From the dreaming spires of Oxford to the Hogwarts-esque buildings at Bangor, the UK has some of the most beautiful universities in the world. Looking around, it’s easy to see why these inspiring institutions and their leafy campuses have produced some of the planet’s most brilliant minds. Alumni include Professor Stephen Hawking (Oxford) and Sir Isaac Newton (Cambridge).
In fact, our universities are so renowned, people travel from all over just to get a look. The UK’s best university campuses are truly architectural delights, astoundingly impressive both inside and out. If you’re looking for the perfect Instagram photo, these universities need no filter.
That’s why here at Holiday Lettings, we’ve rounded up 14 of the UK’s most beautiful universities that are well worth a visit. And finding a place nearby is easy: Holiday Lettings offers affordable rentals in each of these destinations, many often situated right near campus. You’ll have the perfect home base for exploring these beautiful university towns—perhaps with your child or future student?
But don’t take our word for it. We’re letting our readers decide which is the best university campus and most beautiful. Which of these fabulous faculties is your favourite? You have until 24th October to make your pick!
Formed in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is the third oldest university in Scotland and fifth oldest in the UK. The university’s rich history is reflected in its architecture, from the ornate 16th-century carvings of the King’s College Chapel to the award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library, designed by Danish architects, Schmidt Hammer Lassen.
Keele is the largest university campuses in the UK and ranked number one in the world for its green setting and campus infrastructure (UI Green Metric, 2017). Keele is situated on an estate of over 610 acres surrounded by woodland, eight lakes, landscaped parkland. At the heart of the campus is the majestic 16th-century Keele Hall. Over the last decade, Keele has invested over £140 million in its campus, whilst remaining one of the greenest and most sustainable universities in the country.
This ambitious university has three magnificent, historic campuses. The largest is at the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich, at the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the banks of the River Thames: “Premises to match any Oxbridge college,” according to The Sunday Times. This campus has one of the grandest university settings in the world. It’s centred on three baroque buildings, designed by Sir Christopher Wren at the end of the 17th century, which today house a range of modern and high-tech facilities. The university also has campuses at Avery Hill, south-east London, set in acres of parkland, and at an elegant Edwardian red-brick site in Chatham Maritime, Kent.
Set in 135 acres of beautiful parkland and with an impressive combination of historic and modern buildings, Royal Holloway is one of the best university campuses in the UK. The Grade I listed Founder’s Building, founded by entrepreneur Thomas Holloway and opened in 1886, is modelled on the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley. The state-of-the-art Davison building is striking and sensitive in design and delivers breath-taking views of the Founder’s Building, London’s skyline and Surrey’s picturesque countryside. Its flamboyant architecture and spectacular setting makes Royal Holloway one of the most beautiful universities in the UK.
Located between the mountains of Snowdonia and the sea, Bangor University has grown up in and around one of the UK’s smaller cities. The heart of the campus is the main university building which sits atop the hill above Bangor. This Grade I listed Neo-Gothic building is iconic and many students have often compared it to Hogwarts on the university’s open days! From the classical to the new, the latest university building is the Pontio Arts & Innovation Centre. The university campus boasts an eclectic mix of buildings reflecting a range of architectural styles, set in a leafy and green environment.
Set within a vibrant and creative city, Bristol university comprises a striking mix of contemporary and heritage architecture, which is matched by the fantastic biodiversity of rich parks, gardens and open spaces. The Green Flag award winning Royal Fort gardens sit at the heart of the university which flow towards the city centre. En route, you’ll see the perpendicular Gothic architecture, built as a result of the unifying vision of Sir George Oakley. Two main residences for students are at Clifton village, with its iconic 18th-century buildings and gardens (Clifton Hill House and Goldney), and Stoke Bishop, with the Wills Hall quadrangle and an inspiring new Botanic Garden.
The University of Sussex is based on a single site, nine minutes from bustling Brighton, an hour from London and surrounded by the beautiful South Downs National Park. The campus is home to 17,000 students who enjoy the university’s buzzing social life, cosmopolitan atmosphere and stunning location. Designed in the early 1960s by the architect Sir Basil Spence as a ‘modern-day Cambridge’, to this day the campus remains true to his founding vision, combining green spaces and trees with iconic, sculptural buildings. The Sussex landscape is part of the University’s identity, and the materials used to build it – soft red brick, flint and copper – were chosen by Spence with this in mind.
The University of Exeter’s picturesque Streatham campus is a registered botanic garden and a perfect habitat for wildlife. Known for being one of the most beautiful university campuses in the UK, it’s home to over 5,000 trees and the National Collection of Azara (a South American evergreen shrub). Amphibians, birds, insects, mammals and reptiles are in abundance. As well as the incredible horticulture, the grounds house outstanding sports facilities and sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Paul Mount and Geoffrey Clark. Major award-winning buildings, such as the Forum and the Living Systems Institute, are more recent additions and visitors can stay in some student halls of residence outside of term time.
This global university is consistently ranked amongst the very best institutions in the world. Established upon an exceptional platform in education, research and industrial engagement in the UK, the University has also built highly successful campuses in Malaysia and China. The UK estate is based on seven locations and the University Park is widely regarded as one of the country’s most attractive campuses, with a record 11 Green Flag Awards – the benchmark national standard for parks and green spaces in England and Wales. With established woodland, landscaped gardens and period buildings set around a large boating lake, Nottingham’s flagship 300-acre University Park Campus is one of the best university campuses in the UK, and one of the largest.
The University of Oxford has no known date of foundation, but there’s evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The 38 colleges offer stunningly beautiful accommodation to their students, some of the oldest being University College, Balliol, and Merton, established between 1249 and 1264. As Oxford is a city university, there’s no main campus. Instead, its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city centre which makes for a vibrant and social student life. It’s one of the most beautiful universities in the UK so it’s easy to see why tourists from all over the world come to take a tour around the colleges. The university operates the world’s oldest university museum, the Ashmolean, and the largest university press in the world, the Oxford University Press,.
Second only to Oxford as the oldest university in the English-speaking world, this historic university grew out of an association of scholars who left the University of Oxford after a dispute with the townspeople. These two world-famous medieval institutions have many similarities and are often referred to jointly as “Oxbridge”. Set in the beautiful city of Cambridge, the university operates eight museums, including the Fitzwilliam Museum, as well as a botanical garden. The university is famous for its heritage of scholarship and magnificent architecture, and the continued investment into new facilities ensures that Cambridge remains one of the most sought-after universities worldwide.
This innovative university in the heart of Birmingham has been helping to nurture great minds for more than a century. The university was founded in 1900 and was England’s first civic university, where students from all backgrounds were accepted as equals. It was also a founder member of the National Union of Students and was the UK’s first civic or ‘redbrick’ university. Today, the University of Birmingham continues to inspire and engage its students. And as it’s home to some prestigious museums, including the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the Shakespeare Institute and the Lapworth Museum of Geology, it’s no surprise that this outstanding university continues to produce brilliant brains.
The University of St Andrews in Fife is the oldest of the four ancient universities of Scotland and the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. Founded in 1413, the university occupies historic and modern buildings scattered throughout the picturesque town. A big plus for students studying at St Andrews is the close link to the town. As there’s no campus, the buildings are nestled in the charming streets and historic ruins. The stunning sea views must make revising for exams that little bit easier for the students here, too.
As the focal point of the Queen’s Quarter area of the city, one of Belfast’s four cultural districts, this university is set in inspiring surroundings. Not only is Belfast among the top five most affordable student cities in the UK (Marbles.com, 2017), Queen’s has invested over £350m in cutting-edge facilities in the past decade, including the £50m McClay Library. The Lanyon building is another highlight here. It was opened in 1849 and named after its architect, Sir Charles Lanyon. This stunning building is the central part of the campus and has been voted one of the most beautiful university buildings in the world.