Most Beautiful College Campuses in America
College campuses are as unique as their student bodies. Each has its own look and atmosphere, but a truly spectacular campus has more than architecturally interesting buildings and a desirable geographical location.
Exceptional college campuses blend seamlessly with their geography, and natural features play a prominent role in their beauty. They’re a mix of old and new, and all share one thing — they never go out of style.
These are the most beautiful college campuses in America.
University of Virginia
Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 15,766
Net price per year: $16,594
Bottom Line: University of Virginia
The only U.S. campus to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the University of Virginia was one of the three accomplishments that designer and U.S. President Thomas Jefferson requested to be put on his gravestone.
The campus was called "the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years" by the American Institute of Architects.
The neoclassical domed Rotunda is modeled after the Pantheon, and it is flanked by 10 pavilions with serpentine walled gardens down the length of the lawn.
More Proof of UVA's Beauty
The central green spaces of UVA would later be replicated at universities across the nation.
Located just east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is easy access to outdoor recreation both on and off-campus.
University of California, Santa Barbara
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 21,777
Net price per year: $16,154
Bottom Line: University of California, Santa Barbara
UCSB’s 1055-acre campus is located along the Pacific Ocean and has its own beach. The University Center sits on the university lagoon (created from a tidal saltwater flat) and is home to several endangered plant and animal species.
Adjacent to the lagoon is Campus Point, a peninsula that features a beach cliff and a view of the Channel Islands.
The campus also boasts its own labyrinth and is known for its extensive biking trails.
More Proof of UCSB's Beauty
The architecture on campus is influenced by the original buildings, which, in keeping with regional style, are predominately tinted and patterned concrete blocks.
The 175-foot tall Storke Tower is the tallest steel and cement structure in the county. Its 61-bell carillon sounds on the hour and also plays songs on weekends and special occasions.
Location: Durham, North Carolina
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 6,669
Net price per year: $22,011
Bottom Line: Duke University
Duke owns more than 8,600 acres, including the 7,044-acre Duke forest. Located west of West Campus, the forest houses environmental research studies as well as 30-plus miles of trails used for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding.
Architecturally, the school is best known for its neo-Gothic West Campus (most of which was designed by architect Julian Abele), which is centered on the 210-foot Gothic-style Duke Chapel.
More Proof of Duke's Beauty
A mile and a half away, on 97 acres, sits the Georgian-style East Campus.
In between sits the 122-acre Central Campus, which connects to West Campus through 55 acres of terraced gardens and paths.
University of Washington
Location: Seattle, Washington
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 28,759
Net price per year: $9,443
Bottom Line: University of Washington
The 703-acre campus is located near the shores of Union and Portage Bays with views of the Cascade Range to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west.
The heart of UW’s campus is Red Square, which is surrounded by landmark buildings such as the 65-foot Gothic Suzzalo Library that features 35-foot tall stained-glass windows and gilded vaulted ceilings.
On the north side of campus, the Quad features 31 Yoshino cherry trees whose delicate pink petals dominate the spring landscape.
More Proof of UW's Beauty
The campus also includes botanic gardens, a farm, wetlands and its own Waterfront Activity Center. There, students can rent canoes, kayaks and rowboats or simply sit and enjoy the scenery.
Additional outdoor activities can be found off-campus.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 6,805
Net price per year: $23,295
Bottom Line: Vanderbilt
Sitting on 344 acres a mile and a half southwest of downtown Nashville, Vanderbilt was designated an arboretum in 1988.
With more than 300 varieties of trees and shrubs, combined with wildlife sightings, it’s easy to forget you are in the heart of a city. One of these trees, the Bicentennial Oak, dates back to colonial times.
Each spring, pink and white flowers line the walkways when the canopy of flowering trees drops its petals.
More Proof of Vanderbilt's Beauty
Buildings include a variety of styles and eras. Only four of the original 10 buildings still stand, including Kirkland Hall, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1905 (though with one tower rather than the original two).
Initially known as the "main building," Kirkland Hall remains the central image of the school and is featured in campus publications.
The Peabody College section of campus, inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s design for the University of Virginia, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Location: Rome, Georgia
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,945
Net price per year: $26,173
Bottom Line: Berry College
Berry has the world’s largest contiguous college campus. It is made up of more than 27,000 acres of fields, forests, lakes and mountains.
