Currency

Europe's colorful common currency, the Euro (Photo by José Luis Sánchez Mesa)
Europe's colorful common currency, the Euro

The French unit of currency is the euro (€)

The French unit of currency is the Euro (€). Indeed, the euro is the currency used by most of Western Europe (save the U.K., Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway).

Roughly speaking, US$1 is worth €0.85, or €1 equals US$1.20. 

You can learn the current daily exchange rate with the currency converter links listed to the right or below, or look in the business section of any major newspaper.

Euros and eurocents

Euro bills come in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500

A euro is divided into 100 eurocents.

Euro coins include:

  • €0.01 (bronze)
  • €0.02 (bronze)
  • €0.05 (bronze)
  • €0.10 (gold)
  • €0.20 (gold)
  • €0.50 (gold)
  • €1 (silver with a gold rim)
  • €2 (gold with a silver rim)

Note that while all Euro bills look the same across the continent, the coins are minted by each country and are different. (In porous Europe, the coins cross borders all the time, so you will undoubtedly get a continental mix in any handful of change, regardless of which country you happen to be in.)

The back of each coin is always the same: showing the amount in a big font and a version of the map of Europe.

On the front of the coins, however, each country can put what it likes.

Most monarchies just went with tradition and put the queen or king's head on there.

The French put Marianne (a female face embodying France) on the smaller, bronze coins, the Sower (a left over from the old francs) on the gold coins, and on the €1 and €2 a stylized tree ringed by the good ol' "Liberté Egalité Fraternité" slogan.

Austria went with Alpine flowers on the bronze coins, famous buildings on the gold ones, and Mozart on the €1 and Nobel pacifist Berta von Suttner on the €2.

You tend to get a lot of German ones wherever you go, so get used to seeing the pfennig's old oak leaf on the bronze coins, the Brandenburg Gate on the gold, and a stylized German Eagle on the two-toned coins.

The Irish just slapped on a harp on everything.

Italy, on the other hand, went all out and put a different monument or image derived from a famous work of art on every single coin.

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