Canada’s 10 Most Beautiful University Campuses

Canada is blessed from coast to coast with incredibly beautiful and unique university campuses. While some feature historic buildings and castles, others are blessed with lush landscapes and an abundance of flora. Canadian universities have done their part to keep up these beautiful landscapes and as more modern buildings are created, they are done so in environmentally friendly ways. From the bustling metropolis of Montreal to the quiet paths of Thunder Bay; here are our top 10 choices for the most beautiful university campuses in Canada.

10. McGill University -Montreal, QB

McGill doesn’t just have one beautiful campus but two, both of them gorgeous in their own ways. The downtown campus features the lush greenery from the slopes of Mount Royal, combined with over 70 state of the art buildings. Macdonald Campus on the other hand is located on the very tip of the island of Montreal and features 100 year old buildings, numerous bike and walking paths, an awesome arboretum with skiing trails and just steps away from the mighty St. Lawrence River. Expect buildings here that have commanding stone walls, copper roofs, impressive stained glass windows, concrete plazas that have been turned into gardens. A shuttle runs between the two campuses and no matter where you study, or visit, it will be downright beautiful.

McGill University

9. University of Toronto -Toronto, ON

The University of Toronto offers three different campuses but it is no contest when it comes to which one is the most beautiful of them all. St. George’s campus is located right downtown and manages to blend incredible historical architecture with green space. Visitors should make their way to Victoria College and check out the Old Vic building, the oldest of the college and perhaps the most beautiful. Head over to University College, the founding college of the University of Toronto and check out Laidlaw quadrangle, which looks more like a medieval courtyard than a university campus. The Mississauga campus on the other hand is located on 225 hundreds acres of protected green space on the Credit River and provides a beautiful background for students and visitors alike.

University of Toronto

8. Queen’s University -Kingston, ON

Think limestone buildings, stunning architecture and waterfront; as that is exactly what Queen’s campus offers students and visitors. Fall is one of the best times to visit this campus as the leaves turn into brilliant shades of red and orange, making for a striking scene against the historic buildings. Students here spend a lot of time at Douglas Library and it’s not hard to see why, as not only is the building stunning but it features a pretty awesome fourth floor which houses a “Harry Potter” room. Although this campus isn’t as large as others on this list, the students and faculty make up for that as school spirit is high. Part of what make this campus so beautiful is the sense of community that is felt; expect to see a lot of blue, red and gold worn around campus as students show off their school spirit.

Queen's University

7. Western University -London, ON

Western offers the best of both worlds, historical architecture mixed with modern buildings and amenities. The campus is situated along the banks of the Thames River in London and offers trails both throughout the campus and along the Thames River. London isn’t the most exciting city on this list which means that students have created their own fun and expect to see them whipping down University Hill on skis and snowboards in the winter. The gothic style buildings have been restored to remain charming while the insides have been renovated, giving students the best of both worlds. This university also signed a pledge a few years ago to transform the campus into a model of environmental responsibility. Plans are in the works to add more buildings to this campus and expect great things in the years to come.

Western University

6. Bishop’s University -Sherbrooke, QB

This small liberal arts university in the tiny town of Sherbrooke offers a lot in term of beauty. Founded in 1843 the goal of this university is to educate the whole person, not just focusing on one subject. The campus is spread over 500 acres, at the junction of the St. Francis and Massawippi rivers and features some of Quebec’s most historic buildings. Many weddings are held at this university campus as St. Mark’s cathedral provides and absolutely stunning setting to say “I do”. This historical chapel features intricate woodwork inside and beautiful stained glass windows. McGreer Hall is the oldest building on campus and stands out as a stunning red castle like building, which looks even more amazing when white snow surrounds it. School spirit and community only adds to the beauty of this school and students who attend Bishops make lasting friends and family.

Photo by: QUT
Photo by: QUT

5. Mount Royal University -Calgary, AB

Mount Royal has a beautiful campus, there is no denying that, especially during the warm seasons when the ponds are shimmering and the gardens are blooming. One of the most notable features of this campus is the outdoor amphitheatre where the students and the community can gather for events, such as plays and concerts. Mount Royal is working hard to do their part in being environmentally friendly and in 2006 opened its first certified LEED building, and has since dedicated to making every new building on campus LEED certified. Make sure to head to the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful modern looking building in which you can take in a fabulous performance or take some time to reflect in one of the many green spaces throughout the campus.