Students share the grounds with up to 2,500 deer and enjoy hiking, bicycling and horseback riding on over 80 miles of trails. These are also open to the public.
Often the English-Gothic-inspired buildings (many of which were funded by prominent benefactor Henry Ford) are reflected in nearby fountains and pools.
More Proof of Berry College’s Beauty
Mountain Campus is home to both Mirror and Swan lakes, the latter of which is named for the birds frequently found on its calm waters.
The campus may look familiar to some as several movies and television shows were filmed here, including "Remember the Titans" and "Sweet Home Alabama."
Bryn Mawr College
Location: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,325
Net price per year: $28,450
Bottom Line: Bryn Mawr
Bryn Mawr’s Pembroke Hall is the first example of Cope and Stewardson’s Collegiate Gothic style.
The architecture at the school has been copied on college campuses throughout the nation.
More Proof of Bryn Mawr's Beauty
The design of the tree-covered grounds of the 135-acre campus was created with assistance from Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York City’s Central Park.
The campus also features a duck pond surrounded by trees and in the spring, an abundance of blossoming trees.
Location: Hamilton, New York
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,854
Net price per year: $22,182
Bottom Line: Colgate
Colgate’s campus consists of 575 acres of rolling hills and an abundance of trees, including sugar maples and northern red oaks as well as Taylor Lake, which until 2015 was home to multiple pairs of swans, dubbed Adam and Eve.
Taylor Lake and the adjacent Willow Path were 1903 additions to the campus, thanks to the vision of math professor James Taylor and the work of landscape architect Ernest Bowditch.
More Proof of Colgate's Beauty
The stone buildings were designed intentionally in a "singular architectural language," providing continuity, regardless of whether the structures were built in 1827 or 2019.
West Hall, the school’s oldest, was built by faculty and students using stone mined from the quarry owned by the school.
The College of William and Mary
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 6,199
Net price per year: $17,415
Bottom Line: The College of William and Mary
The second-oldest college in the nation, William & Mary blends into the historic town of Williamsburg and retains the charm of this early settlement.
The Wren Building, believed to be based on a design by English architect Sir Christopher Wren, was completed sometime between 1695 and 1700 (even before the founding of the college) and is the oldest college structure in the U.S.
More Proof of William and Mary's Beauty
The red brick buildings of Old Campus (surrounding the Wren building) are architecturally similar to the Georgian and Anglo-Dutch buildings seen in nearby Colonial Williamsburg.
The buildings on the adjoining New Campus match the old in style, with a modern twist. Features such as sunken gardens and brick pathways that wind around college buildings and through the 1,200-acres of campus woodlands and gardens add to its charm.
To the west of campus is the college-owned man-made Lake Matoaka, and over 150 hectares of the adjoining forest has been set aside as a nature preserve.
Crim Dell, a small pond tucked away in the forest, features an arched wooden bridge known as the most romantic spot on campus and a popular place for both students and visitors.
Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 4,360
Net price per year: $22,303
Bottom Line: Dartmouth
Dartmouth’s main campus is centered on a five-acre "Green" and features not only buildings from the 1820s, but also the modern Hopkins Center for the Arts designed by architect Wallace Harrison, who later designed New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center and the United Nations Building.
Most of the college’s buildings are Georgian-style. New buildings are specially designed to blend in with the old. The Baker-Berry Library also may look familiar to some. It was inspired by Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
More Proof of Dartmouth's Beauty
Dartmouth is the largest private landowner in the town of Hanover.
The institution's 269-acre campus is adjacent to the Connecticut River and includes about 200 American elms and a portion of the Appalachian Trail, which goes right through campus, providing just one of many options for outdoor activities.
The college also owns 4,500 acres in the White Mountains and 27,000 acres in northern New Hampshire, known as the Second College Grant. Both provide outdoor recreation opportunities for students and the public alike.
Location: Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 3,585
Net price per year: $37,817
Bottom Line: Bucknell
Bucknell is situated on 450 acres along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Malesardi Quad, the heart of campus, offers views of the Susquehanna River Valley and the Appalachian Mountains.
Paved paths and stairways on rolling hills lead through the Grove, which is home to trees older than the school itself.
More Proof of Bucknell's Beauty
Georgian-style architecture runs throughout campus, effectively blending the old and the new.
