This feature is a part of our Best Colleges In America series.
Columbia University ranked in the top five on our list of the Best Colleges in America and the Ivy League school also has a classically beautiful college campus — with the added bonus of being in New York City.
Much of Columbia’s architecture reflects the university’s commitment to liberal education. All students must go through the school’s famed Core Curriculum, a series of classes aimed at creating critical thinkers.
The university was originally founded by royal edict in the mid-18th century as King’s College. These royal ties can still be seen in Columbia’s crown logo, which appears on flags and gates all over the campus.
Columbia’s first class consisted of nine students and one professor, who apparently closed the then-Wall Street based school to go fight the Revolutionary War. The campus was then relocated uptown, to where 30 Rockefeller Plaza is now, before moving to its current location in the heart of uptown Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighbourhood.
We recently decided to explore Columbia and see its stunning campus firsthand. In order to get the full experience, we sat in an on information session and followed around a campus tour.
The university has its own stop at 116th street. Check out the blue and white trim, Columbia's colours.
But you can't miss the historic and beautiful Columbia campus. It stretches from 114th to 120th streets, and from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue.
One phrase we heard repeatedly was the idea of Columbia as an 'academic acropolis.' Classical imagery is peppered throughout the campus, from columns on building entrances to philosophers' names etched onto walls.
The gate is flanked by two statues. If you look closely at the woman on the southern end, you can see her book has Latin writing, a reference to the importance of the humanities.
The walk into Columbia on 116th street is tree lined, a nice break from the concrete jungle of New York.
The first thing you notice on campus is Low Library, one of Columbia's most iconic buildings. The columns and domed roof seem to connect it to ancient temples in Greece and Rome. During the semester, the steps are one of the most popular places for students to hang out.
Right in the middle of the steps is 'Alma Mater,' which has been at Columbia for over a century. According to legend, the first student every year to find the owl hidden in her robes will become valedictorian.
The information session took place in a giant round room in the middle of Low. The ornate interior mirrored the building's facade. There were around 150 people listening to the admissions officers.
Our tour guide, a rising sophomore at Columbia, started the tour at the base of the Low Library steps. She started off with a story about why Low Library is a misnomer (there are no longer books in the building, as the weight of them caused it to sink).
Through the trees is Dodge Hall, Columbia's Arts building. To the right is Lewisohn Hall, home to the School of General Studies.
We passed by another tour when we were walking. The lion is Columbia's mascot and is the name of their teams.
The campus' physical fitness center is located underground. Students have to complete a gym credit and pass a swim test before graduating.
Havemeyer Hall is home to Columbia's chemistry department and is one of the oldest buildings on campus. It's famous for one of its classrooms, room 309, which has served as a set for several Hollywood movies, including 'Spiderman.'
The Interdisciplinary Sciences building is a modern architecture powerhouse that stands out from the red brick standard of Columbia, but it is connected to its surrounding science buildings by covered bridges. Our tour guide said her favourite library was here, as was a great coffee place.
We passed by another tour group, which coincidentally was led by a friend of mine from high school. Hi Finn!
Buell Hall, better known as la Maison Française, houses Columbia's french language house. It is the only remaining building from the land's previous occupants, the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum, and as such is Columbia's oldest building.
We crossed over the quad and made our way to the south part of campus, which hosts Columbia's freshman dorms and Butler Library. To our left is John Jay Hall, a dorm.
Many of Columbia's dorms are situated around a spacious lawn on the south end of campus. In the center is a bust of the first Dean of Columbia College.
We then walked through Butler, Columbia's main library. Not only do the columns evoke Greece and Rome, but the names on the facade are famous classical philosophers.
We found some unfortunate souls inside studying. However, that stained glass likely made the day inside better.
Our last stop was outside of Lerner Hall, Columbia's modern student center. Inside are several places to get food, as well as discounted tickets for arts events throughout New York City.
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