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10 Most Popular Sports in France: Horse Riding is the Second One!


In France, sport is more than just a pastime; it’s an embodiment of cultural pride and heritage. From the bustling football stadiums echoing with chants to the graceful tennis matches at Roland Garros, and from the challenging terrains of the Tour de France to the rugby fields of the south, the French landscape is rich with athletic fervor. This deep-rooted passion for sports not only reflects the nation’s competitive spirit but also its dedication to tradition, elegance, and camaraderie. Indeed, the world of sports in France offers a vibrant glimpse into the nation’s heart and soul.
We’ve crafted an exhaustive list featuring the country’s premier ten sports. This selection captures the vast range of athletic pursuits, mirroring the diverse tapestry of France’s sporting ethos, from the sun-kissed beaches of the Mediterranean to the majestic heights of the French Alps. Brace yourself to explore the vast realm of these sports and the boundless passion the French hold for them.

What are the Most Popular Sports in France?

Of course, the popularity of these sports can vary based on factors like recent international successes, emerging stars, or major events hosted in the country. But these have been among the top sports in France in recent years.

1. Football

Football, or soccer, reigns supreme in France, with “Les Bleus,” the national team, amplifying this love by winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and 2018. These triumphs have bolstered national pride and inspired younger generations, leading to increased participation and the foundation of numerous football academies. This surge in grassroots football, combined with professional clubs’ emphasis on youth development, has produced globally successful French players. Moreover, football stands as a societal glue in France, uniting diverse fans in shared passion and celebration.

2. Tennis

Tennis enjoys immense popularity in France, fueled by the achievements of France’s athletes and sports teams. Historic figures like René Lacoste and contemporary stars such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have elevated the sport’s profile, infusing national pride and inspiring the next generation. The nation’s tennis infrastructure, from esteemed clubs and academies to the iconic French Open at Roland Garros, supports both budding talents and recreational players. The French Tennis Federation’s initiatives and the successes of sports teams in France, combined with tennis’s recreational appeal, solidify its position as a beloved sport in the country.

3. Horse Riding

Horse riding, or “équitation,” stands among the top sports in France, rooted deeply in the nation’s culture and history. French equestrians have a legacy of international success, especially in show jumping and dressage, elevating the sport’s prestige. The country’s vast network of equestrian centers, coupled with the French Equestrian Federation’s initiatives, fosters young talent, offering both competitive and recreational opportunities. Beyond championships, the sport thrives recreationally, with many enjoying the scenic French countryside on horseback, emphasizing the unique bond between rider and horse.

4. Basketball

Basketball has cemented its place as a beloved sport in France, with its visibility growing significantly over the years. The success of the French national teams, coupled with the achievements of French players like Tony Parker and Rudy Gobert, has heightened the sport’s profile. With the French Basketball Federation’s initiatives and the prominence of professional leagues, the question “Is basketball popular in France?” finds its clear answer: Yes, and its appeal spans from grassroots to elite levels, engaging fans and players alike across the nation.

5. Judo-Jujitsu

Judo’s prominence in France is undeniable, making it one of the nation’s most celebrated martial arts. With impressive performances by the national teams in global competitions, including the Olympics, French judokas like Teddy Riner and Clarisse Agbegnenou have inspired a new generation. The French Judo Federation’s efforts, coupled with numerous judo clubs across the country, further reinforce its standing. Beyond competition, judo’s emphasis on discipline and personal growth makes it appealing for both young athletes and those seeking self-defense and fitness.

6. Handball

Handball has surged in popularity in France, earning a spot on the list of sports deeply embraced by the nation. The stellar performances of French national teams in global tournaments, like the Olympics and World Championships, have heightened its profile. Stars like Nikola Karabatic and Allison Pineau have inspired younger generations. The French Handball Federation actively promotes the sport, fostering young talent through clubs and youth programs. Handball’s team-oriented nature, fostering camaraderie and strategic thinking, resonates with many, making it popular in schools and local communities alike.

7. Rugby

Rugby is a cornerstone in France’s sports culture, with French sport teams like the men’s “Les Bleus” and the women’s national team enjoying considerable international success. The French Rugby Federation actively supports grassroots development, leading to a strong youth participation in clubs and schools. Legends like Serge Blanco have inspired younger generations. Beyond the competitive scene, the sport’s values of camaraderie and respect, coupled with the vibrant atmosphere at matches, solidify rugby’s cherished status in France.

8. Golf

Golf in France has grown in popularity, with traditional French sports witnessing the sport’s appeal through skill and outdoor enjoyment. Successes of French golfers like Jean Van de Velde on international platforms have elevated its recognition. The French Golf Federation supports youth development, making the sport accessible to younger players. Emphasizing discipline, patience, and etiquette, golf resonates with French youth. With world-class golf courses and facilities, the sport attracts both competitive and recreational players, making golf clubs social and networking hubs in France.

9. Canoe Kayak

Among the Most Popular Sports in France, Canoe Kayak stands out with its unique blend of adventure and natural beauty. The outstanding achievements of French canoe kayak teams on the global stage have contributed significantly to this popularity. The French Canoe Kayak Federation (FFCK) plays a crucial role, especially in promoting youth engagement. Young enthusiasts are particularly drawn to the sport’s thrilling nature and immersion in picturesque French waterways. This growth and interest have cemented Canoe Kayak’s position in the sporting landscape of France.

10. Sailing

Sailing is a significant sport in France, reflecting its deep maritime roots and vast coastlines. The accomplishments of French sailors in competitions like the Vendée Globe have amplified the sport’s stature. With the French Sailing Federation (FFV) championing youth participation, a new generation is increasingly drawn to the sport. Offering a mix of skill, strategy, and nature, sailing attracts young enthusiasts. With numerous sailing environments, from coastlines to lakes, the sport is accessible for all levels. Beyond competitions, many in France enjoy sailing recreationally, valuing its serenity and adventure.


In conclusion, the Most Popular Sports in France offer a vivid glimpse into the country’s cultural and athletic tapestry. Whether it’s the fervent passion for football or the growing interest in activities like sailing, these sports play a pivotal role in shaping national identity and fostering community spirit. Their widespread appeal and the nation’s achievements on international stages underscore the significant place these sports hold in the hearts of the French people.


What are the most popular sports in France?

Soccer is the most popular sport in France, with Ligue 1 being its premier league. Rugby, especially in the south, holds significant appeal. Cycling, highlighted by the Tour de France, has a rich tradition. Tennis, with events like the French Open, is widely followed. Basketball and handball have also seen growing interest, thanks to successful national teams.

Has France hosted any major international sporting events?

Yes, France has hosted several major international sporting events. Notably, France has organized the FIFA World Cup twice, in 1938 and 1998. They’ve also held the Rugby World Cup in 2007 and will do so again in 2023. Additionally, France annually hosts the Tour de France, one of cycling’s Grand Tours, and the French Open, a Grand Slam tennis tournament.

What is the Traditional Sport in France?

The traditional sport of France is “pétanque,” a form of boules where the goal is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet. Originating in Provence in the early 20th century, pétanque is commonly played in towns and villages across France, especially during summer gatherings or local tournaments.

Are women’s sports popular in France?

Yes, women’s sports are gaining popularity in France. Soccer, handball, and tennis are among the sports where women’s teams and athletes have garnered attention. The Women’s World Cup hosted by France in 2019 notably boosted the profile of women’s soccer. Efforts to promote gender equality and increased media coverage have further elevated the prominence of women’s sports in the country.

What Sports Do French Children Play?

French children engage in various sports, with soccer being a top favorite. Other popular activities include tennis, judo, basketball, and handball. Swimming is also common, often introduced at a young age. Additionally, cycling and sailing are enjoyed, reflecting France’s rich Tour de France and maritime traditions. These sports shape France’s youthful athletic culture.

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