Leon, Nicaragua – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

The second-most famous colonial city in Nicaragua after Granada.

The colonial buildings are slightly less preserved than the aforementioned city, but impressive nonetheless. It is the second-largest city in the country, and many students come to Leon from nearby cities to study. Leon is a pretty cool place. It’s likely that Leon will continue to grow in popularity among nomads and expats in the future. There are plenty of things to do, especially if you like hiking and volcanos. 

POPULATION: 200,000


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Leon is the second-most populated city in Nicaragua and at one point was the capital of the country. The city has much historical significance as many of Nicaragua’s revolutions and notable events have either started there or occurred there. Walking around Leon is definitely a pleasant experience. The combination of sophisticated colonial architecture and jungle vibes is usually a winning combo. While there are tourists in the city, the ratio if locals to tourists is much better here than in San Juan del Sur. Leon feels like a more authentic Nicaraguan city.

 

RENT AN APARTMENT IN LEON, NICARAGUA

$300 to rent an apartment in the city centre of Leon.

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN LEON, NICARAGUA

6.5/10 

As a university city, Leon has a varied nightlife. Check out its Zona Rosa. The good thing about Leon is that you have options every night of the week and, like Granada, it’s all pretty central.

My Latin Life recommends:

Via Via: About a 60/40 split between tourists and Nicaraguans. Doubles as a hostel. If you want more local people, opt for Antorchas Bar y Bocas.

The Spot Hostel Leon: Another party hostel and bar lounge. Great place to meet travelers and interesting people. They have another location in San Juan del Sur.

23 Bar: One of the busiest nightlife spots on weekends. Good food at a good price.

Bar El Mirador – Terraza: Cool place to watch the sunset. It’s a small venue so get there a bit early get a good table.

 

IS LEON, NICARAGUA SAFE?

You don’t have much to worry about in Leon. Much like Granada, you shouldn’t have any trouble here. That doesn’t mean you can walk down empty streets at night with a Boateng suit and an Omega watch and not expect trouble, but a very basic level of caution should be exercised. Leon has a similar backpacker vibe to San Juan del Sur.

 

BEST HOSTELS IN LEON, NICARAGUA

One good thing about Leon is there are many hostel options. Leon is firmly on the central american backpacker trail, so expect to met a lot of travelers that have been hopping around Nicaragua and the neighboring countries. All hostels host events and parties.

My Latin Life recommends:

Poco a Poco: Great facilities and a more high end crowd. Good hostel but it doesn’t have a bar and curfew is at 11 PM.

The Spot: A good mix of modern facilities and social activity.

Via Via: The first floor of Via Via is one big restaurant and lounge. This place has been around a long time and is worth staying at or at least visiting for a drink.

Bigfoot: Probably the lowest quality facilities of the hostels on this list. Bigfoot is the oldest of the four and is basically a worse version of The Spot.

 

  COST OF LIVING IN LEON, NICARAGUA

The following data is from Expatistan, a crowdsourced database of prices and cost of living around the world. In our experience, the data tends to underestimate cost of living, so take the following as the minimum you might need to live here.

*Figures are listed in USD

You’ll need a minimum of $508 USD/month to live in Leon, Nicaragua

cost-of-living-leon-nicaragua

THINGS TO DO IN LEON, NICARAGUA

Visit the Museo De La Revolucion to learn about the city’s place in the history of the country.

Visit the Museo de Leyendas y Tradiciones “Coronel Joaquín de Arrechavala”.

Go inside some the historic churches! There are many.

Visit Playa Las Peñitas, only a 30 minute drive west of Leon. The best area of the beach is outside of Mano a Mano hostel.

Go volcano boarding! Look it up, it’s a thing.

 

HOW TO GET TO LEON, NICARAGUA

Leon is located 1.5 – 2 hours northwest of Managua. Leon can easily be reached via a bus or taxi from Managua, with the bus only costing a few dollars. The city is located on the main route between Managua and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. For many overlanders and backpackers traveling by bus, Leon is their first or last stop in the Nicaragua. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Leon vs. Granada. A colonial city rivalry that has raged on for centuries. Who won? Leon. But not by much. I’d give Leon the edge due to slightly better nightlife and slightly more attractive women. However, I think Granada is a nicer looking city overall.


OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10


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