With nowhere near the beauty of neighbors Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, you probably won't find Leon on any tourist recommendation list. Leon is a relatively unremarkable but great little authentic Mexican city. It has a really nice large pedestrian area in the center, which comes to life at night with street sellers, music, and Mexican families just enjoying their city. There are numerous shopping opportunities here all at pure Mexican small town prices. Leon is also a great place to escape if you're a budget traveler and accidentally get caught in one of Guanajuato's holidays or festivals when hostels will shamelessly triple their prices.
Leon is served by Del Bajío International Airport (BJX) . You can take a plane from Mexico City (around $300USD), it's just a 45 minute flight with some scenery, nothing otherwordly. The taxi from the airport to central León will be around $30 USD, and a 40 minute drive. There are also nonstop flights to various US cities like Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Oakland, and San Antonio thru Aeromexico, Volaris, or Interjet plus United Airlines and American Airlines operate nonstop flights from Houston and Dallas respectively. It is a relatively modern airport that was built in anticipation of increased traffic as Mexico City de-industrialized due to the toxic smog levels in the 80's.
From Guanajuato Go to the Guanajuato bus station (Central de Autobuses), from there you can either take 1st or 2nd class buses run by the same company but under different brand names. The difference between the two classes is minimal. As of Oct, 2016 2nd class buses depart every 20 minutes and first class (Primera Plus) depart on a schedule. Costs are around 50 and 70 pesos respectively and the trip takes around 50-60 minutes.
The bus will drop you off in central Leon but a few kilometers from the city center. To get to the center, you have to find a local bus which goes there. Line 74 is one of the lines that go there, but the bus stop is a few blocks away, in order to find it you will have to ask locals to direct you as it's not marked in any way. Once you find the bus, the cost is 9 pesos, and will take you to center in 10 minutes.
Mostly, visit the historical center and shop for shoes. Leon is known as "the shoe capital of the world". Every major brand from Nike to Steve Madden shoes are outsourced to Leon amongst other places. Great place for discounted top shoewear.
There are lots of cheap places to buy shoes and leather in general, some outlets on the sides of the manufacturers. There is also retail outlets of leather goods that are relatively cheap when compared to Mexico City or Guadalajara. While this is not a capital city, so there is enough to do such as catching a game of their two professional baseball teams, their top-flight soccer team and a nascent professional basketball team.
Metropolitan Park: Over 260 hectares for recreation, sports and enjoying nature. The park has a pier, bicycle paths, train, rose garden, orchards, vegetable gardens, picnic tables and camp grounds. Also available are bicycle and boat rentals along with children's games. Open daily from 6:00a.m. to 8:00p.m.
Near Leon city you can find the archaeological zone of Ibarillo, of Tarasco-Chupicuaro origin. Twenty-three Km. east of Leon city you can visit Los Tanques and La Granja Spas.
Basilica Cathedral: This Cathedral dates back to 1975 and has interior chapels and a baroque style facade. The Virgin of Light, patron saint of Leon since 1849 is worshipped here.
Our Lady of Angeles Church: This church was built at the end of the 18th Century and is churrigueresque in design.
Martyrs Square: The name of this square commemorates a local power struggle between different political factions which took place in 1946. The square is surrounded on three sides by beautiful neoclassic archways.
Triumphal Arch: Built in 1893 to commemorate the 83rd anniversary of the Mexican Independence. The centerpiece of this neoclassic arch is a bronze lion which was donated by local bullfighter Antonio Valdez.
Panteon Taurino - "Bullfighting Museum" Restaurant/Bar: This restaurant and bar is distinguished by is tables which are the headstones of bullfighter who died in the bullring. It is considered a museum as it contains a large collection of bullfighting history and memorabilia.
San Juan de Dios Church and Garden: This age old romantic spot is regularly visited by local residents.
Botanical Gardens: The gardens contain a variety of plants, orchid garden, greenhouse and orchards.
Leon Zoo: Over 2,000 animals are on display in this attractive park, such as polar bears, panthers, pumas, tigers and lions. There is also a lake with aquatic birds an a miniature train ride. Open Monday to Sunday
Explora Science Center Museums: This interactive Science Center and park is 9,500 square meters, it contains four large halls (Man, Water, Communication and Movement), IMAX theater science classroom, workshops and temporary exhibits. Open Tuesday to Friday.
Metropolitan Park: Over 260 hectares for recreation, sports and enjoying nature. The park has a pier, bicycle paths, train, rose garden, orchards, vegetable gardens, picnic tables and camp grounds. Also available are bicycle and boat rentals along with children's games. Open daily.
Bowl Leon: This bowling alley also contains a domino room, pool tables, ping pong, foosball and coffee shop.
The Real Azteca Hotel is one block from the shoe shopping plazas and seems quite nice, reasonably clean, air, wifi, restaurant for only $600 pesos taxes in (August 1, 2007).
You might want to stay in El Centro after dark where it's generally safe.