Self-Guided Tour

Welcome to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, known throughout the world for excellence in teaching, research, and service.

Built on an isthmus between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona, our university and the city of Madison seamlessly blend together, creating opportunities and an atmosphere unlike any other campus. When visiting, you can immerse yourself in campus life at lively venues such as Camp Randall, the Memorial Union, and State Street. You can find serenity at our treasured natural areas, including Lakeshore Path and Picnic Point.

We offer a diverse array of experiences for visitors, including: history and the arts, science and nature, Badger Athletics, and (we can’t forget) world-famous ice cream and award-winning cheese produced at our Babcock Hall Dairy Plant.

Our self-guided tour introduces you to the living and learning environment at UW–Madison. We invite you to choose the route that fits your interests and timeframe.

The On Wisconsin Route (75 minutes) starts at Stop A and features four campus areas: southwest campus, central campus, the Bascom Hill Historic District, and the East Campus Gateway.

The Badger Loop (45 minutes) starts at Stop D and features central campus, the Bascom Hill Historic District, and the East Campus Gateway.

A. SOUTHWEST CAMPUS at Johnson & Orchard

Union South

Union South, one of two student unions, is a popular campus social center. The building was completely rebuilt and opened in 2011, receiving a gold LEED (Leadership Award in Energy and Environmental Design) rating because of the sustainable materials and technologies used in its construction. Featuring a number of dining options, recreation, study, and gathering spaces, as well as a state-of-the-art theater and boutique hotel, Union South is a hub for students, faculty, staff, and the Madison community.

Wisconsin Institute for Discovery building

The Discovery Building is dedicated to exploring new ways to conduct and share research and creative ideas. It is home to two research institutes that share a common goal of supporting forward-thinking experimentation by investigating fundamental questions across many disciplines and inspiring new generations of scientific thinkers. The first floor Town Center features a dinosaur-era garden, motion-sensing walls, restaurants, and teaching laboratories.

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B. CENTRAL CAMPUS at University & Mills

UW–Madison Chemistry building
Flickr/Kevin Lau

Chemistry is part of the College of Letters & Science, the largest college at UW–Madison. Given that increasing numbers of students are pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, the Chemistry Building will undergo major renovation beginning in 2018.

UW–Madison Chamberlin Hall

Chamberlin Hall is home to the Physics Department, L.R. Ingersoll Physics Museum, and the Madison Symmetric Torus (MST), a device to study plasma (the fourth state of matter). More than 120 people— including engineers, physicists, and undergraduate students—work on the MST with the goal of developing a new commercial energy source for the future.

UW–Madison Botany Garden

A living resource for teaching and research, the Botany Garden features 500 different types of plants from all over the world. All of the plants are arranged according to their taxonomic classifications, making it easier to identify plants according to their genetic relationships to one another.

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C. BASCOM HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT at Bascom Hall

Effigy Mound Marker

Founded in 1848, UW–Madison’s history comprises only the last 1.4 percent of the human history in Madison. UW–Madison’s first known human habitation site is near Picnic Point. Teejop (pronounced “day-JOPE,” with a hard “j”) is the name that Ho-Chunk people, one of Wisconsin’s twelve First Nations, call the Madison area. It means “Four Lakes,” referring to lakes Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, and Kegonsa.

More than 40 archaeological sites across campus provide evidence of our extensive human history. This includes earthen burial mounds, such as unique effigy forms constructed more than 1,000 years ago. Most effigy mounds contain human remains and appear to have also served as ceremonial centers. They often took the shape of animals or people, and are abstract in form. They are commonly found on elevated land near waterways, marshes, and lakes. Effigy mounds were thoughtfully constructed, and believed to represent a deep and profound shared understanding of the origins and structure of the universe, and the interconnectedness between humans and their natural environment.

The Observatory Hill mound group (below) originally consisted of at least five mounds. Two effigy mounds (a bird and a unique two-tailed water spirit) are located north of Agricultural Hall. Two additional mounds, whose surface features are no longer visible, are located lower on the Observatory Hill slope, below Observatory Drive. The fifth mound was destroyed during the construction of Ag Hall.

Historical photo of effigy mounds outline
Wisconsin Historical Society-Library/Archives Division

Over the past 150 years, many archaeological sites on campus have been destroyed by agricultural practices and building construction. Today, the mounds are protected by law. Beginning in the mid-20th century, UW–Madison partnered with the Wisconsin Historical Society to care for and interpret the mounds. More recently, the campus has also started collaborating with representatives of Wisconsin’s First Nations. Occasionally you will see an offering of tobacco, wrapped in patterned cloth and tied to the branch of a nearby tree as a testament to the continued spiritual significance of the mounds to Wisconsin’s First Nations. 

North Hall

UW–Madison’s first building was North Hall (pictured above), a National Historic Landmark. For four years, it was the only building on campus: the first three floors housed students; the fourth floor held lecture halls, study spaces, and a chapel. Students were expected to buy their own food, furniture, and straw to fill their own mattresses.

 South Hall was the second campus building and served as faculty and student living quarters, as well as laboratory instructional space. Later it was used as a dormitory for women who were first admitted to the university in 1863.

Bascom Hall

Located exactly one mile from the state capitol, Bascom Hall opened in 1859. First named University Hall, it was the first campus building devoted entirely to instruction.

At the top of Bascom Hill sits the Abraham Lincoln statue, sculpted by Adolph Weinman. Our statue can serve as a reminder that President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act of 1862, which eventually led to the university to re-organize in 1868 as a land grant institution. Students can be seen rubbing Abe’s left foot for good luck.

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D. EAST CAMPUS GATEWAY at Langdon Street

Memorial Union Terrace

Memorial Union, one of two student unions, is located on picturesque Lake Mendota. Its Terrace, with brightly colored sunburst chairs and a lake view, are one of the most iconic spots on campus. The Memorial Union offers year-round recreational, cultural, educational, and social opportunities. It is also home to Daily Scoop, featuring delicious Babcock ice cream that is made on campus.

UW–Madison Alumni Park

Made possible by generous gifts from alumni, Alumni Park opened in 2017 to pay homage to the illustrious history of the university and alumni and how they’ve changed the world. It features more than 50 inspiring exhibits, breathtaking views, and engaging programming. For more information, including a self-guided tour of the park, stop in at One Alumni Place.

UW–Madison Red Gym

The Red Gym, built in 1894, is one of four National Historic Landmarks at UW–Madison. It was originally home to the men’s basketball team and an armory for local militia. Today, it is a hub for student services that support students from historically underrepresented populations, housing the Multicultural Student Center and the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center.

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E. EAST CAMPUS GATEWAY at Library Mall

Memorial Library

Each year, UW librarians assist more than 4 million students, faculty, staff, visiting scholars, and Wisconsin citizens at some 41 libraries across campus. Memorial Library holds 78.5 miles of shelving—long enough to stretch from Madison to Lake Michigan.

Reading room at the Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Society, founded in 1846, helps people connect to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories. The Society’s Library-Archives forms the largest research center in the world dedicated to the study of North American history, holds more than 3.5 million historical photographs, serves as the North American history library for the UW-Madison, maintains one of the nation’s premier genealogy collections, and partners with the UW’s Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, providing access to hundreds of research collections. Its ornate reading room helped the Historical Society attain the title of “most beautiful library in Wisconsin,” according to Business Insider.

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F. EAST CAMPUS at University Avenue

Chazen Art Museum

Home to the second-largest collection of art in Wisconsin, the Chazen Museum of Art features more than 20,000 works, including some dating back to 2300 B.C. Exhibits frequently change and drop-in tours are available throughout the year. The museum is free and open to the public every day except Mondays and some state holidays.

Rendering of the Hamel Music Center
Holzman Moss Bottino; Architecture and Strang Architects

The Mead Witter School of Music’s Hamel Music Center is a hub for music performance, education, and outreach. It includes a concert hall, recital hall, rehearsal space, and technology that facilitates live-streaming and recording of performances. Circular forms were built into the structure as part of the concert hall’s state-of-the-art acoustic system. The $55.8 million project was funded by private donors.

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G. CENTRAL CAMPUS at Park and University

Grainger Hall

Grainger Hall is home to the Wisconsin School of Business, one of UW–Madison’s eight undergraduate schools and colleges. Each school and college offers tailored academic and career advising for students. All undergraduates have an assigned academic advisor and are encouraged to work with a career advisor as early as their first semester on campus.

Chadbourne Residence Hall
Andy Manis

Most first-year students choose to live on campus. Chadbourne Residence Hall is one of 19 University Housing residence halls. It is home to Chadbourne Residential College (CRC), which provides opportunities for students to grow as leaders through interpersonal connections, courses, and activities in the community in a smaller, more intimate setting.

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