper
Founded in 1942 as the newspaper of the French Resistance, Le Parisien is dedicated to news of the Paris region, but also has a national edition called Aujourd’hui en France (Today in France). Both are published daily.
Although it covers some national and international stories, Le Parisien is the best newspaper to follow if you’re interested in Paris-related news and events.
Mediapart is a news website created in 2008 by the former editor in chief of Le Monde.
Unlike most French newspapers, its income comes entirely from subscription fees to guarantee its independence.
Thanks to its independence, Mediapart has been able to play a major role in the revelation and investigation of a number of political scandals.
Le Canard Enchainé is a satirical newspaper that is published weekly. Its name literally means “the chained duck”. Canard is also a French slang word for “newspaper”.
It regularly investigates political and economic scandals and heavily relies on puns and cultural references, which makes it particularly hard to understand for French learners.
Founded in 1982, Charlie Hebdo is a weekly satirical newspaper featuring cartoons and articles that regularly stir controversy. You could think of it as a very rough equivalent to the show South Park, in terms of its crude humor and provocation that can be quite on point, nonetheless.
The newspaper is proudly anti-conformist, which means that its content regularly mocks everything (and everyone), from politics, to religion. Due to its provocative cartoons of Muhammed, it was the target of terrorists in 2011 and, famously, in 2015.
Unfortunately, you may know Charlie Hebdo not because of its content, but because of the 2015 attack, which killed 12 people, including several famous French cartoonists and contributors to the paper. The tragedy is an event that has marked recent French history.
Although not everyone was a fan or subscriber of Charlie Hebdo, and not everyone agreed with its content, after the 2015 terrorist attack, French and international communities rallied to support it and uphold the freedom of the press. You’ve probably seen the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), which was created to show solidarity with both the newspaper itself, and the larger idea of freedom.
Charlie Hebdo continues to publish – and provoke controversy – weekly.
Le Monde Diplomatique is a left-wing newspaper available in 26 languages.
Even though its parent company is the newspaper Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique enjoys full editorial independence and is known for its dislike of capitalism.
Published monthly, it features in-depth articles about current affairs, politics, and culture.
Les Echos is a financial newspaper with a liberal stance, which makes it the equivalent of The Financial Times.
It regularly publishes economic analyses from leading economists, but also covers topics such as science and innovation.
L’Équipe is the most famous French newspaper dedicated to sports.
It mainly covers football (soccer), rugby, cycling, and car and motorcycle racing.
Founded 1904 as the newspaper of the French Communist Party, L’Humanité is now an independent left-wing newspaper.
La Croix is a newspaper dedicated to world news, economy, and culture.
Even though it’s a Catholic newspaper (its name literally means “The Cross”), its audience is becoming more and more varied, since it covers general interest topics.
This free daily newspaper has no particular political affiliation, and most of its fame comes from its ubiquity and accessibility in terms of price and where to get it: Aimed at commuters in major French cities, editions are usually found in stands in or around Metro stations and other transport hubs. Each edition covers local as well as national and international news.
The name “20 Minutes” refers to how much time it should take to read the paper. This makes it perfect for part of a commute – and also for those of us who want to practice reading the news in French but who may not have much time.
There are no subscription plans for the print version, but readers from abroad can read its free digital edition.
Le Gorafi is the French equivalent of The Onion, the perfect news website for relaxing and having fun while improving your French reading skills.
The name “Gorafi” is the name of the French newspaper Le Figaro in verlan (French syllable-reversing slang).
Regional French newspapers
There are many regional newspapers in France. This list includes the best-known ones, as well as some interesting statistics about their readership.
If you want to get familiar with French regional newspapers at a glance, here are the most popular for each major region of the country:
Paris and the Île-de-France and Oise: Le Parisien
This regional daily has a lot of clout, since it’s the capitol’s newspaper. But it also covers news about France. You can read more about it in our list of major French papers, above.
Brittany/Normandy/Pays de Loire: Ouest France
Ouest-France is the top-selling daily newspaper in France, and the most-read French newspaper in the world.
