Most students who attend classes on a traditional campus spend a lot of time at school. Having serene walkways and trees to inspire contemplation enhances campus life. Not all campuses are nature lovers’ paradise. Some of them are in the hearts of metropolises where competition for space is fierce. However, all of these schools have unique features and attributes that make them stand out to students looking for a learning environment with a peaceful, inspiring backdrop.
America’s most beautiful college campuses attract students and families, but they also attract tourists who come to admire soaring spires and manicured lawns. Some have noteworthy landmarks on campus or nearby and others feature stirring architecture. Consider resort-style campuses in the southernmost state and Gothic-inspired architecture on campuses in the northeast.
Students go to college to learn the skills they need to transition into their chosen careers. At the same time, the college years are a time of exploration where students can turn their interest into lifelong passions. Most beautiful college campuses in America exude historical presents, reflect the academic achievement of past graduates and showcase local flora and fauna or house museums of priceless artifacts.
After leaving college, what students learn and who they meet is no more important than their memories of the place itself. While colleges and universities in major metropolitan areas such as New York, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta give students a competitive edge when looking for internships or jobs, it’s also worthwhile to include campuses that inspire, relax and impress for their physical appearance.
Students may prefer rural locations that showcase natural beauty, gorgeous landscapes, and proximity to state parks. Others may want to be right in the heartbeat of the city where they can tap into vibrant social scenes and explore architectural, cultural and iconic landmarks.
Here is a list of 25 of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the United States.
Duke UniversityDurham, NC
Among the most beautiful urban campuses, Duke University boasts Gothic architecture, including the 210-foot Duke Chapel. The tower features 50 bells and three pipe organs. It can also seat 1,800 people. At the Duke Forest and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, visitors can pay their respect to the work of Ellen Biddle Shipman, a famous American landscape Designer. True to her original design, you can find soaring palms, cheeky irises and aromatic roses. Based in Durham, NC, Duke University lies amidst a natural setting that makes it one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the country.
At Perkins Library, Baldwin Auditorium, and Duke Chapel, students can see the best of the school’s famed architecture. The university sits on 8600 acres of unspoiled land and has extensive tracts of wooded landscape and forests. Also of note, Nasher Museum of Art has a sophisticated flair.
Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, TN
Vanderbilt University, shortened to Vandy by students and alumni, is hands down one of the most beautiful urban campuses in the United States. The location alone would attract students from around the world. Located just outside of downtown Nashville, Vanderbilt looks more like a rural oasis thanks to a plentiful supply of trees. In fact, the campus is one continuous sprawling arboretum. You can learn everything you want to know about the 170 species that populate the 300 plus acre campus. Wildlife lovers should bring their binoculars to see if they can sight cardinals, hawks, owls and other wildlife that make it hard to forget the campus is located in an urban area.
Past students have written poems and songs about this campus, and they certainly thought it was one of the most beautiful urban college campuses while in attendance. In the spring, pathways become a carpet for pink and white blossoms raining down from campus trees. This alone earns it a spot among the most beautiful urban college campuses.
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA
Many of the colleges and universities have a ton of history under their bell towers. However, the University of Pennsylvania has a unique selling point. Inspired by the dedication of Benjamin Franklin, it became the first university in the new world. Besides historic buildings and an enviable history of academic excellence, the University of Pennsylvania is also one of the most beautiful urban campuses in the United States.
UPenn spent nearly $47 million on Penn Park, which houses active recreation facilities as well as passive features designed for enjoyment. Lawns, meadows and canopy trees subdivide various areas, giving each section a unique, intimate feel. The Park stretches from Walnut Street to South Street. The Penn Campus Arboretum is another reason this campus is considered among the most beautiful urban college campuses. With over 6,500 trees from 240 species, it’s more of an urban forest. With all those trees, it’s no wonder that Penn has continuously been designated a tree campus USA. students and visitors can visit an interactive website listing all the university’s entire tree inventory. The 180 buildings on campus include the nation’s first student union and other remarkable buildings such as the first two-tiered college football stadium.
Rice UniversityHouston, TX
Houston-based Rice University is one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the South and, indeed, anywhere in the country. Safeguarded by a double row of ancient oak trees, the 300-acre campus creates its own world in the heart of the city. It has been divided into quadrangles. Thousands of hickories, elms, maples and other hardwoods define the shaded, lovely campus. among the oldest buildings, Lovett Hall stands out for its touch of medieval European architecture. It even has arched passageways with rose-colored brickwork.
