iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Travel + Leisure

GET UPDATES FROM Travel + Leisure

Visiting The World's Most Beautiful Universities (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/24/2012 7:00 am

Trinity College in Dublin epitomizes our collective vision of a university campus. Here, cobblestoned paths wind among elegant stone 18th- and 19th-century buildings, bicycle racks edge grassy sports fields, and shade trees surround flowering gardens.

There are good reasons why Trinity fits our traditional idea of what a college campus should look like. University designs, after all, are deeply tied to a nation's history and identity--in fact, they can be seen as architectural monuments to a country's relationship with learning and education. So for many of us, it feels fitting that a university's campus should reflect a certain dignity and grandeur.

But there are many kinds of historically relevant design -- and just as many ways in which a campus can be beautiful. On the West Coast, for instance, Stanford University's Mission Revival buildings, with their red tile roofs and sandstone walls, are impressive in a way that is distinctly Californian. Peking University in Beijing, meanwhile, has students enter the campus through an ornately painted gate guarded by stone lions -- a nod to traditional Chinese architecture.

Some universities choose to embrace more modern architectural and design elements on their campuses -- perhaps to signify their evolving relationship with schooling. At the University of Rostock in Germany, for example, turn-of-the-century redbrick Neo-Renaissance structures share the campus with new, streamlined buildings of glass and steel. Newer universities, like Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, often showcase striking contemporary structures by today's star architects; its School of Art, Design and Media, built by the locally based CPG Corporation, has won design awards and is also a model for ecologically sustainable architecture.

We've strived to incorporate all these forms of beauty -- architectural, historical, environmental--in our list of the world's most beautiful universities. If we missed your favorite, post a comment below. --Stirling Kelso

See More on Travel + Leisure:
America's Most Beautiful College Campuses
America's Top College Hotels
Vote for America's Favorite City!

Loading Slideshow...
  • Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> Built in 1931 by three Danish architects, this 30-acre campus located in waterfront Aarhus is beautiful in its uniformity: while buildings differ in size and height—some are low-rise and square, others have pitched roofs and soaring glass windows—the architecture shares cohesive elements like yellow brick and tile roofs. The surrounding bucolic grounds include a grass-stepped amphitheater and a university park with rolling green lawns. In the works are indoor and outdoor botanical gardens, connected by open-air walkways and anchored by a striking glass greenhouse that will house tropical plants.<br><br> <em>Photo: Ian D. Leroux</em>

  • Coimbra University, Coimbra, Portugal

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> An iron-gated entryway opens up to cobblestoned courtyards at this hilltop university, where the architecture is reflective of Portugal’s long and artistically diverse history. The 1517 Capela de San Miguel, for example, incorporates thousands of traditionally hand-painted tiles; the Baroque Biblioteca Joanina, built in 1717, has bookcases made of Brazilian wood originally shipped overseas from Portugal’s new world settlements. German-turned-Portuguese architect João Frederico Ludovice built the university’s Baroque-style tower in 1728; though currently closed for repairs, its narrow, 115-foot spiral staircase leads to spectacular views over the surrounding city. <br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Mike Levanon</a></em>

  • McGill University, Montreal

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> McGill’s 79-acre campus, punctuated by a series of pavilions that were built over hundreds of years, has a unified design derived from the college’s Scottish roots (the school was founded by Scottish trader James McGill in 1821). Many of the buildings have commanding stone walls and pitched copper roofs; the Gothic-style Faculty of Religious Studies building, with its stained-glass windows and wood-paneled interior, is especially impressive. The school applies an annual six-figure budget toward green-minded student programs, such as the Edible Campus, a former 1,000-square-foot concrete plaza–turned–garden that provides both aesthetic beauty and produce for needy Montreal residents. <br><br> <em> Photo: Courtesy of McGill</em>

  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> At this top-ranked engineering school, paths lined with palm and durian fruit trees link contemporary buildings, such as the School of Art, Design, and Media—a four-story glass building with an open courtyard, reflecting pool, and grass-covered roof that doubles as an outdoor communal space. Classrooms are also cutting edge. Instead of whiteboards, many learning centers have interactive screens; and thanks to design and technology–focused student group Cool Campus, a series of learning pods with modular furniture, movable power outlets, dozens of LCD screens, and glass writing boards have opened. Plans for a light-rail system are also in the works. <br><br> <em>Photo: Courtesy of</em>

  • Peking University, Beijing

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> This central Beijing University is heralded for its traditional Chinese architecture, exemplified by its West Gate entryway: stone lions guard the ornately carved wall and doorway, which are painted with Chinese symbols and topped with a traditional timber roof. Inside, the 675-acre campus is studded with beautiful gardens, ponds, and huabiao, or traditional ceremonial columns. The school’s contemporary buildings, however, are striking, too; for instance, its Law building, built in 2010, has a patterned façade, made with local stone and cement, that filters harsh light. <br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" target="_blank">Lyndsey Matthews</a></em>

  • Qatar Foundation’s Education City, Doha, Qatar

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See More Beautiful Universities Here</a><br><br> This 5.5-square-mile campus, housing branches of eight U.S. and European universities, is a showcase of works by today’s architectural stars. The imposing Georgetown University School of Foreign Service building, for example, was built by Mexico City–based architects Legoretta + Legorreta; Japanese architect Arata Isozaki created white-walled geometric lecture halls—some are egg-shaped, others are 12-sided polyhedrons—for the Weill Cornell Medical College. He also worked with architect Kazuhiro Kojima to design the Liberal Arts and Science Building, which, with its mosaic façade and geometric latticework walls and ceilings, offers a modern take on traditional Islamic designs. <br><br> <em> Photo: Carlos Cazalis/Corbis</em>

  • Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA

    <a href="" target="_hplink">See the rest of the World’s Most Beautiful Universities on</a><br><br> Stanford’s mile-long, palm tree–lined drive and Mission revival architecture (incorporating sandstone walls and red-tile roofs) make its campus appear every bit as exclusive as it is. Among the famous buildings scattered throughout the 8,000-plus-acre campus are the hexagonal Hanna-Honeycomb House, built over a 25-year period by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Cantor Arts Center, home to 170 bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Additionally, Stanford lays claim to the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, five miles from the main campus, a nature reserve where hiking paths crisscross through Douglas fir and redwood forests. <br><br> <em> Photo: Tina Case of Case Rust Photography</em>


Follow Travel + Leisure on Twitter: