Leon, Guanajuato: A Guide to Mexico’s Shoe Capital of the World

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Leon, in the state of Guanajuato, is one of the cities with the highest development rates in the last 20 years and has been considered the Latin American metropolis with the best quality of life.

The manufacture of leather goods has forged its worldwide fame; more than 25 million pairs of shoes are exported annually, which is why it is known as “The Footwear Capital of the World.”

Leon Guanajuato boasts modern tourist infrastructure, sports clubs, large shopping malls, and four golf courses.

Among its attractions are interesting buildings such as the Historical Archive or the Municipal Palace, the Explora Interactive Science Center, the Metropolitan Park, and the Leon Zoo.

This major city has become one of the most important business destinations in Latin America, with its new POLIFORUM convention center, which offers 24,000 sq m and world-class services.

Leon Guanajuato hosts events such as the World Rally Championship and the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, which is held in the Metropolitan Park in November.

Getting to Leon, Guanajuato

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ETN Coach line offers the best service for road traveling

Leon sits in central Mexico just over two hours from the world-famous town of San Miguel De Allende.

To get to Leon, Guanajuato, you have several options:

*By Air: Bajío International Airport (BJX) is the nearest airport to Leon, also known as Guanajuato International Airport. It’s located about 30 minutes from the city center.

There are direct flights from major US cities like Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.

You can catch a direct flight from Mexico City to León.

By Bus: Several coach companies operate routes between Mexico City and León, such as ETN, Primera Plus, and Omnibus de México. The journey takes about 4-5 hours. Buses from Guadalajara to León take about 3-4 hours.

By Car: The drive from Mexico City takes around 4.5 hours via Highway 57D and Highway 45D. From Guadalajara takes a little less, about 3 hours on Highway 80D and Highway 45D.

Getting Around in León: Regular cabs and Uber are widely available and convenient for getting around the city. Public Transport has a decent public system, including buses and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system called Optibús.

13 Best things to do and see in Leon, Guanajuato

1. Plaza Los Fundadores

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leon guanajuato

Experience the fascinating historical site of Leon Guanajuato: Plaza de los Fundadores.

This plaza, located in the first square and the convergence of the Municipal Palace and churches of great importance, is a must-see.

Here, homage is paid to the founders of the town of Leon, with a commemorative painting on one of its walls.

Also, enjoy its majestic central fountain with four lions’ heads, surrounded by gardens and artistically pruned trees.

Explore this iconic place while admiring the expiatory temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Sanctuary of Soledad.

You will also find endless dining options such as tacos, cheese fondue, sandwiches, or any other food for every palate.

Plaza Fundadores also has nice shops to buy a souvenir during your visit to this wonderful Mexican town.

What to do in Plaza de los Fundadores, why visit?

  • Explore the historic center of León, admiring its constructions, monuments, and buildings
  • Enjoy the antojitos and traditional food that surrounds the Plaza de los Fundadores
  • Live the unique experience of drinking a cebadina, a traditional drink in the city, while visiting the surrounding area
  • Head to the Santuario de la Soledad to see the tile panel with the names of the founders and first settlers of Leon


1. Visit the Plaza de los Fundadores early in the morning to people-watch and enjoy the quiet atmosphere before the day’s heat.

2. Visit one of the restaurants or cafes to try the local delicacies, such as Elote or Queso Fundido.

3. Appreciate the architectural work in the colonial and neoclassical buildings surrounding the square and observe all the details as you stroll through its narrow streets full of colorful and interesting stores and restaurants.

4. Come back in the late afternoon to watch the sunset from a nearby terrace!

2. Go shopping at La Zona Piel

leon guanajuato
leon guanajuato
mexico travel and leisure
Many shops specialize in fine boots and cowboy outfits

In the Zona Piel (leather zone), the streets are full of leather products, from bags, shoes, and jackets to wallets and belts.

Many stores offer certified quality products at a good price. Pay attention to the labeling to make sure that the product is made of leather and not synthetic.

You can find affordable prices and several Mexican handcrafted items to support the local economy.

Plaza del Zapato (the shoe market) is a good option where you will find beautifully designed handbags, backpacks, and of course, all types of footwear.

What to do in Zona Piel, why visit?

  • Explore the streets around Zona Piel: Stroll the streets full of stores, look for the best prices, and discover quality products
  • Buy a souvenir to take back from Leon: Pick your best shop to get leather products such as bags, shoes, wallets, and more
  • Visit the Historic Center: Take the opportunity to visit the Cathedral, and the Main Square and enjoy this beautiful city with incredible architecture
  • Experience the Balloon Festival: Live the experience of the Expiatory Temple and visit the shopping mall surrounding the leather area to buy exclusive items


1. Compare products before buying: There are many stores around so it is important to compare to make the best purchase.

2. Talk to locals before visiting: It is advisable to talk to someone who has already been there and recommend a good place to shop in the Zona Piel.

3. Be careful with pickpockets: Avoid carrying backpacks when you walk in the streets as there are many people in this place so being careful is important.

4. Only enter the restroom if necessary: Public restrooms are clean but you must pay about 10 pesos.

3. Cathedral Basilica of Leon

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leon guanajuato

If you are looking for a place to connect with peace and tranquility, the Cathedral Basilica of Leon Guanajuato is the place.

Centrally located in front of the main square, this cathedral offers superb conservation and carefully crafted details.

It has twin towers instead of a bell tower, which gives it a unique touch.

Upon entering, the stained glass windows of the apse create a particularly solemn atmosphere.

In addition, it houses the image of the Virgen de la Luz, with a story full of mystery about how she came to León. The May 16 celebration is imposing and filled with dances, Mexican snacks, and fiesta.

On the other hand, there are several side chapels such as San José and the Museum of Sacred Art for those interested in delving deeper into its religious content.

You may want to read: Exploring Guanajuato City: A 2024 Adventure Bucket List

This cathedral has many unique features that are worth visiting to discover its charm and feel its spirituality.

What to do in the Cathedral Basilica of Leon, why visit?

  • Visit the Cathedral Basilica of Leon to admire its architecture and religious artwork
  • Attend the mass celebrated in the temple to experience religious spirituality in all its expression
  • Explore the Museum of Sacred Art on the right wing of the main altar
  • Participate in the Pilgrimage held every year in May to celebrate the Patron Saint of Leon, Guanajuato


1. Take a camera to take beautiful pictures of the interior and exterior of the temple to remember your visit.

2. If you want to hear mass, attend at noon since it is very crowded.

4. Museum of Art and History of Guanajuato

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leon guanajuato

The Museum of Art and History of Guanajuato in Leon is a beautiful place created for visitors to understand the culture and art of this region.

Admission is free and there are interactive screens so you can enjoy the experience without worrying about the language.

There are permanent exhibits on the history, origin, and culture of Guanajuato, as well as temporary exhibits that change every 3 months or so.

There is also a room with Greek-Roman works, an exhibition on Japanese culture, and another dedicated to contemporary Mexican design.

The museum also has green areas and parks nearby where you can picnic with your family.

Also, if you hire a guide you will have access to a lot of interesting information that you would not discover on your own.

If you travel to León you can’t miss this modern and innovative museum with great facilities, interesting exhibits, and excellent service from the staff, it is without a doubt a must-visit!

5. Leon Guanajuato Metropolitan Park

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leon guanajuato
mexico travel and leisure

This is where the International Balloon Festival (FITG) is held every year (mid-November).

It is an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors with family or friends. You can practice running or cycling on its two tracks 7 and 2 km long that form a circuit.

Camping, barbecues, and fishing areas are available at an additional cost.

The park is surrounded by a dam and offers free drinking water. During the FITG there are several gastronomic establishments to eat, as well as paid parking lots inside and outside the park.

Admission is 130 pesos for adults and children, so it is advisable to arrive very early (5 am) so that there are no crowds or traffic.