Though technically not part of campus, the single-screen Campus Theatre in downtown Lewisburg operates through a partnership between the college and a nonprofit and offers diverse film programming.
The historic art deco building is also utilized for classes and university performances.
Location: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,404
Net price per year: $34,705
Bottom Line: Gettysburg College
The 225-acre campus is adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park. Its central building, the Greek Revival-style Pennsylvania Hall, was used as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg and was occupied by both Union and Confederate armies.
There is a mix of architectural styles on Gettysburg College’s campus, with one of the most notable buildings being Gladfelter Hall. This Romanesque Revival building made of red brick and gray stone boasts a 143-foot tower.
More Proof of Gettysburg College's Beauty
The tree-covered campus also features the man-made Quarry Pond, which attracts a variety of birds to campus, including the purple martin.
There also is the curiously named Stine Lake, which is not a lake but a quad that in the past was prone to flooding.
Washington and Lee University
Location: Lexington, Virginia
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,823
Net price per year: $25,029
Bottom Line: Washington and Lee University
Washington & Lee's campus sits on 415 acres at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, adjacent to the city of Lexington in western Virginia.
The buildings central to campus, including the majestic Colonnade, have been named a National Historic Landmark District.
The nearby Lee Chapel is a part of that district, and also a National Historic Landmark on its own.
More Proof of Washington and Lee's Beauty
Meandering paths lead through campus and to a boardwalk through the trees near Woods Creek, where a bridge leads to the athletic fields and upper-class housing.
Woods Creek Trail runs through campus, and the Maury River and Blue Ridge Mountains are a short drive away.
However, you don’t have to leave campus to catch breathtaking views of sunsets. These are a regular sight on campus.
Lewis and Clark College
Location: Portland, Oregon
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,067
Net price per year: $35,872
Bottom Line: Lewis and Clark College
Lewis & Clark College sits on Palatine Hill, adjacent to the 645-acre Tryon Creek State Natural Area.
The campus is surrounded by dense Pacific Northwest forests and has more than 100 species of trees on 137 acres.
Named for the explorers Lewis and Clark, the heart of campus is the Frank Manor House, which was purchased in 1942.
More Proof of Lewis and Clark College's Beauty
The rest of the campus was built around this 35-room mansion, which features a man-made waterfall and terraced reflecting pool, as well as a clear view of Mount Hood.
College of the Atlantic
Location: Bar Harbor, Maine
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 330
Net price per year: $17,213
Bottom Line: College of the Atlantic
Named the top Green College by the Princeton Review, College of the Atlantic allows students to choose their own course of study in what it calls "human ecology," the aim of which is "to remind us that we are part of a complex and interactive living world."
What better place to ponder this reality than a campus steps from the ocean surrounded by rustic former cottages with weathered wood shingles and old stone walls?
More Proof of College of the Atlantic's Beauty
While you won’t find brick or cinder block structures, there are some lovely Queen Anne-style stone buildings throughout campus.
Wandering the school’s 37 acres, you will also find tucked-away gardens and two organic farms.
The school’s main landmark is a giant finback whale skull.
Location: Middlebury, Vermont
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,528
Net price per year: $22,841
Bottom Line: Middlebury College
Just west of the charming town of the same name, Middlebury’s main campus sits on 350 acres between the Green Mountains and the Adirondacks.
Granite marble and limestone buildings are set among quads and open spaces. Old Stone Row (which includes the school’s three oldest buildings) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
And its admissions office resides in the Emma Willard House, a National Historic Landmark.
More Proof of Middlebury's Beauty
The 1800-acre Bread Loaf Mountain Campus is home to the college’s ski mountain, which, in addition to providing recreation for students and the public alike, is also the site of February graduations.
The college also owns the adjacent 150-acre Robert Frost Farm, which is open to the public during daylight hours.
Sewanee: The University of the South
Location: Sewanee, Tennessee
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,687
Net price per year: $34,001
Bottom Line: Sewanee
Sitting on 13,000 acres on the Cumberland Plateau overlooking the Tennessee Valley, Sewanee’s Domain (its name for the sprawling campus) includes Gothic-inspired architecture surrounded by natural features: forests, lakefront bluffs and a garden ravine that follows a stream through campus.
More Proof of Sewanee's Beauty
There are three chapels on campus, most notably the All Saints' Chapel, which was designed by American architect Ralph Adams Cram and is reminiscent of both Notre Dame and University Church at Oxford.
The rose window in the All Saints' Chapel is based on one at Notre Dame in Paris.
Location: Northampton, Massachusetts
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,505
Net price per year: $26,734
Bottom Line: Smith College
Located near the Connecticut River, much of Smith’s landscape was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York’s Central Park) at the request of the college’s first president, Laurenus Clark Seelye.
Seelye’s vision of campus was that it should be a botanic garden to provide both scientific and aesthetic value.
More Proof of Smith's Beauty
The academic buildings are traditional brick, and rather than dorms, students live in 35 houses on campus, which are all different styles and sizes.
A favorite feature on campus is Paradise Pond, which is fed by the Mill River. The pond is a favorite of locals and visitors, and is included as a point of interest on the Calvin Coolidge Walking Tour, as well as in several guide books of the area.
Location: St. Augustine, Florida
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,591
Net price per year: $23,473
Bottom Line: Flager
Situated in one of the nation’s oldest cities, Flagler’s 19-acre campus includes what was once the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
Designed by New York-based architects Carrère and Hastings, the hotel was the first to be made of "poured in place" concrete.
It opened in 1888 and also was one of the nation’s first buildings to have built-in electricity.
More Proof of Flagler's Beauty
The college has maintained the original flavor of the architecture, including the Tiffany stained glass windows.
Location: Malibu, California
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 3,583
Net price per year: $51,318
Bottom Line: Pepperdine University
Pepperdine University is a Christian research university with a main campus that's located right by the beautiful beach waters of Malibu, California.
This campus is set on 830 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains and overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Pacific Coast Highway. At a glance, it looks more like an exclusive beach town than a university.
More Proof of Pepperdine's Beauty
The campus is relatively new. While Pepperdine was founded in 1937, construction on the Malibu campus began in the early 1970s.
The buildings are designed in the classic Mediterranean revival style, with stucco walls, red tile roofs and lots of windows.
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,850
Net price per year: $25,208
Bottom Line: Amherst College
Amherst College is situated on 1,000 acres of gorgeous land in Amherst, Massachusetts. The college is 200 years old and was established in 1821.
Frequently ranked as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country (and most difficult to get into), Amherst has 34 residence halls, some of which are over 150 years old.
As you can see, this college is absolutely beautiful in the fall.
More Proof of Amherst's Beauty
Historic buildings dot the campus, bringing a very stately and prestigious feel.
The college also owns and operates the Emily Dickinson Museum, a pair of houses that belonged to Emily Dickinson and her family.
Mount Holyoke College
Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,190
Net price per year: $25,937
Bottom Line: Mount Holyoke College
Mount Holyoke is a gorgeous liberal arts women's college with an 800-acre campus that features two lakes, waterfalls, a botanic garden, an observatory, an art museum and winding woodland trails.
There are also stables and trails for horse riding, an independent bookstore and grand, historic buildings that date back to 1837, when the college was founded.
More Proof of Mount Holyoke's Beauty
Mount Holyoke has an outdoor amphitheater that is the perfect spot for special events.
The college also has enacted an energy conservation campaign, and the campus has student-run gardens for healthy, farm-to-dorm food.
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 5,267
Net price per year: $13,450
Bottom Line: Princeton University
Founded in 1746, Princeton University is one of the oldest and prestigious universities in the United States. It has a sprawling, 600-acre campus with over 200 buildings, one of which is Nassau Hall (pictured), which was constructed in 1756.
Sculptures and buildings of different architectural styles dot the campus, while the southern side of the grounds abuts Lake Carnegie.
More Proof of Princeton's Beauty
You'll find 17 gardens throughout Princeton's campus, as well as the McCarter Theater, a fantastic art museum and a 1928-built Gothic cathedral.
Here's a fun fact: The use of the word "campus" to mean college grounds originated at Princeton.
University of Chicago
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 7,011
Net price per year: $34,719
Bottom Line: University of Chicago
Located in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, the University of Chicago is one of the most selective universities in the country and has an incredibly beautiful campus.
The main campus is located on 217 acres and has buildings designed in several different architectural styles, including Collegiate Gothic and brutalism.
More Proof of University of Chicago's Beauty
The campus hosts a number of things to see and do, like a grand botanic garden that includes a pond, the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Smart Museum of Art.
Or you could take a stroll on the Main Quadrangles, which explode with flowers and foliage in the spring.
