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California's Most Beautiful College Campuses
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California's Most Beautiful College Campuses

From modern mountainous enclaves to exquisite oceanside establishments, you’ll find the prettiest college campuses in California.

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5 min read

April 12, 2021

Without a doubt, the Golden State is stunning—whether we’re talking about natural formations or exquisite architectural structures, it's California for the win. Better yet, the state is also home to many of the most beautiful college campuses in the country. From modern mountainous enclaves to exquisite oceanside establishments, you’ll find the prettiest college campuses here. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by beauty when they study?

beautiful college campuses in California

Going on your first California college tour? Looking for the most beautiful college towns to live in? Starting with the college campus itself is the way to go. If you’ve been wondering which college campuses are the prettiest, you’ve come to the right place.

Putting UC vs. CSU differences aside, here are the most beautiful college campuses in the Golden State.

The prettiest college campuses in Southern California

The University of San Diego boasts beautiful 16th century Spanish Renaissance architectural style, perched on 180 acres of lush grounds.

University of San Diego

Location: 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego

Founded in: 1949

Sitting high and mighty, the University of San Diego’s breathtaking Immaculata Church can be seen for miles. Your college experience is heightened at one of the most beautiful campuses. The stunning Spanish Renaissance-style architecture overlooks Mission Bay and the San Diego skyline. Towering palm trees, gorgeous Spanish motifs, and sprawling green gardens make this campus an enchanting spot.

The campus complements the city’s impressive architecture, picturesque scenery, and idyllic climate. It also doesn’t hurt that San Diego is one of the best college towns to live in.

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Scripps College

Location: 1030 North Columbia Avenue, Claremont

Founded in: 1926

Did you fall asleep and wake up in an Italian postcard? The campus at Scripps College sure feels like it. While it’s smaller than most of the other institutions, Scripps College campus is undoubtedly among the most beautiful.

The renowned womens’ college is surrounded by lush gardens and verdant trees. The greenery results in an intimate setting that allows for a relaxed college atmosphere. The abundant fruit trees and gardens are complemented by Mediterranean-style architecture. All this and more makes Scripps one of the prettiest college campuses in the Golden State.

As the second-oldest campus in the UC system UCLA is rated among the best in the nation by major college and university rankings.

University of California, Los Angeles

Location: 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles

Founded in: 1919

A stellar sports program, great academics, and an enviable location—UCLA is famous for a lot of things. Among its long list of impressive traits is having one of the most beautiful college campuses in the nation. The intricate buildings are set apart from many of the other colleges in the area. The Romanesque Revival architecture style stands out from every other structure in sight.

The landscape is equally amazing—sloped lawns in front of Royce Hall are one of the most impressive areas on campus. One-third of the campus is covered in greenery, with brick-lined walkways leading to courtyards and gardens. If the architecture and natural scenery haven’t impressed you yet, the 70 pieces of artwork at the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden definitely will.

The nicest college campuses in Central California

The University of the Pacific's scenery stands out with stunning rose gardens and blooming trees. Photo courtesy of University of the Pacific.

University of the Pacific

Location: 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton

Founded in: 1851

The University of the Pacific—covered in towering pines and Gothic architecture—has an undeniably magical feel to it. Though its location has changed multiple times over the years, the university’s English Tudor Gothic style remains the same. The ornate Burns Tower graces the 175-acre campus as a testament to its architectural style.

As one of the nicest college campuses in California, the University of the Pacific features an abundance of greenery. Flowers and vegetation can be seen aroun every turn, including the lovely rose gardens near the dorms.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Location: 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz

Founded in: 1965

It’s no surprise that another UC university is on the list of most beautiful college campuses. UC Santa Cruz is nestled among beautiful redwood forests overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Unlike other colleges on the list, this one was designed with more of a contemporary architectural-style in mind. The stunning campus is also home to California’s most impressive modern architecture. 

There’s plenty to explore across the 6,000-acre campus. A must-see here are the Porters Caves—a series of three underground chambers that house several endemic species. The campus is close to several hiking and biking trails, sandy beaches, and other interesting spots.

The most beautiful campuses in Northern California

The Dominican University of California has a reputation for excellence in scholarship. Photo courtesy of Dominican University of California.

Dominican University of California

Location: 50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael

Founded in: 1890

The Dominican University of California creates a very woodsy atmosphere for its students. With large hills and shrubs in the background, the university’s entrance is adorned with trees and gardens. The mix of Mediterranean and Victorian-style architecture make this campus unforgettable. The greenery that lines the walkways complement the gorgeous detail found throughout the area. Read any list of prettiest college campuses and you’ll find this university on all of them.

As one of the most research-oriented universities in the world, Stanford University has the largest number of Turing award winners.

Stanford University

Location: 450 Serra Mall, Stanford

Founded in: 1885

The prestigious Stanford University offers its students more than the best education in the world. The 8,000 acres of flatlands and rolling foothills were once a horse farm owned by Leland and Jane Stanford. And while the campus is far from a farm today, the rustic charm remains.

A palm tree-lined path welcomes students to the majestic university, red clay tiles adorn the rooftops of each building, and lush gardens cover the sprawling grounds. Stanford is not only among the most beautiful college campuses in California, but also in the world.

UC Berkeley has the the third tallest bell and clock tower in the world, standing tall at 307 feet tall.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: 110 Sproul Hall, Berkeley

Founded in: 1868

Is it the stunning fall foliage that qualifies UC Berkeley as one of the most beautiful campuses in the state? Or the unbeatable views of the Golden Gate Bridge? Whichever it is, students of UC Berkeley are lucky in more than one way. Not only do they study at one of the most coveted universities in the world, but they also wake up every day to gorgeous views of the San Francisco Bay. 

The beautiful grounds filled with trees and gardens are enhanced by Classical style architecture. If one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country doesn’t inspire you to study, we don’t know what will.

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