Aerial drone photo of Downtown Manchester, New Hampshire during autumn. Image credit Loud Canvas Media via AdobeStock.

Best College Towns In New Hampshire

A college town refers to a community that is socioeconomically dominated by the presence of one or more higher educational centers. The presence of notable universities, therefore, not only affects the population of a town but also significantly influences the town’s cultural and social life. In short, an ideal college town offers a perfect combination of educational and professional opportunities, a colorful social scene, and access to scenic locales. From attending educational lectures in the institute halls to enjoying various cultural performances in the entertainment venues, these affordable college towns have plenty of things to do. The following article looks at some of the college towns in the “Granite State,” New Hampshire.


Historic Building on Main Street in downtown Concord, New Hampshire, USA.
Main Street, Concord, New Hampshire. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock.

The state capital Concord is New Hampshire’s third-largest city, located along the Merrimack River in the south-central portion of the state. Boasting historic architecture and a vibrant downtown, Concord is home to many venerated higher learning institutions, including NHTI – Concord’s Community College, Granite State College, and the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law. Established as the Franklin Pierce Law Center in 1973 by the American lawyer Robert Harvey Rines, the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law is New Hampshire’s only law school.

Besides education, Concord is a prominent center for national politics, healthcare, and insurance companies. The city is also well-known for its many interesting sites, including the New Hampshire State House, Eagle Hotel, Phenix Hall, Walker-Woodman House, Pierce Manse, Capitol Center for the Arts, McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, and the Beaver Meadow Golf Course.


The Baker-Berry Library on the campus of Dartmouth College. Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover
The Baker-Berry Library on the campus of Dartmouth College. Image credit Jay Yuan via Shutterstock.

This charming small town is placed along the Connecticut River in New Hampshire’s Grafton County. The town is best known for being the home of Dartmouth College – a private Ivy League research university. Founded by the American Congregational minister Eleazar Wheelock in 1769, Dartmouth is one of the nine colonial colleges that was established before the American Revolution. This establishment of Dartmouth College helped in the rapid transformation of Hanover from an agricultural community to a cultural and learning center.

The 269-acre Dartmouth College campus is centered on a 5-acre Green, which is anchored at the top by the iconic Baker-Berry Library with a 20 ft bell tower and its vast collection of 2.5 million books; and at the bottom by the Hanover Inn. Moreover, Hanover is home to the Hood Museum of Art, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Nugget Theater, Base Camp Café, Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, etc. The 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail that crosses Hanover links the town with many other hiking trails and nature preserves. In short, this perfect combination of natural beauty and an Ivy League college presence has made Hanover one of New England’s loveliest college towns.


Aerial view of college town in winter, University of New Hampshire and Durham
Aerial view of Durham, New Hampshire. Image credit Mark F Lotterhand via Shutterstock.

This scenic college town is placed beside the Great Bay estuary at the Oyster River’s mouth in Strafford County in the southeastern portion of the state. Durham houses the main campus of the University of New Hampshire. Founded in 1866 as the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts in Hanover, the college moved to Durham in 1893, where in 1923, it was rechristened as the University of New Hampshire. With more than 15,000 students on its combined campuses, the University of New Hampshire is currently the state’s biggest state university system.

Student life on the beautiful sprawling main campus of the University of New Hampshire dramatically influences the economy and demography of Durham. The town’s location close to the seacoast offers ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. Moreover, the visitors can also visit art galleries, cafes, and museums, including the Durham Historic Association And Museum.


Fountain on the Nashua River against the background of a historic cotton factory building with a clock tower in the old industrial park of Nashua.
Fountain on the Nashua River. Image credit Sergey and Marina Pyataev via Shutterstock.

Located in the state’s southern portion along the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers, this bustling city serves as the seat of Hillsborough County. Nashua is home to many reputed educational institutions, including Nashua Community College and Rivier University. Established in 1933 as Rivier College, this private liberal art higher educational institution was renamed Rivier University on July 1, 2012. Spread over 68 acres, there are 44 buildings on the university campus. Offering online, hybrid, as well as traditional courses, Rivier University has at present about 2,238 students.