During the day there are numerous family activities; at sunset, the show starts with the illuminated balloons and the music continues with a concert every night.

The final show is incredible: sunrise with the balloons taking off and ending with the launching of lanterns in front of the lake on a beautiful starry night. You can’t miss it!

6. Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

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leon guanajuato
mexico travel and leisure

Fall in love with the Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Leon Guanajuato!

This architectural work will leave you breathless thanks to its majestic facade with biblical passages carved in a pink and green quarry of Guanajuato, its interiors with stained glass windows that intoxicate the eye, and the characteristic solemnity of the temples.

Discover a little piece of Europe in Mexico by visiting its interior, the catacombs, and the museum.

During the evenings you can observe how the historical mosaics illuminate the facade and enjoy a little of the surrounding square where shows are presented.

If you are looking for an unforgettable spiritual experience, do not hesitate to visit this temple to live a unique moment.

7. Calzada de las Artes

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leon guanajuato

Calzada de las Artes is a masterpiece in Leon Guanajuato which connects the main tourist sites downtown.

The walking tour is a unique experience, with iconic monuments not to be missed, such as the Arc of Triumph and the Expiatory Temple.

You may want to read: The Mummies of Guanajuato: A Must-See Spectacle of History

It is a perfect place to relax, enjoy the view, and take good pictures. On weekends there are street stalls and free excellent events.

The Love Bridge offers a walkway to the Leon Stadium so you can enjoy this historic tour to the fullest.

What to do in Calzada de las Artes and why visit?

  • Take a souvenir pic at the Iconic Monument
  • Walk from the Zocalo to the Leon Stadium
  • Stroll along the Calzada de las Artes to enjoy the occasional open-air concerts
  • Tour the pedestrian corridor from the Poliforum to downtown to visit the main tourist sites


1. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and enjoy the place.

2. If you visit the Historic Center, do not miss the Calzada de las Artes, close to the Cathedral.

3. Wear sneakers, sunglasses, and cool clothes to make the tour comfortable.

4. Do not miss the random free events that take place there. You’ll be surprised by the good quality.

8. Leon Guanajuato Cultural Forum

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leon guanajuato

A visit to the Forum Cultural Guanajuato is ideal if you want to enjoy culture and art.

Located in Leon, this complex of exhibitions, theaters, and gardens offers diverse activities such as concerts, fairs, rallies, and live events.

The Roberto Plascencia Saldana Bicentennial Theater is one of the most beautiful in the country.

In the Museum of Art and History, you can enjoy magnificent reproductions of classical Greek and contemporary sculptures in a beautiful garden.

There is also a central library where lectures and cultural events are presented. The forum also has large and beautiful Indian laurels whose leaves provide pleasant shade on hot days.

If you are in Leon Guanajuato, you cannot miss visiting this unique and ideal place to stroll, rest, learn about the history of the Bajío Guanajuato-León, take pictures, and even have picnics.

It is also accessible to all budgets thanks to its low admission fees (free on Sundays), you won’t regret it!

What to do in Forum Cultural Guanajuato and why visit?

Enjoy the shows, concerts, and operas at the Roberto Plascencia Saldana Bicentennial Theater

Visit the Museum of Art and History to learn about local and national culture and history

Admire the works of art in the Sculpture Garden, where there are reproductions of Greek statues to contemporary pieces

Have a pleasant time walking through all the gardens, taking pictures, and enjoying the giant chess set

9. Triumphal Arch of Leon

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If you’re visiting Leon, you can’t miss the impressive Triumphal Arch.

Located in the pedestrian area of the Calzada de los Heroes Blvd, this neoclassical monument crowned with a bronze lion is the distinctive symbol of the city.

A few meters from the Arch are food stalls, bars, ice cream shops, and sometimes naturist markets to enjoy.

If you head east for about 10 minutes from the historic old town center, you will see this impressive structure with a lot of history.

