15 Most Beautiful College Campuses in the US

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College Campuses

Our country’s most beautiful college campuses don’t just attract prospective students with their families. Tourists flock to these impressive institutions to admire their perfectly manicured lawns, gorgeous architecture, and significant landmarks. With their extensive collections of buildings, it’s no wonder that college campuses are architectural gems.

In the US, college campuses built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries feature beautiful, unified styles. Usually, the Collegiate Gothic movement drew from historical English buildings and the Federal, neoclassical, and Romanesque movements.

Campuses also have elegant landscape designs, whether perfectly manicured quads or natural woodlands. While most universities have included incredible modern builds by 20th-century architects in recent years, they’ve also worked hard to maintain their visual legacies.

We’ve searched throughout the country to find the 15 most beautiful college campuses in America, taking into consideration both architectural heritage and setting. Is your alma mater on our list? Read on to find out!

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The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

This particular university is the only one designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the US. When Thomas Jefferson founded this university, he not only helped with its educational development, but he also set the standard for how these institutions should be designed.

So what makes THIS place so unique? Highlights of this elegant campus include the Neoclassical domed Rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, and the Small Special Collections Library, which showcases the most extensive collection of letters, documents, and early printings of the Declaration of Independence.

You should also check out the beautiful gardens, which display their own individual personalities. You’ll find everything from azaleas and sweetgum trees to magnolias and pecan trees. But perhaps the highlight of the campus is one of its more simple treasures… The Lawn.

It’s a long, dense stretch of grass outside the pavilions that beckons students and faculty to linger together… just like Jefferson would’ve wanted.

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Rhodes College, Memphis, TN

If being on a college campus inspired by an English Gothic village is up your alley, then you’ll love Rhodes, and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived at Oxford! This college was established in 1848 as the Masonic University of Tennessee and was initially based in Clarksville. The relocation to Memphis came in 1925, and after a few names changes, the college adopted its present title in 1984.

Palmer and Kennedy Hall, designed by architect Henry Hibbs in 1925, have spots on the National Register of Historic Places. But you won’t just see the exquisite brickwork at this location in academic facilities. Students still live in Hibbs’s Robb and White dormitories, where Gothic charm blends seamlessly with modern amenities.

Majestic oak trees grown from seedlings were taken from the school’s original location in Clarksville, and they fittingly unify the layout.

Brown University, Providence, RI

Brown University blends in perfectly with its surrounding city. Almost so much so that you might not even realize you’re on campus. There’s a mix of Georgian, Victorian, and Gothic buildings here. Initially established in 1764, this University is one of the nine Colonial Colleges based before the American Revolution and is also known as a member of the prestigious Ivy League.

At Brown, the Main Green is the site of everything from major concerts to juggling practice, sunbathing, and even political rallies. And the “quiet green” is a peaceful enclave where you’ll find students reading against the pillars of Manning Chapel, gazing up at campus landmark Carrie Tower, or chatting quietly on the grass with friends.

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Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

It’s hard to dismiss the landscape when walking across Princeton’s 500-acre campus, as stunning-looking Gothic structures and immaculately tamed green expanses are everywhere in sight. And the jewel in the crown of the Ivy League institution, at least when it comes to architecture, is the stately Nassau Hall.

The hall has been standing in some form since 1756, ten years after the university’s foundation, and has managed to remain a constant feature as the campus has grown around it. Nassau has been no stranger to misfortune, however, as it has burnt down not once but twice in 1802 and 1855.

The building’s present Italian Renaissance-style incarnation is courtesy of Scottish-American architect John Notman, although it has undergone several renovations since its heyday.

Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Kenyon College was established in 1824 and was formerly situated in Worthington. This university is where you’ll find the earliest Collegiate Gothic-style building constructed in the country. Its tower was completed in 1829, but a fire destroyed the building in 1949, and the original blueprint was used to completely recreate the residence hall, which you can still see today. The school found its present location in Gambier not long afterward, and its campus now spans 1,000 acres. Students attending this college get to eat in the Great Hall.

An iconic design that includes wood paneling, lofty carved rafters, and stained-glass windows portraying scenes from literary classics. Other campus highlights include the Greek Revival Rosse Hall, a 650-seat concert hall, the lovely Cromwell Cottage where the college president lives, and Ransom Hall with its unique castle-like design and sculpted crows on its roof.

