The Prettiest College Campuses in the United States

These scenic schools offer natural beauty and historic buildings

The prettiest college campuses boast stunning architecture, abundant green spaces, and historic buildings. The east coast, with its high density of esteemed universities, typically dominates lists of loveliest campuses. However, beauty is not limited to a single coast, so the schools described below span the country, from New Hampshire to California and Illinois to Texas. From modernist masterpieces to gorgeous gardens, find out exactly what makes these college campuses so special. 

Berry College

Trees and campus building at University of Washington
The University of Washington. gregobagel / Getty Images

Berry College in Rome, Georgia has just over 2,000 students, yet has the largest contiguous campus in the country. The school's 27,000 acres include streams, ponds, woodlands, and meadows that can be enjoyed through a extensive network of trails. The three-mile-long paved Viking Trail connects the main campus to the mountain campus. Berry's campus is hard to beat for students who enjoy hiking, biking, or horseback riding.

The campus is home to 47 buildings, including the stunning Mary Hall and Ford Dining Hall. Other areas of campus feature red brick Jeffersonian architecture.

Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College. aimintang / Getty Images

Bryn Mawr College is one of two women's colleges to make this list. Located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the college's campus includes 40 buildings situated on 135 acres. Many buildings feature Collegiate Gothic architecture, including College Hall, a National Historic Landmark. The building's Great Hall was fashioned after buildings at Oxford University. The attractive tree-lined campus is a designated arboretum.

Dartmouth College

Dartmouth Hall
Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College. kickstand / Getty Images

Dartmouth College, one of the eight prestigious Ivy League schools, is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. Founded in 1769, Dartmouth features many historic buildings. Even recent construction conforms to the campus's Georgian style. At the heart of the campus is the picturesque Dartmouth Green with the Baker Bell Tower sitting majestically on the north end. 

The campus sits on the edge of the Connecticut River, and the Appalachian Trail runs through campus. With such an enviable location, it should come as little surprise that Dartmouth is home to the country's largest college outing club.

Flagler College

USA, Florida, St. Augustine, Ponce de Leon Hall of Flagler College
Ponce de Leon Hall of Flagler College. Biederbick&Rumpf / Getty Images

While you'll find plenty of attractive college campuses with Gothic, Georgian, and Jeffersonian architecture, Flagler College is in a category of its own. Located in historic St. Augustine, Florida, the college's main building is Ponce de Leon Hall. Built in 1888 by Henry Morrison Flagler, the building features the work of famous nineteenth-century artists and engineers including Tiffany, Maynard, and Edison. The building is one of the most impressive examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture in the country is a National Historic Landmark.

Other notable buildings include the Florida East Coast Railway Buildings, which were recently converted into residence halls, and the Molly Wiley Art Building, which recently underwent a $5.7 renovation. Because of the school's architectural appeal, you'll often find more tourists than students milling about the campus.

Lewis & Clark College

Lewis & Clark College
Lewis & Clark College. Another Believer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Although Lewis & Clark College is in the city of Portland, Oregon, nature lovers will find plenty to appreciate. The campus is nestled between the 645-acre Tryon Creek State Natural Area and the 146-acre River View Natural Area on the Willamette River. 

The 137-acre wooded campus sits in the hills on the southwest edge of city. The college is proud of its environmentally sustainable buildings as well as the historic Frank Manor House.

Princeton University

Blair Hall in Princeton University
Blair Hall at Princeton University. aimintang / Getty Images

All eight of the Ivy League schools have impressive campuses, but Princeton University has appeared on more rankings of pretty campuses than any of the others. Located in Princeton, New Jersey, the school's 500 acres house over 190 buildings featuring plenty of stone towers and Gothic arches. The campus's oldest building, Nassau Hall, was completed in 1756. More recent buildings have drawn on architectural heavyweights, such as Frank Gehry, who designed the Lewis Library.

Students and visitors enjoy the abundance of flower gardens and tree-lined walkways. At the southern edge of campus is Lake Carnegie, home to the Princeton crew team.

Rice University

Lovett Hall at Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA
Lovett Hall at Rice University. Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

Even though the skyline of Houston is easily visible from campus, Rice University's 300 acres don't feel urban. The campus's 4,300 trees make it easy for students to find a shady spot to study. The Academic Quadrangle, a large grassy area, sits at the heart of the campus with the Lovett Hall, the university's most iconic building, situated on the eastern edge. Fondren Library stands on the opposite end of the quad. The majority of campus buildings were constructed in the Byzantine style.