The university is located in the Houston Museum District and features many historic buildings, beautiful, wooded areas where students gather between classes and an inspiring dedication to preserving the school’s history. Following a trend set by the university’s first president, every building mimics Byzantine architecture. The distinctive sand or pink brickwork, archways and columns form indelible memories on the minds of students, parents and visitors who tour the school. A jewel of the campus, the Lynn R. Lowrey Arboretum, contains 4,200 shrubs, plants and trees. It’s a popular tourist draw and study spot for students. Students attracted by the school’s academic credentials are often sold by the unique campus, which has earned a spot on the list of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the United States.
University of ChicagoChicago, IL
Rich in architectural and environmental points of interest, the University of Chicago provides prospective students with one of the most beautiful urban college campuses. Located in one of the country’s foremost cities, the University of Chicago offers a multitude of qualities many students value. Gothic structures populate the school ground, adding weight and a feeling of permanence to the 211-acre campus. Many of the structures mimic buildings found at the University of Oxford in England.
The Botanical Garden makes it one of the most beautiful urban campuses and provides an Oasis for students living in the city. A large pond provides a habitat for turtles, ducks and dragonflies, which create a pleasant distraction for students and visitors alike. Businessman Marshall Field put up the money for this land grant university in 1890, and the university has grown and flourished ever since.
University of California-Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA
UCLA is known for scientific achievements, famous alumni, academic excellence and being one of the most beautiful urban campuses. Many students may not know that the University of California Los Angeles also has a 400-acre footprint with features that make it one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the country. Los Angeles is also home to Beverly Hills, Hollywood and the country’s foremost film scene. while the hallowed halls of UCLA may lack Hollywood glamour, the school has one of the best courtyards or quads in the nation.
Surrounding the scenic courtyard lie Royce Hall, Power Library and Kinsey Hall, all of which feature stunning architecture. With its proximity to Sunset Blvd and the shopping district of Westwood, the 163-building campus is a huge draw for students from all over the world. Aspiring filmmakers and actors walking across campus can smile, secure in the knowledge that many famous stars live just a few miles away.
Georgetown UniversityWashington, DC
Georgetown University is located in Washington, DC, this historic university is widely considered one of the most beautiful urban campuses in the United States. The campus is close to museums, monuments, concert halls, landmarks, and many other buildings and destinations of importance. However, there is also lots to see within the official campus itself. Impressive constructions include Healey Hall. This building is designated as a National Historic Landmark and built in the 1870s. There are even older buildings on campus, including the Observatory, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and built in 1846. Anyone touring the campus with students should also look for Old North, a lovely colonial building that houses the campus’s oldest offices on campus and a foundation built in 1749.
Many observers credit the front part of the university as earning Georgetown its place on the most beautiful urban college campuses list. The striking front of the campus features extraordinary gothic buildings, such as the spiritually inspire Dahlgren Chapel and the sedate Gaston Hall, which can still take a newcomer’s breath away.
The back part of Georgetown University features views of the Potomac River and contains the famous Hariri business school. The Leavey Center Features more modern construction suitable for its purpose as the new science building. Students can take weekend getaways to explore the nation’s capital or nearby Georgetown, which is also historic and scenic enough to attract tourists from all over the world.
The University of Texas at AustinAustin, TX
As well as holding the distinction of being one of the most prestigious academic universities in the Lone Star State, the University of Texas at Austin also has one of the most beautiful urban college campuses. Located in the capital of Texas, UT Austin is also one of the country’s largest schools, but it manages to keep a homey feel.
Many buildings feature rust-colored facades and large oak trees add timeless appeal to the elegant campus. One building, in particular, stands tall and creates a memorable impression. Students considering the school should climb UT Tower. The tower looms 307 feet above the campus and during special occasions receives a burnt orange spotlight, adding the allure of one of the most beautiful urban campuses.
Georgia TechAtlanta, GA
The Georgia Institute of Technology is a shining example of the New South, build in the heart of the region’s most dynamic city, Atlanta. Georgia Tech is one of the most beautiful urban campuses and it utilizes every spare inch of space; the central stadium also holds the offices of faculty members and staff, for example. Located in the center of Atlanta, the school has gorgeous green spaces, working fountains and attractive architecture. It’s also close to some of the city’s most iconic landmarks including Centennial Olympic Park.