With the closure of the textile mills after World War II, the city’s economy shifted to defense, advanced technology, and financial service industries. Nicknamed “Gate City” for being a reputed travel gateway between New Hampshire and the Boston region, Nashua is well-known for its vibrant city center and a liveable suburban area. The downtown is filled with several award-winning restaurants, boutiques, excellent coffee shops, bars, pubs, and everything that offers fantastic shopping experiences. The city is best known for outdoor recreation at Mine Falls Park, Greeley Park, Roby Park, and Nashua River Rail Trail.


Manchester, New Hampshire, skyline on the Merrimack River at dusk.
Manchester skyline on the Merrimack River. Image credit Sean Pavone via Shutterstock.

Placed along the Merrimack River close to the northern end of Northeast megalopolis in the state’s south-central portion, Manchester is New Hampshire’s as well as Northern New England’s most populous urban center. The city has many higher-learning centers, including the University of New Hampshire at Manchester, Manchester Community College, Southern New Hampshire University, Hellenic American University, and Saint Anselm College. In addition, Manchester is also home to branch campuses of different universities like Franklin Pierce University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and Granite State College.

In addition to these reputed educational institutions, renters prefer Manchester as one of the nation’s most affordable and liveable cities. There are plenty of things to do in the city: from enjoying the various restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops along Elm Street to visiting the Currier Museum of Art, Manchester Millyard Museum, Zimmerman House, Palace Theatre, Livingston Park, and the McIntyre Ski Area. One can also head to the Delta Dental Stadium to cheer for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats – the city’s Minor League baseball team.  


Barns at Stonewall Farms learning center in Keene, New Hampshire
Stonewall Farms in Keene. Image credit Edward Fielding via Shutterstock.

Nicknamed “Elm City,” Keene, the seat of Cheshire County, is located along the Ashuelot River in the state’s southwestern portion. As Cheshire County’s most significant community, Keene serves as the area’s educational nexus and is home to higher learning centers like Keene State College and Antioch University New England. Established initially as a teacher’s college in 1909, Keene State College currently offers over 40 areas of undergraduate study in liberal arts, sciences, professional programs, social sciences, and selected graduate degrees.

A significant part of Keene’s population comprises young adults and professionals, thanks to the above-mentioned higher learning centers. The city boasts a vibrant art and culture scene with numerous performance venues and art galleries. Some major tourist attractions include the United Church of Christ in Keene, Horatio Colony House Museum, Stonewall Farm, Beaver Mills, Stone Arch Bridge, etc.


Aerial view of Plymouth Town Common on Main Street aerial view in summer
Aerial view of Plymouth. Image credit Wangkun Jia via Shutterstock.

Situated at the meeting point of the Baker and Pemigewasset Rivers, this rural town is placed at the base of the White Mountains in Grafton County. The town is home to Plymouth State University, which offers outstanding liberal arts education in a homey small-town environment. Known for its affordability and high-quality education, the town is a unique commercial, economic, cultural, and medical center for the White Mountains Region. Established in 1871 as Plymouth Normal School, Plymouth State University currently has 4,491 students, of which 3,739 are undergraduate students, and 752 are graduate students.

Plymouth boasts some of the most picturesque sceneries in the entire state. The principal tourist attractions include Plymouth Historical Museum, Smith Millennium Bridge, Plymouth Skate Park, Pease Public Library, Walter-Newton Natural Area, the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, and many more.


Selecting the perfect college where one can pursue higher studies is indeed daunting. There is a lot to consider, from academic merits, social scenes, available scholarships, and recreational activities, to one of the most crucial things, i.e., the geographical location of the higher learning institute. From pleasant downtowns having cute shops, bustling bars, and cafes with cheerful students to entertainment venues hosting various sporting and cultural events, the college towns of New Hampshire appeal to more than just the college students. With spacious campuses, ivy-draped halls, and historic brick buildings, the higher educational institutions of New Hampshire draws thousands of young adults from all over the world.

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