A loaded faculty roster, top-of-the-line student services, and competitive degree programs — these are the usual items on a student’s checklist when choosing a college.
But if you’re caught in a pickle between two contenders, why not choose a campus with beautiful surroundings? After all, who can say no to luscious gardens, Instagrammable buildings, and spectacular views?
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that a beautiful college could lead to happier students.
We’ve rounded up 21 colleges in the US with breathtaking architecture in the list below. Let’s jump right in!
1. Mount Holyoke College
There’s so much to see at this women-only college, with its 2,000 acres of picturesque red brick buildings, serene lakes and waterfalls, and lush woodland trails.
As scenic as it is on the outside, the interior of the school’s facilities is also a sight to behold with high ceilings, arched wooden beams reinforced with ironwork, and lancet-inspired windows.
One might even think that this Mount Holyoke College, founded in 1837, resembles Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. There’s no denying that the campus looks magical! ✨
🏫 Date Founded: 1837
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 55th
🚩 Location: South Hadley, Massachusetts
2. Pepperdine University
If you’re California-bound for college and dreaming of a campus just a stone’s throw from the ocean, Pepperdine is the school for you!
From palm trees being scattered across the campus to a spectacular view over the Pacific Ocean, this Malibu-based college is perfect for students who love to study (or daydream) to the sound of waves and in a bright, relaxing environment.
The buildings on this campus are inspired by the Mediterranean Revival style with white-colored stucco walls and beautiful red-tiled roofs.
🏫 Date Founded: 1937
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 175th
🚩 Location: Malibu, California
3. Loyola Marymount University
Built on top of Los Angeles’ Del Rey Hills, the 150-acre Loyola Marymount University boasts a spectacular view of the Los Angeles Basin and the Pacific Ocean.
The Jesuit and Marymount institution combines Spanish Gothic influences with modern touches, such as the emphasis on horizontal and vertical lines and its white facade.
Take a break from studying by feasting your eyes upon larger-than-life chandeliers, expertly-crafted marble and concrete pillars, stained-glass windows, and manicured lawns lined with palm trees. What a dream!
🏫 Date Founded: 1911
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 90th
🚩 Location: Los Angeles, California
4. Colgate University
Fairytale-like landscape: ✔️
Lovely Romanesque architecture: ✔️
Iconic Willow Path with its own urban legend: ✔️
It’s no wonder that The Princeton Review crowned this upstate New York college as the most beautiful campus in the country back in 2010!
This school’s grounds are filled with thousands of sugar maple and oak trees. But one of its most remarkable attractions is Willow Path where couples kiss to stay married forever – or so says local tradition.
Completing this ethereal picture is the Colgate Memorial Chapel, the school’s most famous attraction.
The late international-style and modernism-inspired chapel house is known for its collection of books, music, and art representing the world’s great religions, something that people from all religious backgrounds can explore and appreciate.
🏫 Date Founded: 1846
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 52nd
🚩 Location: Hamilton, New York
5. The University of the South
With 13,000 acres perched on the Cumberland Plateau, this campus provides a jaw-dropping view of thick and lush forests that gives students a taste of nature (and some much-needed fresh air after a long day of studying).
When you step inside buildings on this campus you’ll find grandiose architecture inspired by the Neo-Gothic Revival, with the All Saints’ Chapel being the best and most popular attraction.
Architect Ralph Adams Cram furnished the building with rose windows, arched ceilings, and a tower reminiscent of the Notre Dame de Paris and Oxford University’s church. You’ll feel like you’re in Europe, not Tennessee!
🏫 Date Founded: 1868
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 190th
🚩 Location: Sewanee, Tennessee
6. Berry College
Majestic, picturesque, and vast: these are just a few of the words we’d use to describe the incredible Berry College in Georgia.
There’s no reason to feel study stress here. The school has more than 27,000 acres of land including forests, trails, streams, and fields where students can wander, meditate, and gain inspiration for their creative pursuits.
On top of taking out the title for the world’s largest college campus, Berry has gorgeous buildings with English Gothic architecture. The elegant facade is mirrored by the campus’ decorative pools — a picture worthy of posting on your Instagram that will get you more than a few likes!
🏫 Date Founded: 1902
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 377th
🚩 Location: Mount Berry, Georgia
7. Vanderbilt University
When you think of Vanderbilt, you think of nature. Why? Because this college’s grounds have been designated as a national arboretum with more than 200 species of trees and shrubs!