University of WashingtonSeattle, WA
At the University of Washington, students get more than a high-quality education. Visitors can also enjoy living on one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the country. There are many standout buildings on campus. They include the Collegiate Gothic Suzzallo Library on UW’s Seattle campus. The centerpiece of this jewel is a 30-foot-high window made of irreplaceable stained glass.
Additionally, visitors can easily get a head rush examining the vaulted ceilings. Gilded and animated with beautiful frescoes, it soars 65 feet and is likely the cause of more than one pulled neck muscles, as it’s hard to look away. There are 29 Yoshino cherry trees dotted across the campus. In the springtime, delicate pink petals settle on brick walkways and against the iconic red brick buildings that make up the majority of the campus infrastructure. Year-round, visitors can gather at Drumheller Fountain for stunning view of Mount Rainier. The views alone earn the University of Washington its spot on the list of most beautiful urban campuses.
Emory UniversityAtlanta, GA
Atlanta features prominently on the list of most beautiful urban campuses. Among the city’s many prestigious schools, Emory University stands out for its history and location in one of the oldest and poshest neighborhoods of Atlanta. As one of the most beautiful urban college campuses, Emory boasts southern charm in full. Lullwater Park accounts for most of this sprawling campus. Load across 100 acres of prime land in the middle of the city, the park represents an enduring dedication to preserving the natural environment. Students can enjoy walking and hiking trails located directly on campus. Emory university’s quad is surrounded by historic buildings. Of these, Pitts Theology Library features ornate architectural element.
Students can imagine one day ascending to the pinnacle of academic success and becoming Emory university’s president. The winning job candidate gets their own mansion overlooking the Druid Hill campus. The Tudor style mansion of the university president’s home also has striking features which make it noteworthy to visitors and students. Constructed nearly a century ago in 1926, the president’s home features gothic revival and tutor architecture. Famous architects Ivey and Crook collaborated on the intricate design that still impresses today. Located within the Lullwater Preserve part of the campus, it is one of the major draws of people who come to explore this historic campus.
Candler Lake provides a backdrop for walking trails where students can relax and get their exercise at the same time. Originally chartered in 1836, the original class had 15 sophomores and freshman students and operated out of Oxford, Georgia. It moved to the metropolitan Atlanta area in 1915 when the current campus began to take shape.
University of RichmondUniversity of Richmond, VA
Located on 350 acres of carefully landscaped property, the University of Richmond is among the most beautiful urban college campuses. According to the 2000 Princeton review, Richmond tops the list of the most beautiful urban campuses. With green spaces galore, the natural beauty of Richmond’s campus sets off the beautiful brick buildings that define the campus. Built in the gothic style, the architecture on campus aims to inspire. Nestled within the rolling hills of Richmond, the school gives students access to internships, entertainment opportunities and cultural activities in the state capital.
American landscaper Warren H. Manning designed the grounds to resonate with vibrant natural beauty, and caretakers have held true to that plan to this day. The serene Westhampton Lake has been an integral feature of the campus since the university of Richmond relocated here in 1914. The famous architect Ralph Adams Cram design many of the campus’ impressive buildings. Notable buildings include Jeter Hall, completed in 1913 before the current location became the official site of the University of Richmond. Jeter Hall became the home of nurses stationed in the area during World War I. The original school was called Richmond College and catered to aspiring ministers. This may explain the emphasis on serene outdoor spaces that allow the mind to expand in preparation for study or decision-making.
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PA
Pennsylvania can put another feather in his cap for another one of the most beautiful urban campuses, Carnegie Mellon University. So, what makes this one of the most beautiful urban college campuses? For one thing, Carnegie Mellon highly values its trees. It has earned the Tree Campus Higher Education designation every year since 2014.
There are many reasons students choose Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to its beautiful green campus, it has tremendous academic departments, particularly in the sciences. Carnegie Mellon boasts a traditional quad used for outdoor events. The unique campus is located in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh and maintains a proven track record when it comes to the safety and security of students and visitors.
North Carolina State UniversityRaleigh, NC
Students who come to North Carolina State University for a college tour often reflect on the beauty of the campus. Although a train runs through the heart of the campus, the tranquil green spaces make North Carolina State one of the most beautiful urban campuses. With tons of tree-lined walkways, inspiring architecture and plentiful trees, this campus creates a collegiate bubble that allows students to concentrate on their academic, artistic, scientific or literary discoveries. Tunnels run under the train tracks and give the academic community access to residential areas.
