León, Spain

Leon}}León (, ; ; ) is the capital of the province of León, located in the northwest of Spain. Its city population of 127,817 (2015) makes it the largest municipality in the province, accounting for more than one quarter of the province's population. Including the metropolitan area, the population is estimated at 202,793 (2015).

Founded as the military encampment of the Legio VI Victrix around 29 BC, its standing as an encampment city was consolidated with the definitive settlement of the Legio VII Gemina from 74 AD. Following its partial depopulation due to the Umayyad conquest of the peninsula. 910 saw the beginning of one its most prominent historical periods, when it became the capital of the Kingdom of León, which took active part in the Reconquista against the Moors, and came to be one of the fundamental kingdoms of medieval Spain.

In 1188, the city hosted the first Parliament in European history under the reign of Alfonso IX, due to which it was named in 2010, by the professor John Keane, the King of Spain and the Junta of Castile and León, as the cradle of Parliamentarism, and the Decreta of León were included in the Memory of the World register by UNESCO in 2013. The city's prominence began to decline in the early Middle Ages, partly due to the loss of independence after the union of the Leonese kingdom with the Crown of Castile, consolidated in 1301.

After a period of stagnation during the early modern age, it was one of the first cities to hold an uprising in the Spanish War of Independence, and some years later, in 1833 acquired the status of provincial capital. The end of the 19th and the 20th century saw a significant acceleration in the rate of urban expansion, when the city became an important communications hub of the northwest due to the rise of the coal mining industry and the arrival of the railroad.

León's historical and architectural heritage, as well as the numerous festivals hosted throughout the year (particularly noteworthy are the Easter processions) and its location on the French Way of the Camino de Santiago, which is ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, make it a destination of both domestic and international tourism. Some of the city's most prominent historical buildings are the Cathedral, one of the finest examples of French-style classic Gothic architecture in Spain, the Basilica of San Isidoro, one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain and resting place of León's medieval monarchs, the Monastery of San Marcos, an example of plateresque and Renaissance Spanish architecture, and the Casa Botines, a Modernist creation of the architect Antoni Gaudí. An example of modern architecture is the city's Museum of Contemporary Art or MUSAC.



León was founded in the 1st century BC by the Roman legion Legio VI Victrix, which served under Caesar Augustus during the Cantabrian Wars (29-19 BC), the final stage of the Roman conquest of Hispania. In the year 74 AD, the Legio VII Gemina —recruited from the Hispanics by Galba in 69 AD— settled in a permanent military camp that was the origin of the city. |date=August 2010}}



León Airport (IATA: LEN) is located approximately 6 kilometres away from the city centre, in the neighbouring town of La Virgen del Camino/Valverde de la Virgen. It offers mostly domestic flights within the country, . Currently two Spanish airlines operate in it: Iberia/Air Nostrum and Air Europa. Air Nostrum offers flights from and to Barcelona, Spain. During the summer months the number of available destinations increases, and flights are also offered from and to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Tenerife, Spain, Ibiza, Spain, Menorca, Spain, Málaga, Spain and Gran Canaria, Spain.

Railway stations

León has two railway stations, León railway station on the RENFE line, and León-Matallana on the FEVE lines. There are high-speed services that connect León to Madrid in approximately two hours. Other destinations directly reachable from León are Galicia (to the West), Asturias (to the North) and Valladolid (to the South-East, in the same route as Madrid).

Public transport

León has 14 city bus lines, belonging to the company Alesa, a subsidiary of ALSA. Besides the buses, there are plans to introduce tram lines in the city.

Leonese language


The Leonese language derives directly from Latin and developed in the Middle Ages. At this time, Leonese was the official language of the Leonese Kingdom and achieved a high codification grade in the city of Llión. The first written text in Leonese was Nodicia de Kesos (959 or 974); other works in the language include Fueru de Llión, Fueru de Salamanca, Fueru Xulgu, Códice d'Alfonsu XI, ou Disputa d'Elena y María or Llibru d'Alixandre

Leonese is considered a seriously endangered language by UNESCO. It is almost extinct, being known and spoken by only a very few elderly people who live isolated in the mountains of the northern part of the province of León. However, people who wish to separate León from Castile and who support Leonese autonomy are trying to revive the language. León City Council and Leonese language associations like the Asociación Cultural de la Llingua Llïonesa El Fueyu are promoting its knowledge and use.

Leonese Language Day started in 2006 with the support of Leonese Provincial Government, and from 2008 the celebration is organised by the León City Council.


At the end of the 1990s, several associations unofficially promoted Leonese language courses. In 2001, the Universidad de León (University of León) created a course for Teachers of Leonese language, and local government developed Leonese language courses for adults. The Leonese Language Teachers and Monitors Association (Asociación de Profesores y Monitores de Llingua Llïonesa) was created in 2008 and promotes Leonese language activities.

Leonese lessons in schools started in 2008, and it is currently taught in sixteen schools in León city in 2008–2009, promoted by the Leonese Local Government Department for Education. This course is for pupils in their 5th and 6th year of primary school (11- and 12-year-olds), where Leonese language is taught with Leonese culture.

More than one hundred people are studying Leonese in adult classes in 2008–2009. There are five levels for adults in the official courses developed by the Department for Leonese Culture of the Leonese City Council.


The Leonese City Council was founded in 1345. It has 27 city councillors.

In the last municipal elections (22 May 2011) the results were:

  • Partido Popular - 44.61% votes and 15 councillors
  • Spanish Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE) - 30.99% of the votes and 10 councillors
  • Unión del Pueblo Leonés - 6.88% and 2 councillors

    The Government of León is composed by the People's Party (Partido Popular). The mayor is Emilio Gutierrez, from the PP.

    León is in the county (comarca) of Tierras de León.

    Twin towns — sister cities

    León is twinned with:

  • Bragança, Portugal
  • Porto, Portugal
  • León (Guanajuato), México
  • Voronezh, Russia
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Xiangtan, China
  • Córdoba (Spain)
  • Chartres


    Within the wide range of Leonese cuisine the following dishes are the most representative: cecina (cured, smoked beef), morcilla (a variant of blood sausage), botillo (a dish of meat-stuffed pork intestine), garlic soup, el cocido leonés (a mix of meat with vegetables and chickpeas, served after a vegetable-vermicelli soup) and mantecadas (pastry). Another very important part of the gastronomy of León are the tapas, which are usually given free with drinks, unlike in the rest of Spain. It is very common to go "de tapas" or "tapear" i.e. to go for a few drinks ("un corto", which is a very small beer, "una caña", which is roughly half a pint of beer or "un vino", a glass of wine) just before lunch but more normally as a light form of dinner.

    Notable people

  • Mario Amilivia (born 1957), mayor
  • Miguel Castaño (1883-1936), first democratically elected mayor
  • Moisés de León (1240-1305), rabbi, kabbalist, author of the Zohar.
  • Dolores Gortázar Serantes (1872-1936), novelist.
  • Buenaventura Durruti (1896–1936), anarchist leader.
  • José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (1960-), prime minister of Spain (2004-2011).
  • Manuel Martínez (1974-), retired shot putter with multiple Spanish records and international victories.
  • Sara Llana (born 1997), rhythmic gymnast and member of Spain's national rhythmic gymnastics team.