León is the second largest city in Nicaragua, after Managua. As of 2012, the city had an estimated population of 201,100 which increases sharply during university season with many students coming from other regions of Nicaragua.
León has long been the political and intellectual center of the nation and its National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) was founded in 1813, making it the second oldest university in Central America. The city has been home to many of Nicaragua's most noteworthy poets including Rubén Darío, Alfonso Cortés and Salomón de la Selva.
The first city named León in Nicaragua was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba about 30 kilometres east of the present site. The city was abandoned in 1610 after a series of earthquakes. The ruins of the city are known as "León Viejo" which are declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1950 the city of León had a population of 31,000 people. Nicaraguan President and dictator Anastasio Somoza García was shot and mortally wounded in León on September 21, 1956.