If you walk along the Calzada extension from the Museum of Art and History and up the iconic bridge of love and then continue the walk along the cool Calzada de los Heroes framed by legendary laurels you will find a beautiful Triumphal Arch with fountains that make for a pleasant visit.

It is an ideal place to stroll safely and quietly in the evenings while the children enjoy themselves.

Don’t miss this triumphal entrance to the center or nostalgic farewell to Leon; it is a real beauty and can not be missed on your visit to Leon Guanajuato Mexico.

10. Leon Stadium “Nou Camp”

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mexico travel and leisure

If you like soccer, be sure to attend one of the matches of the “panzas verdes” (green bellies) of Leon, Guanajuato’s professional soccer team.

Its incredible stadium, the “Nou Camp,” a World Cup stage in Mexico in 1986, owes its name to the mythical building where Spanish F.C. Barcelona plays.

11. Municipal Palace

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This historical building sits in the main square and houses the municipal authorities, transit offices, police, markets, and the municipal presidency.

It is a beautiful place that stands out for its clock at the top and the Mexican flag flying in all its splendor.

Around the building, you will find a kiosk and benches to sit on, as well as street stalls with typical Mexican food.

Despite being functional government offices, the building is open to the public and has interesting murals on the steps.

12. Leon Zoo

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leon mexico
leon guanajuato

Welcome to the Leon Zoo! This exciting place is north of Leon and is one of the best zoos in Mexico.

In this great safari park, you can see zebras, giraffes, elephants, hippos, tigers, lions, bison, buffaloes, and bears.

On weekends you can take a stroll through the park enjoying the entertainment and fun offered by seasonal events such as Easter, Christmas, and Halloween.

The zoo has restrooms everywhere to make the whole family feel comfortable. There are also areas to have lunch or simply take a break.

If you want to spend an unforgettable day you can purchase the complete package that includes safari, cabin train, and myth.

The variety of animals is impressive, from turtles to penguins to lions, elephants, zebras, zebras, giraffes, hippos, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, buffaloes, tigers, panthers, etc.

The place is full of lush trees with benches to rest and even have a picnic with your family.

What to do in Leon Zoo, why visit?

  • Explore Zoo Leon on a tour in a special car, enjoying the safari and the train called Leonardo
  • Go to the mythical area and meet the animals that live there
  • See the beautiful natural landscapes inside the facilities, such as pine trees, cedars, eucalyptus, pirules, and mesquites
  • Stroll along the well-kept trails and paths to rest, read, or simply contemplate the views


1. Be sure to bring your own food as there are no decent places to eat inside the zoo

2. Bring comfortable clothes and shoes to walk around, as well as something to cover yourself from the sun. Although there are many shaded areas with tall trees where you can rest between tours

3. If you have children with you, they will surely have a lot of fun in the playground area as well as on the tour in the special safari car or just running around on the trails and well-kept paths inside the place.

4. Never leave children unattended

13. Casa de las Monas

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leon mexico

Many years ago, around 1870 to be exact, this building was the Government Palace of Leon and, for some time, the house and headquarters of Pancho Villa.

Today it is the headquarters of the Cultural Institute of Leon and houses a pizza restaurant.

The nickname “las monas” (the dolls) is self explanatory, you will realize it when you see it from the front…

It is located on 5 de Mayo Ave, downtown and you can visit it from Monday to Sunday from 10am to 8pm.

Leon, Guanajuato: Final thoughts

As you’ve seen today, Leon Guanajuato truly lives up to its reputation of a modern developed city.

Not only is the “Shoe Capital of the World,” but this vibrant city seamlessly blends tradition and innovation, offering visitors a unique cultural and commercial experience.

From the bustling Zona Piel, where you can find the latest in footwear fashion, to the historic landmarks and culinary delights, Leon promises a memorable visit for every traveler.

Whether you’re a shoe enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to explore a new destination, Leon’s rich heritage and dynamic atmosphere make it a must-visit location in Mexico.

Plan your trip to Leon and step into a world where craftsmanship meets culture in the heart of Guanajuato.

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