Within that green expanse are beautiful, majestic buildings such as Kirkland Hall and the Faye and Joe Wyatt Center for Education.
Nashville architect William Smith designed Kirkland Hall, which stood as the campus’ central building for decades until it burnt down in 1905.
Initially a two-towered building with a Victorian Gothic design that was accentuated with wooden spires and stone accents, the hall was rebuilt to feature fireproof Italianate style architecture and a single 170-foot tower.
🏫 Date Founded: 1873
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 15th
🚩 Location: Nashville, Tennessee
8. Indiana University
This 201-year-old university in Bloomington was built on top of a bed of Indiana Limestone, making it only natural that this resource would be used to create the campus!
Many of the university’s buildings – whether Gothic, Late Victorian, or Romanesque Revival in design – are made with limestone.
Even the iconic Sample Gates, which serve as students’ entrance to the campus and the backdrop of many first day and graduation photos, are furnished from this rock.
🏫 Date Founded: 1820
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 138th
🚩 Location: Bloomington, Indiana
9. Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr was one of the first higher education institutions to feature early Gothic-style architecture on its campus, creating a template for other colleges to follow suit.
Students of the 135-acre college enjoy lush gardens and other scenic locations, including a charming duck pond surrounded by towering trees.
The campus is also filled with weeping Higan cherry trees that bloom spectacularly during the spring. What a visual treat, that’s for sure!
🏫 Date Founded: 1885
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 68th
🚩 Location: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
10. Elon University
When tons of sources include this school in its exclusive list of the most beautiful college campuses in the US, who are we to disagree?
What makes this North Carolina campus so breathtaking is its quaint gardens and peaceful fountains that heighten the student experience.
It’s more tempting to spend your days outside than in class, especially within the lush greenery that blends wonderfully with the school’s impressive and historic red brick buildings.
🏫 Date Founded: 1889
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 143rd
🚩 Location: Elon, North Carolina
11. Kenyon College
Although small, Kenyon College boasts extraordinary Gothic-style structures and impressive stone buildings enveloped in a 480-acre nature preserve. This location lends a bright, serene atmosphere to the liberal arts school.
This campus combines elegant and historic brick buildings like the Peirce and Hanna & Leonard Halls with modern, glass-walled structures, such as Horvitz Hall and the Chalmers Library. You get the best of both worlds – a little bit of old and new!
Plus, not only are you afforded a view of the Kokosing River, but this campus also offers hiking trails, wetland habitats, and stargazing opportunities.
🏫 Date Founded: 1824
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 93rd
🚩 Location: Gambier, Ohio
12. Rice University
Wait a minute. Hold up. Can you believe how gorgeous Rice University is? It’s like something out of a movie!
The Mediterranean Revival-style buildings, combined with other Byzantine and Romanesque details like its pink brickwork, sweeping archways, and well-kept quadrangles transform the school into a space fit for a royal.
But we’re not even done yet! Rice also features the stunning Twilight Epiphany Skyspace by James Turrell, an outdoor light show performed at sunrise and sunset every day except Tuesdays.
🏫 Date Founded: 1912
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 18th
🚩 Location: Houston, Texas
13. Princeton University
The stunning cohesion between buildings and surrounding landscape add to the appeal of this Ivy League school – and we couldn’t agree more! Gray stone buildings littered with idyllic footpaths, courtyards, and greenery makes Princeton look like the campus of our dreams.
Princeton combines Collegiate Gothic, modernism, postmodernism, and deconstructivist architecture styles in its structures.
This is emphasized by Nassau Hall, reconstructed by architect John Notman after it sustained damages during the Battle of Princeton in 1777, and Spelman Hall, designed by I.M. Pei.
The charm of these exquisite buildings is magnified by the immaculately manicured greenery that envelops them.
🏫 Date Founded: 1746
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 8th
🚩 Location: Princeton, New Jersey
14. Stanford University
We’re not gonna lie, this top-rated university might give you plenty of academic stress, but at least you’re on a stunning campus with plenty of places where you can let off some steam.
One of these beautiful areas is Stanford’s Main Quadrangle. The quad features California Mission-style architecture and Romanesque and Byzantine details, which are a feature of Stanford Memorial Church.
Campus visitors are also greeted with lines of trees and lush flower beds while driving through the school’s iconic Palm Drive entrance.
