It’s true that you must first look at the teaching and learning facilities that a university offers when choosing which one to attend, but it doesn’t hurt to scroll through some images of the campus too, to see if it fits the environment you’re looking for. Here at Times Higher Education Student we have done some of this research for you and compiled a list of the European universities that boast spectacular architecture and plush green spaces that should not be ignored.
Many of the most beautiful universities in Europe are also some of the oldest in the world, and their beauty and grandeur have certainly not diminished over time. But some of the more newly established universities are also featured in this list and offer a more contemporary aesthetic with modernist buildings and art features.
1. University of Bologna, Italy
The University of Bologna in Italy is regarded as the world’s oldest university, having been founded in 1088. As well as being the oldest continually running university, it is a strong contender as not just one of the most beautiful universities in Europe but perhaps even in the world. I know. Bold claim. Pictured below is the Palazzo Poggi, one of the main buildings of the university that houses three of the university’s museums with exhibitions on natural history, anatomy and obstetrics, and physics and chemistry. There are many buildings within the university that you should put on your must-visit list, including the Collegio di Spagna, a pink, cloistered building incorporating both Gothic and Renaissance elements in its design. As well as the exquisite architecture, the university is home to a 2 hectare botanical garden.
2. University of Salamanca, Spain
The University of Salamanca in Spain is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest in the world, having been established in 1134. It was the first institution to offer courses to foreign students. The university is famous for its baroque architecture, and the library is a particular highlight, for good reason. It contains more than 160,000 volumes and the ornate facade attracts many students and visitors who spend time looking for the hidden frog. Legend has it that if a student spots the amphibian, they will easily pass their exams. The Old City of Salamanca, which includes many of the university buildings, has been declared a Unesco world heritage site.
3. University of Coimbra, Portugal
Founded in 1290, the University of Coimbra sits atop a hillside, overlooking its namesake city in Portugal. The centre of the university, known as “University City”, is the old Royal Palace of Alcáçova, a stunning snow-white building that is home to the university’s clock tower – one of the most recognisable symbols of the university. Notable buildings include the Cathedral of Santa Cruz and the Joanine Library, which is a baroque architecture lover’s dream, packed to the ceiling with books. The Sao Miguel Chapel (pictured below) is a colourful masterpiece decked out in ornate tiles and with a ceiling so beautiful you’ll probably get a sore neck from staring at it.
4. University of Rostock, Germany
The University of Rostock is one of the oldest universities in Germany and every year the city attracts more and more students. Many of the buildings are constructed in the Gothic style and in among these stunning buildings are tree-lined avenues and parks. At the centre of the university is the eye-catching main building (pictured below) situated opposite a park and fountain, a perfect spot for students and visitors to spend some time admiring the rich exterior of the building. A visit to the nearby zoology building is recommended, to see the university’s famous taxidermy collection. The city harbour is a popular student spot and sports views of the sandy beaches edging the Baltic Sea.
5. Aarhus University, Denmark
Aarhus University is located in Denmark’s second-largest city, and is characterised by its green campus, complete with a lake. The university is a perfect example of how man-made structures and the natural environment can work in perfect harmony, demonstrated by the main building (pictured below). Many of the buildings were designed by Danish architect C.F. Møller in a modernist design that reflects the youth of the university. Møller and his partners Kay Fisker and Povl Stegmann were responsible for the yellow-brick buildings that are so distinctive to the university, and the main building has since been considered one of the 12 most significant architectural works in Danish history.
6. Gdansk University of Technology, Poland
The university campus of the Gdansk University of Technology is composed of a range of architectural styles. The main building (pictured below) is designed in a Dutch neo-Renaissance style and is one of the most recognisable buildings of the university. The facade has several stone features that indicate the building’s purpose as a centre for learning. There are many symbols and statues around the campus, such as a statue of an owl (the symbol of knowledge and wisdom) at the porter’s lodge and the lion which holds the coat of arms of the city of Gdansk.
7. Uppsala University, Sweden
The university’s main building was designed by architect Herman Teodor Holmgren, in a Romanesque style. It was constructed in the 1880s and has largely remained the same, allowing visitors to experience it as it was originally. The interior of the building is packed full of beautiful design details such as geometric tiled floors, marble statues, ornate domes and elaborate chandeliers. The university main building is still used for teaching as well as for prestigious academic events. Alongside the magnificent buildings, the university has its fair share of natural highlights, including the Botanical Garden, the Linnaeus Garden and the Linnes Hammarby. The campus is also home to Sweden’s only tropical rainforest housed in one of the greenhouses.
8. Grenoble Alpes University, France
Not many university campuses could claim to have three mountain ranges as part of their campus, but Grenoble Alpes University has managed just that. Situated in the French city of Grenoble, the university sits adjacent to the French Alps and the views are breathtaking. The university is well known for encouraging its students to get outside and breathe in the fresh mountain air, and with 175 hectares, that won’t be difficult. Once you’ve managed to take your eyes off the stunning mountain views, the cutting-edge buildings are also worth checking out.
9. Trinity College Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Modelled on the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin was founded in 1592. A combination of cobblestone walkways, sweeping emerald-green lawns and 18th-century architectural gems make Trinity the ideal Irish college destination. You can’t leave without a visit to the Long Room at Trinity College’s Old Library, which has a central walkway lined with marble busts of philosophers and writers and a distinctive barrel ceiling. Trinity’s buildings have been used in many films including Educating Rita and even in a Bollywood film.
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10. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia
The main building of the Lomonosov Moscow State University towers above the rest of the campus, standing at an impressive 240 metres topped with a 57 metre spire and a 12 ton five-pointed star. The building, one of Moscow’s “Seven Sisters”, is thought to contain 33 kilometres of corridors and 5,000 rooms. The huge pink-and-white structure has become something of an icon of the university and, as the interiors aren’t open to the general public, it retains an air of mystery. Surrounding the campus are areas of greenery, which look as beautiful in the winter when dusted with snow as they do in the spring when the flowers are in full bloom. Leading the way into the main building is a clear lake dotted with tiny fountains.
Read more: The 10 most beautiful universities in the UK