The paper takes a centrist or slightly conservative view, and covers both local and national news. There are 47 editions of the paper – one for each département of the region it covers.
Southwest France (Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Dordogne): Sud Ouest
This daily newspaper features regional and national headlines, and is known for its rigorous reporting. Unlike most French newspapers, it’s considered politically neutral.
Northern France (Hauts de France, Pas-de-Calais) : La Voix du Nord
This regional daily covers the North of France, as well as national news.
Southeast France (including Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Provence, Alpes, Cote d’Azur, Savoie): Le Dauphiné libéré
This daily paper is best known for its coverage of regional news and events. There are 24 different editions for the different départements in the region.
Lorraine, Franche-Comté, and surrounding areas : L’Est Républicain
This daily paper covers local events and tends to take a conservative stance.
Alsace: Les Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (often called by its abbreviation, DNA (Les DNA) )
This might sound like a bleak title, but remember that dernier in French can mean “last” but also “latest”. In this case, it’s the latter.
The paper has been around since 1877, and has 18 editions for different locales in the area.
Many areas of central France, including Auvergne, Puy-du-Dôme, Corrèze, and Creuse: La Montagne
This daily newspaper’s website is known for allowing its journalists to add their own photos and other materials to their articles.
PACA (Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) : La Provence
This daily newspaper covers local as well as national news.
Can’t find the region or département of France that you’re interested in? Use this extensive list to find local newspapers from other parts of France, as well as more newspapers from some of the regions listed here.
Bilingual newspapers and news websites for French learners
Most French newspapers have an average level of difficulty and vocabulary. But what if you’re not fluent in French yet?
The following news websites and podcasts provide bilingual (English/French) versions or detailed explanations of most or all of their articles.
VoxEurop is a European magazine available in 10 European languages, including French.
The magazine translates articles from major French and European newspapers such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and Libération.
That makes it a great way for you to read a selection of articles from French newspapers with translations in several languages.
News in Slow French is a podcast featuring news stories read in slower than normal French, allowing learners to hone their listening skills.
Some content is available for free, but you’ll need a paid subscription to get access to all episodes with transcriptions and notes.
Created by Radio France, the main French radio broadcaster, le Journal en français facile is a show dedicated to world news in which two journalists discuss headlines using basic, rather than intellectual or informal French. If you want to check something you’ve heard, or if you prefer to read French news, you can download a free transcript of an episode by clicking on its title.
Newspapers for children
Children’s newspapers are an excellent choice for French learners because they use simple language and often explain expressions and concepts in more detail than traditional newspapers.
Here are a few you can read:
Le journal des enfants (sport, science, culture, good news)
1 jour 1 actu (news)
You can find more newspapers for kids in French by doing an online search for “journaux pour enfants”.
Where can I find more French news to read and listen to?
If the sources we’ve listed here just aren’t enough, check out our article on French reading resources, where you’ll find reading material as well as some strategies and tools for reading in French.
And if you’re a podcast person, here’s a list of our favorite French podcasts (as well as some we don’t like quite as much).
You can also find more things to read, listen to, watch, and otherwise experience in French in our post about (free) online French resources and media of all sorts.
How can I read and subscribe to French newspapers?
A few of the newspapers on this list, like 20 Minutes, may be completely free to read online. Most of them will allow you free access to at least a few articles in a given period. But if you want to read a print French newspaper regularly, you can subscribe to most of them, wherever you live in the world.
Most French newspapers’ websites have a button marked S’abonner (Subscribe), Abonnements (Subscriptions), or some variant of one of those words, near the top of their homepage. Click on it and you’ll often find several subscription plans, including only digital, or print and digital.
If you want to subscribe to lots of French newspapers but your budget is tight, check out your local library. Many libraries have subscriptions to at least a few of the major French newspapers, and some will even give you access to French newspapers on your mobile device or e-reader.
You may also be able to read French newspapers through online magazine subscription platforms like Kindle Unlimited and Zinio. These services give you access to an impressive number of online magazines and newspapers for a small monthly fee. Of course, before subscribing, check to make sure that the French newspapers you’re interested in are included in their offer.
Do you read French newspapers? Which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!