Founded in Lower Manhattan in 1754 as King’s College, the oldest university in New York is now one of the world’s premier research institutions. In 1897 the Ivy League school moved to its current location (the site of a former asylum), where its stately, gated campus offers plenty of cultural happenings.
The principal point of interest is the main courtyard (located on either side of College Walk, at 116th St), which is surrounded by various Italian Renaissance–style buildings. In the northern half, you’ll find the statue of the open-armed Alma Mater seated before the Low Memorial Library. On the eastern end of College Walk, at the corner of Amsterdam Ave, is Hamilton Hall, a key site during the famous student uprising of 1968.
Your best bet for navigating the grounds is to download architectural historian Andrew Dolkart's self-guided audio tour (www.columbia.edu/content/self-guided-walking-tour.html) from the Columbia University website.