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My Favorite Excursions from Studying Abroad in Paris, France

June 14, 2024
by Ella Madrak
A room crowded with many people and featuring high ceilings, long tall mirrors, intricate chandeliers, and a richly-painted ceiling

The Best Destinations to Experience Studying Abroad in Paris  

When studying abroad, there are endless possibilities of places to see and experience, and it’s been amazing to explore and experience different areas outside of the city. While in Paris, the arrondissements are very similar but there are also some differences. For example, in the 16th arrondissement, there are more luxury brands and higher-end apartments and it’s comparable to the Upper East Side in Manhattan. However, there are smaller areas like the 20th arrondissement that are more local and have more family-owned shops, restaurants, hair salons, nail salons, and many others. One thing that is so wonderful about Paris is how easy it is to get around and taking the Metro or bus can usually get you to your destination in under an hour.  

Although spending time in Paris provides chances to further learn about the city, exploring different areas around France and Europe is also very exciting. For example, through CEA CAPA I visited Versailles, Chartres, and Brussels, Belgium: all unique experiences and chances to explore different cultures and lifestyles.  



The first excursion through CEA CAPA was to visit and tour the Versailles Palace. Before coming abroad I had never been to the palace and didn't know what to expect. For example, I wasn’t aware that Versailles is also a town with residents and people who live there full-time. Additionally, I didn’t realize the sheer size of the palace and how when approaching it there are several different buildings, as well as gardens in the back of the palace.  

An outdoor garden area full of highly manicured hedges and fountains, all covered in snow

Although cold and snowy, the gardens at Versailles were still beautiful and the snow made it even more iconic!  

When we first arrived, I noticed the architecture was stunning and it was amazing to see the gold shining during the morning. Once we entered, it was interesting to learn more about the palace's history and what it was used for in the past. For example, I didn’t know that it was a government building that would’ve had thousands of people coming in each day. 

An interior room with high ceilings, tall marble columns, and a ceiling with detailed Baroque paintings

This is a shot of the Royal Chapel in Versailles, I had never heard of this so it was special to view it for the first time!  


My Favorites/Must-Sees 

Some of my favorite parts of the palace that are must-sees are:  

  1. Hall of Mirrors 

  1. The King’s and Queen’s State Apartments 

  1. The Royal Chapel  

  1. The Gardens

A room crowded with many people and featuring high ceilings, long tall mirrors, intricate chandeliers, and a richly-painted ceiling


Here you can see the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles; this was one of my favorite parts of the palace.  



After visiting Versailles, we had the chance to explore the town of Chartres which is around a one-hour drive from Paris and gives more of a small-town feel compared to Paris and Versailles. On this tour, we were able to explore the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres and attend a guided tour to learn more about its architecture and history. It was enjoyable to see the stained glass, sculptures, and paintings while walking around and I would highly recommend taking a trip to visit. 

The ceiling of a building as seen from directly below, feautring stained-glass windows and flying buttresses

This is a shot of the ceiling at the Cathedral Notre-Dame in Chartres highlighting the stained glass and architecture of the ceiling design.  



Finally, one of the most recent excursions I’ve taken has been to Brussels, Belgium, for an overnight stay. One thing I didn’t realize about Brussels is how close it is to Paris and how a short two-hour train ride can take you right to the city center and immerse you in a different country's culture.  

When arriving, I noticed the architecture was very different from that of Paris, and the main center had features of gold and traditional European architecture. Some of my favorite parts of the visit were having lunch in the center of the Grand Place, seeing the gold detailing on the buildings, and trying famous Belgian food, like waffles, chocolate, and French fries.  

The exterior of a tall ornate building featuring gold plating and decorations

In this photo you can see part of the Brussels city center, highlighting the gold and intricate details.  

My Favorites/Must-Sees: 

Some of my must-sees in Brussels are: 

  1. Grand Place 

  1. The Royal Palace 

  1. Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert 

  1. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts 

Although a short train ride from Paris, it was very interesting to observe a different country’s culture and recognize similarities and differences from Paris. For example, one of the main similarities is that people in Brussels speak French, English, and Dutch, which I wasn’t aware of before coming to visit.  

One of the other things that was new to me was taking the Eurail and BlaBlaCar Bus. Although the train is faster and makes it very easy to visit different cities, the bus was a great option, was less expensive than the train, and offered a very similar experience. For example, the seats were comfortable, there were charging outlets, and you could select your seats.  

Another thing that was new to me was staying in a hostel in Brussels which I had never experienced before. My friends and I stayed in the SafeStay Brussels City Center hostel and found it very enjoyable and comfortable for the night.  

Finally, I didn’t realize that Versailles had such a vibrant city center and 80,000 people call the city home. This shows you never know what a city is like until you visit.  

Overall, these past excursions were wonderful, and I would highly recommend visiting all the cities above, even if for a weekend trip!  

Ella Madrak is the Content Creator - Blogger in Paris, France, and is currently studying at University of Massachusetts.
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