Explore the stunning city of Leon
Situated in western Nicaragua, Leon is the second most important city after Managua. Blessed with graceful old architecture and a fascinating history, Leon has played a pivotal role in the country's history many times over. Modern day Leon may not be as important as it once was, but it serves as home to the National University which has proved to be a constant injection of life to the city.
The original city of Leon was established by Spanish conqueror Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in 1523 at the foot of the Momotombo volcano. Unfortunately the volcano exploded in 1610 causing the city to become damaged beyond repair and subsequently abandoned. A new city was established in Leon's current location with the official name of Santiago de los Caballeros de Leon – though the long form of this name is seldom used today. The ruins of old Leon – Leon Viejo – still lie at the foot of Momotombo and make for a fascinating tour.
Leon was the capital of Nicaragua for more than 200 years. It saw much friction in that time and some of the bullet-holes and cracks caused by the warfare can still be seen. Most of the wars were between the Liberals and the Conservatives. When the issue of the country's capital came up, the Liberals wanted Leon to remain the capital while the Conservatives pushed for Granada to become the new center of government. Managua was chosen as a compromise and thus Leon lost its long-standing position as the center of the country's government.
Most visitors to Leon come to see the town's interesting architecture. One of the most popular attractions is the 18th century cathedral that is the largest in Central America. Also of interest are the La Merced and the Xalteva churches, the Old Spanish Ammunition Fortress, the San Francisco Convent and the beautifully carved Casa de los Leones. However there are many more interesting old buildings to see. The hotels here provide a fairly good level of accommodation and the town is well worth a visit. Leon is also known for being the capital of the Leon Department and for its manufacture of furniture, shoes and leather goods.