Take a tour of the charming town surrounding the No. 1 college in the US

Princeton student walking off campusShana Lebowitz/Business InsiderDowntown Princeton is right across the street from the Ivy League university of the same name.

If there’s one insight I took from my day trip to Princeton, New Jersey, it’s this: It’s really pretty. Not just the Princeton University campus — the town surrounding it, too.

According to Business Insider’s rankings, the Ivy League university is the top college in the US, thanks to its 90% graduation rate and stellar academic offerings. Students there even boast a thriving social life.

One brilliantly sunny day in mid-November, I visited the school to sit in on a psychology course, and to rub elbows with the über-bright youth in the lecture hall. The class and my meeting with the professor took up the morning, which meant I had the rest of the day free to explore.

Princeton is home to about 30,000 people, and it’s a relatively affluent town — the median household income is about $158,677 (US$117,000), and there are plenty of designer clothing stores and fancy jewellery shops.

Over the course of the afternoon, I strolled through downtown Princeton, stopping to snap photos of bookstores, ice cream shops, and street corners that were too charming not to document. Below, get an idea of what it’s like just outside the gates of the top college in the United States.

Princeton is about an hour and 15 minutes by train from New York City's Penn Station on New Jersey Transit.

Once you arrive, you hop on the 'Dinky,' a small commuter train, from Princeton Junction to Princeton Station.

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Downtown Princeton, New Jersey, begins just across the street from Princeton University's campus. The dividing line is called Nassau Street.

The psychology class I was there to attend is offered through the Woodrow Wilson School, located in Robertson Hall.

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After class, I stopped for tea and a sandwich at Small World Coffee. As I sat there going over my notes from the morning, I felt like a grad student who blended right in with the rest of the studious customers.

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I paused at the intersection of Witherspoon St. and Nassau St. to take in the view. Those trees to the right are on the university's campus.

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The sales on literature, cookbooks, and more outside Labyrinth Books, on Nassau Street, caught my attention.

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PJ's pancake house looked adorable.

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This two-screen movie theatre shows independent, foreign, and classic films.

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Mamoun's Falafel looked familiar. Turns out there are two other locations in New York City.

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Every Thursday, there's a farmer's market near the public library. A live band played while patrons shopped for pickles, honey, and fresh veggies.

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Princeton Public Library is immaculate. Before class, I had breakfast in the library cafe.

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It was a little too cold for ice cream -- but locals say Halo Pub is the place to go.

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This tavern from the Revolutionary War era is now a hotel, the Nassau Inn. It books up fast around important days for the university, like graduation.

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The Bent Spoon, another ice cream shop, is tucked into a courtyard just around the corner from campus.

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And while I didn't have time to stop in, I peered through the window at Agricola, a farm-to-table restaurant. It was pretty trendy -- and pretty pricey.

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On the way back to the Dinky, I saw McCarter Theatre, which features theatre, dance, and music performances.

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Where the Dinky used to be located, there's now a bar and restaurant. Today, the Dinky sits by the Wawa supermarket, near Alexander Road.

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Bye, Princeton!

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