Things to Do in León
León is roughly 66 miles from Managua, and the second-largest city in Nicaragua. The colonial architecture of Granada is widely regarded as being better preserved, but León’s is impressive as well. Leon has long been a center of learning - this has been a university city since the early 1800s - and this walkable city is also known for its numerous churches. A bus trip from Managua will take between one and a half and two hours one-way, so you can make it a (long) day trip or plan to spend a night or two for a more relaxed visit.
Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage–listed ruins of León Viejo makes it easy to imagine life for the first Spanish settlers in Nicaragua. Located on the slopes of Momotombo volcano and preserved by volcanic ash, the ruins are some of the most complete Spanish colonial ruins in Central America—even though they’re also some of the oldest, dating back to 1524.
The largest church in Central America, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed León Cathedral is a must-see while in León, a charming colonial city in Nicaragua’s northwest corner. The cathedral combines a striking blend of architectural styles with religious import and pirate-riddled history, making for a church visit unlike any other.
Nicaragua may not be known for its museums, but León’s Ortiz Gurdián Foundation Art Center holds its own. The center seamlessly blends a private collection of national and international art, from renowned Nicaraguan painter Armando Morales to world-famous artists like Rubens, Miró, Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and Diego Rivera.
The Rubén Darío Museum (Museo Rubén Darío) is dedicated to the famous poet, writer, and ambassador who brought modernismo to Spanish literature. A must for poetry fans, this León museum is also a good choice for those curious about Nicaraguan history—the museum offers an intimate look at 19th-century upper-class life in Nicaragua.