But to really be struck speechless, walk Middle Path through campus on an autumn day as the vegetation bursts with yellow, red, and orange all around you.

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Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Northwestern University’s main campus was founded in 1851 and is 240-acres in Evanston and sits on the edge of beautiful Lake Michigan. So, the location is a big draw for those who love jogging, yachting, and kayaking or for those who just want to enjoy having a picturesque spot to sit on and think. It’s surrounded by stretches of green, trees, and flowers. And buildings like the historic University Hall add plenty of grandeur.

An imposing presence, University Hall is a Victorian Gothic-style Joliet limestone tower that was completed in 1869, and it’s based on the designs of Chicago architect Gurdon P. Randall. Culture vultures, meanwhile, can enjoy the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art’s Sculpture Garden, with works by noted artists including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and Joan Miró.

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Duke University, Durham, NC

There are over 254 buildings on this college campus, and none will impress you more than Duke Chapel, a beacon of Collegiate Gothic architecture. Travel and Leisure has confirmed this thanks to its awe-inspiring array of exquisite details. As the grandest of them all, this chapel seems to pierce the sky with its quartet of spires, a towering landmark on the 8,470-acre grounds of the Durham, North Carolina university.

The 210ft marvel is the work of Philadelphian Julian Abele, head architect at local firm Horace Trumbauer at the time of its construction. The tower bears all the hallmarks of the elegant Collegiate Gothic style, like the pointed arches and giant stones, for example.

This college also has a bell tower that beautifully combines both North Carolinian stone and limestone trim. The chapel was finished in 1932 and still acts as a place of worship for Duke’s student body and its visitors today.

Lewis and Clark College, Portland, OR

This college was officially established in Albany in 1867 as Albany Collegiate Institute, only switching locations to Portland in 1938. Located at the top of a hill and surrounded by a beautiful wooded area, this college’s campus has a lot of fantastic scenery within its 137 acres. It’s focused on the quaint, rustic-looking Frank Manor House, designed by local architect Herman Brookman and initially finished in 1924 as a mansion with 35 rooms.

The institution purchased the surrounding estate in 1942, finally turning it into Lewis & Clark College. Today, the Tudor-style manor house still acts as a stunning cornerstone of the campus, complete with its own waterfall and reflection pool on the back terrace.

Also, be sure to bring your camera when visiting the Estate Gardens to enjoy the wisteria and the reflecting pool, and adding to the setting, you’ll enjoy incredible views of snow-capped Mount Hood in the distance.

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Yale University, New Haven, CT

Yale University is considered one of the “Big Three” American schools and is among the most prestigious universities in the United States. So then, it obviously makes sense that it has a suitably splendid 837-acre campus to match its outstanding reputation for academics. The location is filled with awe-inspiring structures, including the richly decorated Gothic Revival-style Sterling Memorial Library.

Designed by American architect James Gamble Rogers and completed in 1931, the library is intricately detailed inside and out, with gargoyles and thousands of stained-glass windows. Yale’s history goes back to 1701 when it was established as a Collegiate School.

But it didn’t move to its present New Haven location until 1718, at which point it became Yale College, and eventually being renamed Yale University in 1887.

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Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL

This college’s majestic Ponce de León Hall is the architectural meaning of St. Augustine. It originally opened as a luxury hotel in 1888, but Flagler College acquired the former Ponce de Leon Hotel, a stunning Spanish Renaissance masterpiece, in 1968.

The design is packed with lavish Tiffany crystal chandeliers and stained-glass windows, making it spectacular both inside and out. New York-based architects Carrère and Hastings were responsible for the design of the building, which was the first in the US to be made of “poured-in-place concrete.”

Flagler College acquired the property shortly after the academic institution’s establishment in 1968, and much of this historic 19-acre campus has been gradually restored to the intervening period. As a result, Flagler is a genuinely elegant looking place at which to study.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC

For those who don’t know, no, this isn’t a castle! Georgetown’s Healy Hall was built by Paul J. Pelz and John L. Smithmeyer, who designed the Library of Congress. The National Historic Landmark features both Gothic Revival and Romanesque details. If you’re visiting Washington, you should add this college to your must-see bucket list!

While at this breathtaking campus, pick up a kayak at the Key Bridge Boathouse and enjoy picturesque views of the DC and Virginia skylines. You can also cycle on the water with Potomac Paddle Club’s social, BYOB “cycle boat” experience or sit back and relax while the motor does its thing.

