Columbia University (2960 Broadway, 212/854-1754, www.columbia.edu) stretches from West 114th Street to West 120th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway. Founded as King’s College in 1754, it educated some of the country’s earliest leaders, including Alexander Hamilton and John Jay (first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court).
Free tours (212/854-4900) are given year-round. Maps and other materials for self-guided tours are available in the Visitors Center, located in room 213 of Low Memorial Library.
The world’s largest Gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Amsterdam Ave. at W. 112th St., 212/316-7540, www.stjohndivine.org, 7 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is said to be large enough to fit both Notre Dame and Chartres inside. The church can accommodate some 10,000 people and is still under construction. Scheduled completion date, if enough money becomes available: 2050.
Cathedral tours (212/932-7347, 11 a.m. Tues.–Sat., 1 p.m. Sun.) meet at the Visitor’s Center and allow guests to walk through the bustling nave and serene chapels, while unique vertical tours (must bring flashlight, $15 per person; $10 per student/senior) involve a 124 foot climb through spiral stone staircases to reach a view of Morningside Heights from the upper buttresses on top of the Cathedral.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition