From the Rocky Mountains to glaciers and crystal-clear lakes, Canada is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. And its universities are no different, with many of them incorporating the country’s stunning landscapes in their campuses to create a beautiful learning environment.
Aside from being attractive, Canadian universities are also among some of the highest-ranked institutions in the world and are fast becoming a popular choice for international students as a study destination.
Scroll down for a selection of some of the best universities in Canada, not just with regard to aesthetics, but in terms of their rank in the Times Higher Education 2018 World University Rankings.
1. University of British Columbia, British Columbia
The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Vancouver campus is bordered by forest on three sides and by the sea on its fourth side, so students never feel far from nature. Indeed, Wreck Beach, one of Vancouver’s best coastal spots, has two main entrances on UBC’s campus. Located next to the UBC Museum of Anthropology (pictured below), Wreck Beach is secluded, pristine and often a favourite among naturists. The Nitobe Memorial Garden, in the UBC Botanical Garden, is a slice of oriental tranquility and has been voted one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside Japan. UBC’s Okanagan campus, opened in 2005 in Kelowna, is a four-hour drive from Vancouver. Set in picturesque, temperate wine country, Okanagan is no less beautiful than the Vancouver campus and looks out over Lake Okanagan, which is a haven for water-sports fans.
2. Queen’s University, Ontario
Founded by Queen Victoria’s royal charter in 1841, Queen’s University is actually older than Canada itself (the confederation was created in 1867). The fact that it was modelled on the University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow is clear from its beautiful limestone structures, ornate architectural features and the Hogwarts-esque Douglas Library (pictured below). Located in Kingston, Ontario, its backdrop is Lake Ontario, one of North America’s five Great Lakes. Its name translates as “Lake of Shining Waters” in the Huron language and it certainly lives up to its moniker.
3. McGill University, Montreal
Founded in 1821 by Scottish trader James McGill, the university’s campus is mainly based in downtown Montreal at the foot of Mount Royal. Many buildings have commanding stone walls and pitched copper roofs, while the Gothic-style Faculty of Religious Studies building boasts stained-glass windows and a wood-panelled interior. But it’s not all Gothic architecture – McGill spends huge amounts on eco-student programmes, such as the Edible Campus; once a concrete plaza, it is now a quaint community garden. The Macdonald campus (pictured below), located in the town of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue on the island of Montreal, sprawls over 1,600 acres of land, with endless bike paths, ski trails and greenhouses – perfect for any outdoorsy agricultural and environmental science students.
4. University of Toronto, Ontario
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, the University of Toronto’s campus is on a par with some of the US’ Ivy League schools. Although it is a campus university, the buildings are spread around Toronto. The architecture is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic Revival, mostly dating between 1858 and 1929, with the centrepiece being the University College building – an Instagrammable combination of Richardsonian Romanesque and Norman architecture. Plus plenty of ivy, of course. Convocation Hall is another highlight with its Ionic pillars and a domed roof. It may sound like just bricks and mortar, but there’s plenty of green space and interlocking courtyards for an alfresco study break.
5. Western University, Ontario
Established in 1878, Western University is one of the oldest institutions in Canada. Situated on the banks of the Thames in London, Ontario, expect Gothic limestone architecture, ivy-covered walls and a 1,200-acre playground of rolling hills. London might not be the most lively city in Canada, but students are spoilt for choice in terms of space. The university opened one of the most eye-popping gyms in Canada in 2009 – its fitness centre has 200 pieces of weight and cardio equipment, a 50-metre swimming pool, squash/racquetball courts and five gymnasiums.
6. Bishop’s University, Quebec
Sprawling across the rolling hills of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Bishop’s University is located in the beautiful arrondissement of Sherbrooke. Nestled between rivers, forests and farms; Bishop’s boasts plenty of gorgeous 19th-century architecture. St. Mark’s Chapel, which was modelled on classic college chapels such as those at the University of Oxford, is a highlight. Bishop’s is actually referred to as “Oxford on the Massawippi” due to its Gothic Revival buildings and location between the Massawippi and St. Francis rivers. It was also one of the main locations for the filming of the 2006 movie The Covenant.
7. Quest University, British Columbia
Quest University’s campus is in the coastal mountain community of Squamish, British Columbia, between Whistler and Vancouver. Perched on a hilltop that is part of the ancestral lands of the Squamish Nation, it boasts breathtaking views of wooded valleys and snow-capped mountains. All academic buildings, the library, recreation centre, dining hall and condo-style residences have floor-to-ceiling windows that offer picture-perfect vistas. There are also plenty of green spaces for when spring and summer arrive and all campus structures are fitted with geothermal heating and cooling.
8. Ryerson University, Ontario
It might seem to be a curveball among a selection of traditionally beautiful campuses but Ryerson University’s buildings are as urban chic as they come and are scattered all over Toronto. The most impressive is the Student Learning Centre (pictured below), which was designed by architects Zeidler and Snøhetta, and is an eight-storey ultra-modern wonder of glass, open space and light. Not to be missed is the Ryerson Image Centre, a renovated former warehouse that lights up like a disco dance floor at night. Two blocks away is Allan Gardens, one of Toronto’s oldest parks – perfect for urbanites craving a moment in nature.
9. McMaster University, Ontario
Located in the port city of Hamilton, in a residential area called Westdale Village, McMaster University sits within the “Golden Horseshoe” area of Lake Ontario. The main campus is bordered by the wetland Cootes Paradise, the university’s botanical gardens, a wildlife sanctuary and marshland area, and the shores of Lake Ontario. Nature trails, bike paths and Hamilton’s flourishing waterfront are within a stone’s throw of campus. Hamilton is at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment and less than an hour from Toronto.
10. The University of Manitoba, Manitoba
Founded in 1877, the University of Manitoba is western Canada’s first university and situated on Anishinabe and Metis traditional land. It is home to one of the largest indigenous student bodies in the country, with First Nations, Metis and Inuit students and staff. Referred to as a city within a city, the campus is in Winnipeg – with the main Fort Garry campus in the U-shaped area of land created by Winnipeg’s Red River. With traditional and modern buildings, tree-lined pathways and lush green spaces, UoM students enjoy attractive surroundings.
Read more: Best universities in Canada