The most beautiful urban college campuses often come from humble beginnings and that’s the case with North Carolina State University. The Court of North Carolina, the school’s quad, has been used as everything from a cow pasture to housing for World War Two veterans. This is also where students can find the oldest buildings on campus. In 1986, the university celebrated its 100th anniversary during ceremonies held on the grassy lawn. On the west side of the court, a plaque dedicates the area to all generations of students, past and present.
The Ohio State University Columbus, OH
The Ohio State University is also one of the most beautiful urban campuses in the country. It is widely considered to be the most beautiful option among urban college campuses in the Midwest. The Oval showcases the architectural details of the red brick buildings and beautifully maintained a grassy lawn. It also provides easy access to buildings all across campus.
Old-fashioned brick pathways beautify a university equipped with high-tech laboratories and research facilities. Students, professors and visitors can often be seen biking or strolling across the quad. Numerous benches invite passersby to take in the scenery and enjoy your break from studying or preparing for lectures. The peaceful atmosphere also lends weight to Ohio State’s reputation as one of the most beautiful urban college campuses.
University of Minnesota-Twin CitiesMinneapolis, MN
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities, among the most beautiful urban college campuses, is a topped ranked public university counting among the nation’s Public Ivy schools. Minnesota has appeared on the list of the happiest cities in America and the heartfelt welcomes and greetings given to passersby indicate that hasn’t changed.
Students can take in scenic views along the Washington Avenue Bridge where they can cross into Minneapolis’ twin city of St. Paul. Besides the beautiful landscaping, building such as the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum attest to the campus’ aesthetic and cultural draw. Past and present students alike agree that this is one of the most beautiful urban campuses to attend.
Boston UniversityBoston, MA
Boston University appears on many lists noting the most beautiful urban campuses. The campus has a traditional quad feel and centuries of history. However, it’s also one of the most beautiful urban college campuses due to well-maintained lawns that run right up to pave streets that facilitate walking, running and biking in the middle of one of the country’s busiest cities.
Students can catch glimpses of Charles River and catch public transportation to museums, historic galleries, parks and cafes along the water’s edge. The classic quad uses the river as a focal point to display the beauty of this campus.
Tulane UniversityNew Orleans, LA
Located in a city known for its unique culture and architecture, Tulane University represents NoLa well. It’s one of the most beautiful urban campuses in the South or anywhere in the United States. Sitting on 100 acres, Tulane University features oak-lined pathways and gracious buildings that represent an assortment of architectural and aesthetic styles. Tulane University is one of the most beautiful urban college campuses and that shows in building facades such as Gibson Hall. Local architects Harrod and Andry completed the building in 1894.
Richardsonian Romanesque architecture lends Tulane a timeless ambiance as one of the most beautiful urban college campuses. The campus has earned a place on the National Register of Historical Places for four decades.
New York UniversityNew York, NY
There are several of the most beautiful urban college campuses snuggled amidst the skyscrapers of the Big Apple. New York University has one of the most beautiful college campuses although its design is far from traditional. Located in Manhattan, the main campus wraps around Washington Square Park in the famous Greenwich Village, and as such has been central to cultural development in the city for generations, whether in poetry, music, art, or theater.
With office and classroom real estate throughout the city, NYU has become one of the top landowners in NYC. It has given back by providing a cohesive learning environment in the most cosmopolitan city in the world. By sheer willpower, the school has pulled itself together and created one of the most beautiful urban college campuses.
CUNY Bernard M Baruch CollegeNew York, NY
CUNY’s Baruch College is another of the most beautiful urban campuses that the Big Apple has to offer. New York City has several entries on this list of the most beautiful urban college campuses in America. Baruch makes no pretense of being a humble traditional college nestled in The City – Baruch boasts a vertical campus in skyscrapers instead of brick-walled, ivy-covered halls. The city itself forms a backdrop for this unique campus, providing the ultimate conveniences for students who want to enjoy superb entertainment, music, or its, and cultural events.
University of San DiegoSan Diego, CA
Another one of the country’s most beautiful urban campuses, the University of San Diego has a cohesive architectural style. The architecture and landscaping make it one of the most beautiful urban college campuses. The Spanish Renaissance is alive and well in the elaborate ironwork and delicate facades found in most of the school’s buildings. Engraved woodwork and amazing views give students a treat for their senses every time they walk across campus.
Palm-tree-lined courtyards and ocean views make this spectacular campus an immediate favorite among touring students and parents. In particular, The Immaculata Chapel, has a blue dome with solid bronze doorways where visitors can take in cityscapes.