Also, since you’re already in the area, tour the gorgeous Tudor Place. This historic landmark has been in this city since 1816 and has been home to descendants of Martha Washington for six generations. Discover furnishings, household items, and fascinating Washington-related artifacts inside the elegant house. The five-plus acres worth of gardens on the estate make for a wondrous and scenic outdoor experience.

Stanford University, Stanford, CA

Visitors to Stanford University’s 8,180-acre campus are greeted with lines of trees that open up to a lush lawn and beautiful flowerbeds. Even Stanford itself describes that at the head of the quad is “the university’s architectural crown jewel,” the Stanford Memorial Church.

This university was established in 1885 with the help of architect Charles A. Coolidge and was finished in 1903. Romanesque and Byzantine details dominate here, and the glorious multicolored mosaic on the facade was designed by Salviati & Co. The Hoover Tower’s observation platform provides the best overall view of “The Farm,” named so because of the campus’s history as a horse farm belonging to Jane and Leland Stanford.

Rumor has it that you can see San Francisco on a clear day. Rodin’s Gates of Hell highlights a spectacular outdoor sculpture garden outside the Cantor Arts Center. And, of course, your campus tour wouldn’t be complete without checking out the grand mosaics and architectural wonders of Memorial Church.

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Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

This college has the kind of beautiful grounds you would expect from a prestigious Ivy League school. Even former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower is said to have remarked of this campus: “This is exactly what a college is supposed to look like.” Trees and green spaces are everywhere on the main campus, tucked away into 269 acres of rural area. At the site’s center, you’ll find Dartmouth Green.

A lovely grassy area to work, rest and play… or even protest, as others have done in the past. You’ll also find impressive structures that add a touch of grandeur, and one that stands out is Rollins Chapel, designed by Boston architect John L. Faxon, completed in 1885.

Even though this college’s history is long and illustrious, since 1769, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Lack of funds was a big issue up until the early 20th century, when campus and faculty were rehabilitated, helping Dartmouth become the respected academic institution it is today.

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Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

As the oldest college in the US, Harvard has an architecturally diverse campus, from the Georgian redbrick buildings surrounding Harvard Yard to Le Corbusier’s only work in the country, the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Founded in 1636, this University is regularly featured at the top of lists of the world’s best universities.

It’s only natural that such a prestigious institution would have a fantastic location to match, and its main campus in Cambridge won’t disappoint. Beautiful buildings surround the 209-acre site, with the High Victorian Gothic Memorial Hall, completed in 1877 and later designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark.

Alumni Henry Van Brunt and William Robert Ware were responsible for the hall’s magnificent multicolored design, nicknamed “a great, bristling brick Valhalla” by celebrated American-born author and former American-born author Harvard Law School student Henry James.

The University of the South, Sewanee, TN

The massive 13,000-acres campus overlooks the Tennessee Valley and features Collegiate Gothic architecture. You’ll be surrounded by a lush forest, lakefront bluffs, and a garden ravine that follows a stream through the area. During springtime, it blooms with daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.

One of the most beautiful structures boasted by Sewanee is All Saints’ Chapel, which is thanks to the work of American architect Ralph Adams Cram. The building has a tower, a rose window, and arched ceilings, drawing on designs from iconic places like the University of Oxford’s University Church and the Notre Dame in Paris. The chapel has had a long history with its development. Its construction began in 1905 and ended in 1959, but the school was established in 1857.

What did you think about all of these amazing colleges and universities? Have you been to any of them? Let us know in the comments down below!

For the history buff inside you, here are 15 US Historical Cities That Will Delight You!

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5 thoughts on “15 Most Beautiful College Campuses in the US”

  1. Hmm all Ivy League schools? Only two out west? Obviously never been to CU Boulder. One of the most beautiful campuses in the US. Maybe you should wander west of the Mississippi .

  2. Andrew Mesterhazy

    I was fortunate to spend my undergraduate years at two of the listed Universities, UVA and Sewanee. I remain extremely proud of both, and the care that the trustees and alumni have takeover the years to maintain the beauty of the campuses (known as “The Grounds” at UVA and “The Domain” at Sewanee). Perhaps the unique names attached to these make people more aware of their architectural and historical Legacies. In spite of massive expansion since I matriculated in the late 50s and early 60s, they remain true to this legacy. Thank you for this article.

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