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What To Know About France’s Beloved Pharmacies

When people think about what they love about visiting France, there are some common themes. Food, culture, and style often crop up in these conversations. However, for those who have lived in France for a while, there can be some interesting alternative sources of positivity. Key among these are the pharmacies. 

It may seem strange that pharmacies might be considered beloved by a nation. However, the status of pharmacies in France is reflective of the role they play in French society. They’re not the sterile outlets run by large corporations you might find in the U.S. Rather, pharmacies feature prominently in everyday lives in communities across the country.

We’re going to take a moment to explore this idea a little further, covering everything you should know about France’s beloved pharmacies.

Photo Credit: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

They Are Everywhere

One of the main things to know about the pharmacies in France is that they are everywhere. You’re unlikely to have an experience in which you need to drive across town to have a prescription filled or grab some ibuprofen. In 2020, there were a recorded 20,736 pharmacies in France, with many small communities still served by a significant number of outlets.

So, why are pharmacies so ubiquitous in France compared to the U.S. and other countries? Well, in many cases, it comes down to stricter regulation. French pharmaceutical legislation prevents common remedies like ibuprofen and some cold medicines from being sold by any store except a pharmacy. As a result, there are a greater number of pharmacies available to ensure everybody has access to helpful, over-the-counter medicines.

Another influence of the number of pharmacies in France is the rate of medical service use in the country. French people are generally considered to be among the highest users of prescription medication in Europe. This is supported by a universal healthcare system that means citizens can have access to the treatments they need regardless of their income. As such, a large number of pharmacies are needed to serve patients.

They Prioritize Quality

France generally has a reputation for maintaining high standards in every aspect of society. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that French pharmacies tend to have a strict commitment to quality. This is present across a range of areas. Not the least of these is that pharmacies tend to maintain a stock of cult beauty products that address everything from skincare to hydration. Their availability in these community healthcare stores ensures everybody has access to high-quality goods.

Another point of quality prioritization is in the advice pharmacists provide. In areas where locals don’t have easy access to doctor’s offices, they get advice from pharmacists. This isn’t limited to the use of medications, either. Professionals help people to maintain better self-care habits that have an impact on their quality of life. This includes improving hygiene practices, utilizing preventative care services, and some aspects of nutrition.

Indeed, pharmacists in France are committed to providing quality care even with regard to less traditional treatments. For instance, homeopathy is embraced to a wider extent in France than in many other countries. It falls to pharmacists to provide consumers with reliable information about what products can make a genuine difference. This has become a significant subject as of late, with the phasing out of French insurance coverage for homeopathic medicines. The guidance provided is invaluable when consumers have to invest in these items themselves.

They Play a Unique Community Role

One of the interesting aspects of pharmacies in France is how they’re treated by citizens. Rather than being just another faceless business, they’re an integral part of French community life. Locals know these spaces are accessible points to get expert and considerate attention from people who genuinely care about their wellness.

For instance, people trying to feel energized for the entire day can gain effective vitamin supplements as conveniently as others might grab a coffee. The French pharmacy can also provide a range of stress relieving and sleep quality solutions that boost efforts in this area. Not to mention that with a simple visit they can get insights into reducing their smoking habit in ways that maintain both health and energy.

Another important thing to note is that there are no pharmacy chains in France. French laws state that only qualified pharmacists can run pharmacies and they’re limited to only a single pharmacy. As such, they are likely to have more personal and meaningful relationships with customers than you might from a corporate pharmacy common in other countries.

Interestingly, you’ll also find that French pharmacies will provide services that are representative of the activities in their region. A great example of this is mushroom identification. In areas that are popular for mushroom foraging, locals can bring their finds to the local pharmacy. The pharmacist can then provide advice on whether the found fungi are edible or potentially toxic.


Pharmacies in France are beloved by citizens for a variety of reasons. Their ubiquitous presence illustrates how integral they are to the daily lives of locals. The commitment to high-quality products and advice demonstrates pharmacists’ dedication to also boosting the quality of life. Not to mention that pharmacies’ place at the heart of communities speaks to the meaningful connections they make with all those who come through their doors. In a world of industry-led pharmacies, the rest of the world could learn a lot from the French approach.


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