University of PittsburghPittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh boasts more than one entry on the list of most beautiful urban campuses. The University of Pittsburgh is one of the most beautiful urban college campuses to attend or visit. So, what makes it one of the most beautiful urban college campuses? The university itself is known for driving innovation. Located in a historic neighborhood, it has a vibrant vibe and ample green space that makes it a natural addition to America’s Most beautiful urban college campuses.
A historical-cultural area close to campus provides career opportunities and diversity for students who are ready to get off campus to take a break. Visitors can tour the Oakland neighborhood home of William Pitt, after whom the university is named. Among the standout architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, the Wesley W. Posvar Hall stands out for its newly renovated space and quiet study rooms. This open study area is a great place for individuals and groups to gather. Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning are world-renowned for their decor, which represents cultures from around the world.
University of South FloridaTampa, FL
Banana trees hobnob with oak trees on the walkways outside the University of South Florida, one of the most beautiful urban campuses. The Tampa campus incorporates Florida’s natural flora and the beautifully maintained lawns complement the clean lines of modern-style buildings, such as the USF library and INTO USF Center.
The perfect tropic weather also facilitates the many flowering trees, shrubs, and flowers that helped make the University of South Florida one of the most beautiful urban college campuses in the country.
University of Colorado BoulderBoulder, CO
The University of Colorado Boulder is also one of the country’s most beautiful urban campuses. As the flagship school in Colorado, the school features views of the Flatirons and Rocky Mountains. The natural setting alone would help the school earn a position as one of the nation’s most beautiful urban college campuses.
However, besides having two creeks and a serene lake on campus, architecture is also noteworthy in building such as the impressive Norlin Library. The library features a mix of Tuscan and western architecture made from local sandstone with limestone trim. Charming red tile buildings give a nod to Tuscan architecture.
San Diego State UniversitySan Diego, CA
Rounding out the most beautiful urban college campuses, San Diego State University represents all that California has to offer in a college campus. Palm trees line beautiful walkways and picturesque outdoor seating areas and grassy knolls provide the perfect background for Instagram selfies. San Diego State University is in the process of expanding the parks surrounding its modern sports stadium. This is one of the features that makes it one of the most beautiful urban campuses
What Are the Benefits of an Urban School?
An urban college campus offers benefits that many other college campuses just can’t emulate or duplicate. A major benefit of urban college campuses is the fact that they’re located in the heart of society. This comes with several direct and fringe benefits. Students will often find themselves close to places where they can intern, network, and generally broaden their horizons in a way that’s not possible with other types of campuses.
Some urban campus colleges have classrooms in buildings all over the city, so the city itself can sometimes play the role of the campus. These schools allow students to get out and experience what art, cuisine, culture, and diversity the city has to offer. These interactions serve to deepen a student’s understanding of people, appreciate their differences, and apply that to what they’re learning. An urban college campus presents a rich experience, and even better, there are always things to do. As a bonus, a car is almost never necessary.
What Are the Disadvantages of an Urban School?
Many of the benefits of an urban college campus can serve as its disadvantages to some people. The density of the population means there’s more of everything, including crime and risks. People unfamiliar with any type of city life may find there’s a learning curve to living in a city that’s a little too much for them.
Some people don’t like crowds and can become overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of people they see each day outside urban college campuses. Mixing with different cultures and people can create lifetime experiences, but if someone finds they’re too anxious around large groups of people, that great experience may not ever happen for them.
While many cities have sprawling parks, some students may not feel comfortable in a place that doesn’t contain a lot of natural green spaces and animals. It’s always possible to travel outside the city to find those things, but frequent travel from urban campus colleges to places with things like trails, hills, and other natural features can become costly.
City life can easily distract some people. There’s a lot to do and see, and it never stops. Finally, an urban college campus can come with the price of living in a city, which is often more expensive than living on or by rural or suburban campuses.
How to Choose an Urban School
The benefits and disadvantages of urban college campuses exist mostly subjectively. The best urban college campuses will appeal to the individual’s sensibilities. Typically, choosing an urban school works the same as picking any other school. Applicants likely want the best urban college campuses to pick from, and there are many.
No right answer exists, but if someone prefers city life, wants to learn closer to the hub of activity, and isn’t bothered by too many people and too many things to do, then they should choose the urban school that best fits their personal needs and goals. It’s not entirely about finding the best urban college campuses, it’s more about finding the right school that will offer everything someone will need to succeed in their chosen field.