10 min

15 most beautiful university campuses

What makes a university campus fascinating? Usually it is a mix of good student facilities, well-known libraries, lush gardens, and, of course, great architecture.

Some of the most beautiful campuses in the world are intertwined into the fabric of the city in which they are located and deeply connected to the city's history. Some of them are recent architectural masterpieces, and famous national landmarks. 

From the oldest universities in the world – the University of Bologna and Oxford, to newer campuses, such as the National Autonomous University of Mexico, university structures are often important tourist destinations, with many of them being in the UNESCO World Heritage site list.

The University of Oxford, Oxford, England

The second-oldest educational institution in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world, the university has no primary campus. Colleges, departments, student housing, and other facilities are scattered across the city of Oxford. The Science Area, where most science departments are located, is the closest to a typical campus. The Radcliffe Camera, the Sheldonian Theatre, and the Examination Schools are counted among world-famous historic university structures.

University of Salamanca, Salamanca, Spain

The oldest university in the Hispanic world and the third oldest in the world, Salamanca University is located in the city of Salamanca, near Madrid. The university campus is a remarkable mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, with exquisite arches and unique Plateresque façade. The ancient Hospital del Estudio, erected in 1413, is the Salamanca's oldest university structure, presently serving as the Rectorate.

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England

One of the oldest and well-known educational institutions in the world, the University of Cambridge occupies the centre of Cambridge, the side of the river Cam, and consists of many semi-autonomous colleges, departments, and schools. The structures of Trinity College, King's College Chapel, Queens' College, and the Cripps Building at St John's College are among the university’s most famous buildings.

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico city, Mexico

The main campus of this public research university in Mexico is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is known as Ciudad Universitaria (University City). It was designed by some of Mexico's best architects. Famous painters, including Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, created murals on the university campus buildings.

The Olympic Stadium, about 40 universities and institutions, the Cultural Center, an ecological reserve, the Central Library, and a few museums are all located within the boundaries of the University City. It was constructed in the 1950s on an old hardened lava bed in Coyoacán known as "El Pedregal" to replace the dispersed structures where lessons were held in central Mexico City.

Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Queen's University Belfast campus lies in Belfast's Queen's Quarter neighborhood, one of the city's six cultural districts. The institution's buildings are also located throughout South Belfast, mostly on University Road, University Square, and Stranmillis Road. The majestic Lanyon building, located in the heart of campus, is the major university structure and a famous Northern Ireland landmark.

Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

The first and the most famous Russian university has plenty of campuses spread across Moscow. Majority of them were placed on Sparrow Hills in 1953 and have been there ever since. The main structure, which stands 240 meters tall, is one of seven neoclassical towers in Moscow, constructed by architect Lev Rudnev in the post-war era style. The university administration, the Museum of Earth Sciences, several faculties, some of the dormitories, a concert hall, canteens, a theatre, administrative services, a library, a swimming pool, and much more are located within this famous building.

University of Cape town, Cape Town, South Africa

The University of Cape Town’s primary teaching campus, the Upper Campus, located on the Devil's Peak slopes, perfectly fits into the majestic South African landscape. Inside the Upper Campus, there are several university colleges, library, and the memorial hall that hosts graduations, examinations, and a variety of ceremonial events.

University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal

Founded in 1290, this school has a long history, and architecture to match. Its campus was included into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013. The architecture is remarkable due to the fact that the university is located in what was originally a royal palace: when the university moved to Coimbra in 1537, it was established in the Alcaçova Palace, which was later bought from the Royal Family in 1597.

University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

Founded in 1088, this institution is considered the oldest in the world. The school is located in and forms a part of the picturesque Bologna city centre, full of arcs, galleries, towers, and churches, and has several amazing campuses, a well-known library, and all necessary student facilities.

University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland

The University of Edinburgh consists both of old and recently built structures. On the one hand, Edinburgh's Old Town is full of the school’s grand and old campuses. St Cecilia's Hall, Scotland's oldest purpose-built music hall; Teviot Row House, the world's oldest purpose-built student union building; and Mylne's Court, currently a student housing, are some of them. On the other hand, it features some incredible modern architecture, too – Central, King's Buildings, BioQuarter, Western General, and Easter Bush are the perfect examples.

Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

This Ivy League private research university is located at Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its main campus, which has the university’s administration, libraries, faculties, church, and dormitories, features a diverse range of architectural styles of American architecture of the last three hundred years.

Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France

This famous fine arts school spans about two hectares in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood of Paris. In 1830, a former student and an architect Félix Duban demolished some of the old structures, incorporating parts of them into his new university complex. The entire structure was designed by Duban as an open-air encyclopedia for artists and architects. The stairwells of the Palais des Études building include magnificent paintings, and the courtyard (glassed over by Duban in 1863) originally housed classical sculptures and full-size replicas of the Parthenon columns for study.

Yale University, New Haven, USA

Yale is another Ivy League institution based in Connecticut, New Haven. Its iconic old campus, where the university celebrates Commencement each year, features a 216-feet-tall Harkness Tower with a 54-bell Yale Memorial Carillon. Yale is recognized for its predominantly Collegiate Gothic architecture, but it also includes a number of famous contemporary structures, like Louis Kahn's Yale Art Gallery and Center for British Art. On Hillhouse Avenue, which Charles Dickens regarded as the most beautiful street in the United States, Yale has restored a number of significant 19th-century homes.

Royal Roads University, British Columbia, Canada

The Royal Roads University campus looks like a fairy tale castle amidst lush vegetation: it has even served as a setting for several  feature films such as X-Men and Deadpool. The campus is surrounded by world-renowned gardens. The university recognizes that its campus is located on the traditional Lands of indigenous peoples - the Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) and Lekwungen (Songhees) ancestors and families.

Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Being ranked as one of the most beautiful college grounds by Forbes, Trinity College campuses, spread across Dublin, reflect the rich history of this educational institution. Its world-famous library not only contains 5 million books, including the Book of Kells, but serves also as a famous landmark. The original (Old) library is an architectural masterpiece and a third most visited tourist destination in Dublin.