There are two categories of item that would be considered as symbols of France:
- 'Official' Symbols, such as the flag, Marianne and the cockerel
- 'Unofficial' Symbols, such as the Eiffel Tower, the baguette or the beret
I've tried to list the most common of these in the two categories below.
Official Symbols of France
The first three of these symbols are included in the French Constitution:
1) the phrase or motto 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité', which is a modified version of various phrases used around the time of the French Revolution
2) the National Anthem, called the Marseillaise
3) the French flag
The remaining symbols listed here as 'official' are generally recognised but do not have a legal standing:
- the French logo, as used on official logos, post, documents etc. The logo combines the colours of the flag with the official motto
- the figure of Marianne, the symbol of Liberty
- the France cockerel is a long-standing symbol of France, dating back to Gallic times - it came about because the words for cockerel (rooster in US) and Gallic were very similar in ancient French. The cockerel appears on stamps, coins, the French Official Seal etc, despite Napoleon announcing that it was inappropriate to use the cockerel, saying "the rooster has no strength, in no way can it stand as the image of an empire such as France".
Unofficial Symbols of France
Eiffel Tower - frequently used abroad as a symbol or representation of France, the Eiffel Tower is the most instantly recognisable building in France
Baguette - the archetypal French bread, the baguette is a long thin loaf beloved by the French...and so difficult for other nations to make well! see french bread.
Beret - the black felt cap worn tilted to one side, the beret is used more in caricature images of France than as a symbol, but it really is worn by many men of the older generation in France, and perhaps nowhere else
Fleur-de-lis - the lily flower, in a symbolic/graphic form is often used to represent France, and has done since the 12th century kings of France incorporated it in their symbols. It still forms part of several of the regional and departmental flags of France.
flag of the Hautes-Alpes department
Boules / Petanque - almost every village in France has a petanque court, where the game is played with unceasing enthusiasm. In brief, a small marker ball is thrown some distance in the petanque court, and then the contestants have to throw their metal boules to finish as close as possible to the marker - preferably dislodging a couple of competitors in the effort.
Joan of Arc - not so much a symbol as a 'representation of the French ideal' Joan of Arc turned the tide aginst the English in the Hundred Years War...the rest, as they say, is history. See Joan of Arc in Hundred Years War - the conclusion.
The Guillotine - despite its popular image as an instrument of terror, the guillotine was invented (by Mr Guillotin) as a way of making executions more efficient and less drawn out. A goal it achieved, although its widespread use for executing thousands of prisoners during the 'Reign of Terror' after the revolution gave rise to its subsequent reputation.
The Tour de France remains one of the great symbols of France.