Photo by: Under Western Skies
Photo by: Under Western Skies

4. McMaster University -Hamilton, ON

Located in the residential neighborhood of Westdale in Hamilton, Ontario; McMaster is beautiful both inside and out. There are amazing trails to be found throughout the campus and in the surrounding areas, as well as conservation areas and a plethora of waterfalls to explore. The main campus itself is both bicycle and pedestrian friendly with wide paved paths throughout, making it easy to get from one place to another. Make sure to have lunch at the Refectory, one of the original buildings on McMaster, as the top floor features a restaurant that looks over a beautiful treed ravine. One of the highlights on this campus is Cootes Paradise, a wildlife sanctuary owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens which features an abundance of flora and fauna. With a mix of original architecture, new buildings and lush landscape, this university is downright stunning.

McMaster University

3. Lakehead University -Thunder Bay, ON

Lakehead University has two campuses, one based in Orillia and the other in Thunder Bay and it is here in Thunder Bay where you will find one of the most picturesque campuses in the country. Spread out over 116 hectares, under the steep cliffs of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, this campus features 39 buildings and an abundance of green space. What you won’t find here is the rows upon rows of historical buildings like many of the campuses on this list. Instead you will find stunning nature, all around you. Buildings were designed with floor to ceiling windows so both faculty and students could feel like they were outside. With gardens overflowing with beautiful flowers and Lake Tamblyn running through the campus it is easy to see why in the warm months, classes are often taught outdoors.

Photo by: Lakehead University
Photo by: Lakehead University

2. University of British Columbia -Vancouver, BC

It is arguably one of the most beautiful university campuses across the country with incredible surroundings and breathtaking views. The Vancouver campus is located at the western tip of the Point Grey Peninsula, surrounded by forest, ocean and mountains. Getting to downtown Vancouver takes just twenty minutes and there are numerous beaches just a short distance away. To add to this awesome campus are the ultra cool buildings situated here. Visitors should definitely head to the UBC farm and check out the yurt, one of the only yurts on a university campus in the world. The library is light and airy, featuring literary quotes on the outside of the building while the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is sleek and modern with glass windows and a unique shape. Whether you are viewing this campus by air, walking through it or attending as a student, it is simply breathtaking.

University of British Columbia

1. Royal Roads University -Victoria, BC

Up until 1995 this University was actually a Military College and features an impressive main building, the Hatley Castle. The castle was completed in 1908 and was once meant to house the Royal Family, but instead they remained in the UK as the world was at war. Lucky for students and visitors alike, this campus is now a public university spread over 260 hectares of parkland with incredible surroundings. Walking through this campus gives visitors gorgeous views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the impressive Olympic Mountain Range. Walking, hiking and biking trails wind throughout the campus and you will come across an incredible Japanese Garden, among other hidden treasures. The entire campus is a part of the Hatley Park National Historic Site and between the incredible buildings and extensive gardens; it is clear why this truly is the most beautiful campus in the country.

Royal Roads University

The Best Things to See and Do in Kingston, ON

Scenically snuggled on the shores of Lake Ontario, Kingston, ON is nearly equidistant to both Montreal and Toronto, and an easy drive from upstate New York, making it an ideal day trip spot. Kingston was the original capital of Canada, in part because of its location at the juncture of both Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and its importance in the trade economy. While the city’s tenure as the nation’s capital was short-lived (1841-1843) Kingston boasts a rich history, which means numerous attractions and points of interest for tourists.

10.  Kingston Trolley Tours

A great first activity after your arrival in Kingston is a tour aboard their Trolley Tour. This guided tour on an iconic streetcar (which is actually an open air bus) drives you around to all of the notable tourist attractions. It offers hop-on, hop-off privileges, and can act as your chauffeur between attractions. You can also use this tour around town to get your bearings and to help you decide which attractions you are interested in exploring further.