Stanford University

Hoover Tower, Stanford University - Palo Alto, CA
Hoover Tower at Stanford University. jejim / Getty Images

One of the country's most selective universities is also one of the most attractive. Stanford University sits on over 8,000 acres in Stanford, California, on the edge of the city of Palo Alto. Hoover Tower stands 285 feet above campus, and other iconic buildings include Memorial Church and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hanna-Honeycomb House. The university is home to roughly 700 buildings and a range of architectural styles, although the Main Quad at the center of the campus has a distinctive Californian Mission theme with its rounded arches and red tile roofs.

The outdoor spaces at Stanford are equally impressive including the Rodin Sculpture Garden, Arizona Cactus Garden, and Stanford University Arboretum. 

Swarthmore College

Parrish Hall in Swarthmore College
Parrish Hall at Swarthmore College. aimintang / Getty Images

Swarthmore College's nearly $2 billion endowment is readily apparent when one walks onto the meticulously manicured campus. The entire 425-acre campus includes the beautiful Scot Arboretum, open greens, wooded hills, a creek, and plenty of hiking trails. Philadelphia is just 11 miles away.

Parrish Hall and many of the campus's other early buildings were built in the second half of the 19th century from local gray gneiss and schist. With an emphasis on simplicity and classic proportion, the architecture is true to the school's Quaker heritage.

University of Chicago

Quad, University of Chicago
Quad, University of Chicago. Bruce Leighty / Getty Images

The University of Chicago sits about eight miles from downtown Chicago in the Hyde Park neighborhood near Lake Michigan. The main campus has six quadrangles surrounded by attractive buildings featuring English Gothic styles. Oxford University inspired much of the school's early architecture, while more recent buildings are distinctly modern.

The campus features several National Historic Landmarks, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House. The 217-acre campus is a designated botanic garden.

University of Notre Dame

Jesus Statue and Golden Dome at Notre Dame University
Jesus Statue and Golden Dome at Notre Dame University. Wolterk / Getty Images

The University of Notre Dame, located in northern Indiana, lies on a 1,250-acre campus. Main Building's Golden Dome is arguably the most recognizable architectural feature of any college campus in the country. The large park-like campus has numerous green spaces, two lakes, and two cemeteries. 

Arguably the most stunning of the 180 buildings on campus, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart features 44 large stained glass windows, and it's Gothic tower soars 218 feet above campus. 

University of Richmond

Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond
Robins School of Business at the University of Richmond. Talbot0893 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Richmond occupies a 350-acre campus on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia. The university's buildings are mostly constructed from red brick in the Collegiate Gothic style that is popular on so many campuses. Many of the early buildings were designed by Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed buildings for two other campuses on this list: Rice University and Princeton University.

The university's aesthetically pleasing buildings sit on a campus defined by its numerous trees, crisscrossing pathways, and rolling hills. The student center—the Tyler Haynes Commons—serves as a bridge over Westhampton Lake and offers beautiful views through its floor-to-ceiling windows.

University of Washington Seattle

University fountain
A fountain at the University of Washington in Seattle. gregobagel / Getty Images

Located in Seattle, the University of Washington is perhaps at its most beautiful when the abundant cherry blossoms burst forth in the spring. Like many of the schools on this list, the campus's early buildings were constructed in the Collegiate Gothic style. Notable buildings include Suzzallo Library with its vaulted reading room, and Denny Hall, the oldest building on campus, with its distinctive Tenino sandstone.

The campus's enviable location offers views of the Olympic Mountains to the west, the Cascade Range to the east, and Portage and Union Bays to the south. The 703-acre tree-lined campus features numerous quadrangles and paths. The aesthetic appeal is enhanced by a design that relegates most automobile parking to the outskirts of the campus.

Wellesley College

Walkway in fall, New England
A walkway on the Wellesley College campus. John Burke / Getty Images

Located in an affluent town near Boston, Massachusetts, Wellesley College is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Along with its excellent academics, this women's college has a beautiful campus overlooking Lake Waban. The Gothic bell tower of Green Hall stands at one end of the academic quadrangle, and residence halls are clustered across the campus connected by paths that wind through woods and meadows.

The campus is home to a golf course, a pond, a lake, rolling hills, a botanic garden and arboretum, and a range of attractive brick and stone architecture. Whether ice skating on Paramecium Pond or enjoying the sunset over Lake Waban, Wellesley students take great pride in their elegant campus.

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Grove, Allen. "The Prettiest College Campuses in the United States." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Grove, Allen. (2020, August 27). The Prettiest College Campuses in the United States. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "The Prettiest College Campuses in the United States." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).