🏫 Date Founded: 1885
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 2nd
🚩 Location: Stanford, California
15. Dartmouth College
Did you know some say that President Dwight Eisenhower once said that Dartmouth is the epitome of what a college should be? Big words! But this campus delivers.
The New Hampshire college is dominated by Georgian-American colonial-style buildings and world-renowned art, including original Jose Clemente Orozco murals.
Tucked away in 269 acres of trees and other greenery, the campus has grand, eye-catching edifices, including the Baker-Berry Library, inspired by the Philadelphia Independence Hall, and the Rollins Chapel.
🏫 Date Founded: 1769
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 13th
🚩 Location: Hanover, New Hampshire
16. Duke University
Duke has been described as a “Collegiate Gothic wonderland” because its 254 majestic buildings are fashioned in Gothic and Georgian styles.
On the campus, Duke Chapel and its tower act as a mesmerizing beacon. A gifted African-American architect named Julian Abele designed the church with distinct Gothic characteristics, such as towering church spires, pointed arches, and large stones.
🏫 Date Founded: 1838
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 5th
🚩 Location: Durham, North Carolina
17. Flagler College
Built in 1888, the incredible Ponce de León Hotel was considered to be a magnificent and historical Spanish Renaissance Revival masterpiece.
But when the time came for the luxury hotel to close its doors, Flagler College soon took its place.
New York-based architects Carrère and Hastings took the time to make the property as magical as possible, fitting the hotel with giant crystal chandeliers, intricate stained-glass windows, and immaculate furnishings.
The college now works to preserve the unique and historic architectural structures and fittings that it inherited from the hotel.
🏫 Date Founded: 1968
🥇 THE US University Ranking: > 600th
🚩 Location: St. Augustine, Florida
18. University of Virginia
Founded by former American President Thomas Jefferson in 1819, some say this Charlottesville college exudes a presidential or even regal atmosphere.
Since the 1,680-acre campus is home to a Palladian-style Rotunda and the design of the school’s main building was inspired by Rome’s Pantheon, this description is not far off!
In fact, its beautiful structures are considered one of the most important architectural projects in US history, with the campus designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Consider us impressed!
🏫 Date Founded: 1819
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 55th
🚩 Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
19. College of William & Mary
As the second oldest college in the US, this school showcases amazing early Georgian and Anglo-Dutch style architecture.
Its most attractive spot is the Sunken Garden at the center of its Old Campus, designed by Charles Robinson in the early 1920s.
Created to be a place of relaxation, the garden is heavily inspired by 18th century English landscape gardens, which use sweeping lawns to draw the eye towards the vast expanse.
Students can also stroll by the Crim Dell pond, its famous bridge, and nearby forests.
🏫 Date Founded: 1693
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 78th
🚩 Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
20. Furman University
What wonders can you find at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina? A wooded campus spanning 750 acres called Furman University!
Based on this introduction alone, you already know that this institution is filled with beautiful gardens, including its famed Asia Gardens. Because of South Carolina’s sub-tropical climate, flora like bamboo, azaleas, and Japanese maples thrive here. It even has a Japanese temple.
In terms of its other structures, the campus is home to a Florentine bell tower with six floors! Visitors can also check out the Burnside Carillon and Place of Peace.
🏫 Date Founded: 1826
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 149th
🚩 Location: Greenville, South Carolina
21. Yale University
Last but not least on this list is Yale University — an Ivy League school with an impressive variety of architectural styles.
Many of the buildings were constructed with Collegiate Gothic style in mind. But the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale Art Gallery and Center for British Art offer a touch of modernism with clean, smooth lines and asymmetrical shapes, as well as open floor plans and glass incorporated in the walls and ceilings.
In addition, some buildings are richly decorated in signature Gothic Revival style, such as the Sterling Memorial Library. American architect James Gamble Rogers was responsible for completing the library in 1931, with gargoyles, sculpted walls, and plenty of stained-glass windows.
🏫 Date Founded: 1701
🥇 THE US University Ranking: 4th
🚩 Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Specialty degree programs, impressive faculty, stellar reputation … and aesthetics? 🤨
You need to consider many factors when applying for a college, and often, students overlook a school’s impressive architecture.
But when academic stress kicks in, you’ll be grateful to have a beautiful sanctuary right outside your dorm. Did your dream school (or alma mater) make it on our list?