Photo by: Kingston Trolley Tour/a>
Photo by: Kingston Trolley Tour/a>

9. Bellevue House

No visit to Kingston would be complete without a visit to Bellevue House, Sir John A MacDonald’s home while he served as the first Prime Minister of Canada. Visitors can expect to step back in time and visit with employees in period costumes who can describe life in the 1840’s. There is a visitor center with films about the life of Sir John A., as well as numerous exhibits in the house itself, with period furnishings and decor. The home includes vast gardens (including an impressive vegetable garden that looks very much like it would have back in the 1840’s).

Jeffrey M. Frank /
Jeffrey M. Frank /

8. The Prisons

Kingston (and surrounding areas) is infamously the site of several prisons, ranging from maximum to minimum security. Recently closed, and formerly home to some of Canada’s most notorious criminals is Kingston Penitentiary, also known as KP. Although many of Kingston’s prisons have closed in recent years (including maximum security Kingston Penitentiary, which was home to some of Canada’s most notorious criminals), the Canadian Penitentiary Museum remains. Visitors can see what it’s like to be in a jail cell. Exhibits chronicle life in the prisons over the last century and a half.  Notably, Charles Dickens visited KP in 1842 and wrote about it. There is also interesting information on inmate uprising and rioting.

Kingston Penetentary

7. Marine Museum of the Great Lakes

This small museum is jam-packed with facts and displays that honor Kingston’s role in the maritime economy. They recently opened an eco-gallery which explores environmental preservation in the Great Lakes. Of particular interest is the Alexander Henry, a former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker. Visitors are welcome to board and view an authentic Coast Guard ship.

Photo by: Marine Museum of the Great Lakes
Photo by: Marine Museum of the Great Lakes

6. Limestone Lunch

Kingston is known as the Limestone City, because several of its historical buildings are constructed with limestone. This offers a pleasing architectural visual, but also offers some really cool outdoor dining experiences. Take a break for lunch at one of Kingston’s well known patios that are encased with limestone walls and cool ambience. Some notables include : Chez Piggy (one of Kingston’s oldest restaurants, operating since 1979), Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza or the Toucan Irish Pub.

Photo by: Chez Piggy
Photo by: Chez Piggy

5. Confederation Basin

After lunch, wander around Confederation Basin in front of Kingston’s City Hall. In the summertime there are numerous boats docked to look at and there is often live music playing in the park. It’s a great, central spot to hang out and people watch as well.

kingston ontario

4. Kingston 1000 Island Tours

Departing from a dock next to Confederation Basin is Kingston summertime staple, 1000 Island Boat Tours. Guided tours depart frequently and offer cruises of varying lengths. 90-minute tours are offered, which will give you a good snapshot of Kingston’s shoreline. Longer cruises that include entertainment are offered aboard an authentic Riverboat with a paddlewheel. These cruises last 3 hours and go deeper into the 1000 Islands. There are also sunset dinner cruises offered in the evening.

Kinston thousand islands

3. Fort Henry

The original Fort Henry was built to protect Point Henry against an anticipated attack from the Americans during the war of 1812. The fort that stands on Point Henry today was restored between 1832 and 1837. There is a 10,000 square foot discovery center that offers interactive exhibits and a 200 seat theater. One hour guided tours depart frequently or guests are welcome to wander through self-guided tours.  Some highlights include the Advanced Battery, which was the first line of defense against potential enemy attack, the Dry Ditch, which protects the fort with a ditch that runs 40 feet wide and 30 feet deep, artillery displays and Officer’s quarters. Fort Henry is active in the evenings as well, with Sunset Ceremonies (weekly, Wednesday nights) which include Fort Henry Guard Drums and Drill Squad. Ghost tours are also very popular at this historic site.

Felix Lipov /
Felix Lipov /

2. Wolfe Island

Just off the shore of Kingston, lies Wolfe Island, which is a quick ferry ride away. Wolfe Island offers lots of quiet picnic areas for a relaxing afternoon. Little known fact for those interested in green energy: Wolfe Island is home to the second largest wind farm in all of Canada.

Photo by: Flickr/robmadeo
Photo by: Flickr/robmadeo

1. Portsmouth Olympic Harbour

Kingston was home to the sailing events during Montreal’s 1976 Summer Olympics. Swing by Portsmouth Olympic Harbour to see where the Olympic flame was lit during those games. This marina still hosts CORK every year (Canadian Olympic Training Regattas), so boating enthusiasts will have lots to watch.

Portsmouth Olympic Harbour