And when you're looking for a deep-dish slice, downtown is only eight miles away.
Location: Wellesley, Massachusetts
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 2,519
Net price per year: $22,247
Bottom Line: Wellesley College
Wellesley College is a prestigious liberal arts women's college located on 500 acres overlooking Lake Waban.
The trees and meadows of this college are truly stunning, with brick and stone buildings, gnarled oak trees and serene views that will help ease the mind before a big test.
More Proof of Wellesley's Beauty
Famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. once described the campus as "not merely beautiful, but with a marked individual character not represented so far as I know on the ground of any other college in the country."
It's easy to see why.
Location: Stanford, California
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 17,249
Net price per year: $21,070 (or free if household income is less than $75,000)
Bottom Line: Stanford University
Stanford University's main campus has a gorgeous quad, a 285-tall minimalist bell tower called the Hoover Tower, a Clock Tower and the Cantor Center for Visual Arts (pictured).
Stanford University also has an incredible library, Green Library, which has some 4 million books. The entire campus sprawls 8,180 acres and has 49 miles of roads, three dams and three open water reservoirs.
More Proof of Stanford's Beauty
The campus has a total of 43,000 trees, 25 individual fountains, over 800 species of plants, 700 buildings and a 700-acre research park that houses 150 companies.
Expect to see students riding bikes. There are over 13,000 bikes on campus on a typical day, and this campus is one of the most bike-friendly places in the country.
Location: Gambier, Ohio
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 1,730
Net price per year: $28,961
Bottom Line Kenyon College
Kenyon College was founded in 1824 and has a campus set on 1,000 acres of peaceful rural landscapes.
The campus' grounds are traversed via the "middle path," which runs throughout the grounds, leading students through an almost village-like area of single-house dorms under the shade of huge oak trees.
More Proof of Kenyon's Beauty
Ascension Hall (pictured), a Victorian Gothic, castle-like building built in 1859, is absolutely stunning.
Another gorgeous place is Finn House, an 1849 Steamboat Gothic house, which is now the home of the Kenyon Review.
Location: Elon, North Carolina
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 6,291
Net price per year: $35,160
Bottom Line: Elon Univeristy
Named as the prettiest college campus by both the Princeton Review and The New York Times, Elon has a stunning, 636-acre campus located in the heart of North Carolina.
The entire campus is a designated botanical garden, which includes a 56-acre forest and so many buildings that the campus of Elon has its own Wikipedia page.
Lakes and countless trees dot this sustainability-focused campus.
More Proof of Elon's Beauty
Aside from the gorgeous landscape, Elon's campus features several coffee shops, a 75,000-square-foot arts center and is divided into seven neighborhoods with 46 dormitory buildings.
The campus was used as the location for Spike Lee's "He Got Game."
University of Notre Dame
Location: Notre Dame, Indiana
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 8,731
Net price per year: $32,096
Bottom Line: Notre Dame
Notre Dame's most famous landmark, the Golden Dome, is the heart of the university's campus.
Viewable from nearly everywhere on the grounds, this architectural feat was built in 1879 and is gilded in gold (but only about a fist-sized portion of the precious metal). Atop the Dome is a 19-foot-tall, 4,000-pound statue of the Virgin Mary.
And of course, there's Notre Dame Stadium, which fills up with 77,622 people during the college football season.
More Proof of Notre Dame's Beauty
Also on the historic grounds is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a neo-Gothic church built in the 1870s, which features a striking, 230-foot bell tower.
The campus of Notre Dame is massive, with 1,265 acres, 170 buildings and six quads. A pair of lakes are located to the northwestern edge of the campus, and there are two historic cemeteries on the grounds.
University of Colorado Boulder
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Full-time enrollment (undergrad): 29,753
Net price per year: $21,510
Bottom Line: University of Colorado Boulder
Frequently cited as one of the most beautiful college campuses in America by magazines like Travel and Leisure, the University of Colorado Boulder encompasses 786 acres and features gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains.
It's a dreamscape for outdoorsy types, with hiking trails, biking trails and stream-riddled creek paths.
More Proof of Colorado Boulder's Beauty
Aside from the outdoor activities, the campus features a massive planetarium and museum, a library with 11 million volumes, an enormous auditorium and an outdoor theater.
It's a beautiful mix of architecture and nature.