León is a department (state) in northwestern Nicaragua (5,138 km2). It is also the second largest city in Nicaragua, after the capital Managua. It was founded by the Spaniards as León Santiago de los Caballeros and rivals Granada, Nicaragua, in the number of historic Spanish colonial homes and churches. As of 2005, the city had an estimated population of about 175,000 people which increases sharply during university season with many students coming from other Nicaraguan provinces.
León is located along the Río Chiquito (Chiquito River), some 90 km northwest of Managua, and some 18 km east of the Pacific Ocean coast. Although less populous than Managua, León has long been the intellectual center of the nation, with its university founded in 1813. León is also an important industrial, agricultural (sugar cane, cattle, peanut, plantain, sorghum) and commercial center for Nicaragua.