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11 Oldest and Most Beautiful Universities in Europe

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Photo: University of Oxford, UK. Source: Getty Images.
Photo: University of Oxford, UK. Source: Getty Images.

Universities have always been considered the main centres of science and education. They have existed since ancient times and have been popular among people of all ages. At the beginning of their history, almost all universities had a religious focus. In Western Europe, they were founded by religious orders. Universities were then concentrated in monasteries, where study was combined with prayer.

That is why most of the most beautiful universities in Europe are also among the oldest in the world. Their beauty and grandeur have certainly not diminished over time. We have selected 11 of the oldest and most beautiful universities in Europe for you.

University of Bologna, Italy

The University of Bologna in Italy is considered to be the oldest such institution in the world. It was founded in 1088. In addition to being the oldest continuous university, it is also one of the most beautiful in Europe, and perhaps even in the world. The Palazzo Poggi serves as the main building and rectorate of the University of Bologna, and it is one of the main buildings housing three museums with exhibitions on natural history, anatomy and midwifery, and physics and chemistry. There are many buildings to put on your must-see list. In addition to the exquisite architecture, the university has a 2-hectare botanical garden.

University of Salamanca, Spain

The University of Salamanca in Spain is the oldest university in Spain and the third-oldest university in the world. It was founded in 1134. It was the first institution to offer courses to international students. The university is famous for its baroque architecture, and its library is a particular highlight. It contains more than 160,000 volumes, and the ornate facade attracts many students and visitors who spend time searching for the "hidden frog". Legend has it that if a student spots the amphibian, they will pass their exams with flying colours. The old town of Salamanca, which contains many of the university's buildings, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jagiellonian University, Poland

The Jagiellonian University, often called Uniwersytet Jagiellonski in Polish, is a prestigious educational institution in Kraków that has existed since 1364. It was founded by King Casimir III the Great and named after the Jagiellonian dynasty. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe, predating many other famous institutions such as Cambridge and Oxford. The Jagiellonian University of Krakow campus is located in the historic city centre and consists of a mix of historic and modern buildings. Many of the buildings, which are several centuries old, have stunning architecture with elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Collegium Maius, the oldest building on campus, is a prime example of this architectural heritage.

Lviv National University, Ukraine

Lviv National University in Ukraine was officially founded on 20 January 1661, but it has a long prehistory dating back to 1586, when a brotherhood school operated here. The university teaches Church Slavonic, Greek, Latin and Polish languages, mathematics, grammar, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy and other disciplines. Previously, the university was known as the Jan Kazimierz Lviv University of Poland. It is one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. Mykhailo Hrushevsky was educated here. The university has 112 departments, 19 faculties and 3 colleges. It is included in the register of monuments of Ukraine.

University of Zadar, Croatia

One of the oldest universities in the Balkans, the University of Zadar was founded on the Dalmatian coast in 1396, when Croatia was part of the Venetian Republic. Beautiful Zadar is famous as the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. When the Dominicans first established a theological seminary here in 1396, it operated as an extension of the University of Dyrrhachium on the coast of modern Albania. After many twists and turns, the campus regained its status as an independent university in 2003, continuing the tradition of education established six centuries ago.

University of Belgrade, Serbia

The largest and oldest public university in Serbia, the historic University of Belgrade, is also one of the largest in Europe. Almost 90,000 students study here every year. The university was founded in 1808 by Dositej Obradovic and had only three faculties: philosophy, engineering and law. It underwent a major development in the 1960s and 70s, when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia, educating students from all over the world. The campus is located in the city centre, close to the castle, and is a stark contrast to the concrete jungle that defines the new part of Belgrade. The magnificent Kapetan Misino zdanje is the heart of the campus, with institutes and student dormitories scattered throughout the city in Dorcol, Zemun, New Belgrade and beyond.

University of Pecs, Hungary

The fifth-largest city in Hungary, Pecs is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country due to its Hungarian Baroque and Gothic architecture. The main building of the University of Pecs is located in the city centre and is an important part of the city plan. The university itself was founded in 1367 by the Hungarian King Louis I. The campus is relatively modest in size with only 20,000 students and can be easily explored on foot. The main attractions include the grand building of the Faculty of Humanities and the adjacent Botanical Garden, a 6.8-hectare green space with a collection of over 8000 plants.

KU Leuven, Belgium

KU Leuven is the oldest Catholic university in the world. It is the largest university in Belgium. KU Leuven considers itself the successor of the old University of Leuven, founded in 1425 and closed in 1797. It was re-established in 1834. The rich history of the university can be found in its buildings, and sometimes it is difficult to tell where the university ends and the city of Leuven begins, they are so closely connected. The restored Renaissance building that houses the library is the centre of the institution, surrounded by quaint cobbled streets and green parks. More than 58,000 students were enrolled in 2017-2018.

Sorbonne University, France

The famous university was founded in 1253 by the theologian Robert de Sorbonne, the confessor of Louis IX the Saint. In the classical sense, the Sorbonne University existed from 1253 to 1968, when the process of dividing the huge University of Paris into autonomous universities began. Today, more than a dozen institutions bear the name "Sorbonne" - the University of Paris. Until recently, there were 13 of them, but in 2018 Paris 4 Sorbonne and Paris 6 UPMC merged into one, so there were 12. Today, the number of students studying at Sorbonne universities in France exceeds 300,000. Every year, more than 23,000 applicants become its students.

University of Vienna, Austria

Founded in 1365, the University of Vienna is another educational institution that has existed for centuries. It is also one of the largest higher education institutions in Europe, with buildings in more than 60 locations in the city of Vienna. One of the biggest attractions of the university is the university library, as well as the botanical gardens and beautiful buildings that can be seen throughout the city.

University of Oxford, UK

Although the date of its foundation is unknown, there is evidence that teaching at Oxford University began around 1096, making it the oldest English-speaking university in the world. And perhaps one of the most beautiful in the UK. There is no main campus, instead, its 38 colleges, buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city. One of the city's most famous landmarks is the Radcliffe Camera, a neoclassical library that is part of the Bodleian Library complex, also known as "The Bod", which contains copies of every book ever printed in the UK and Ireland. Christ Church Meadow and the 130-acre Harcourt Arboretum are ideal for summer picnics and relaxing study breaks.

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