León holds an equal position when compared to the popular cities like Guanajuato and Guadalajara, for they expose every tourist to their local culture with ease. Visiting notable sites and walking through the streets is one of the most effective and straightforward ways that this city can engage you in its culture.
It’s effective in 2 ways:
- First of all, trekking through the cobblestone streets filled with wonderful people in the city of León is the ultimate activity when seeking to experience the authentic culture. What’s unique about this city is the fact that it doesn’t need to have 5-star hotels that offer excursions to make it a memorable and engaging experience.
- Secondly, the few notable attractions in León provide unique and loveable experiences. Simply visiting one of these notable sites and its surrounding areas are more than enough for a tourist to begin feeling at home. It’s the powerful environment that this city effortlessly exerts that truly exposes the visitor to its authentic culture.
Despite the whole city being a playground for tourists to go out and interact with locals, I have found the 3 best attractions to visit on your trip. Not only are these places mesmerizing to the eyes and to the soul, but they assist you in trying to make friends.
Let’s dive right in…
1. Expiatorio Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
No words can describe this cathedral. But if I were to try and explain it, it would go something like this, “Holy shit! This place is simply magnificent and just out of this world! Look at that architecture!” Furthermore, a quite unique feature that this cathedral has is that it’s centered on an empty square, which makes it more visible. To get the most out of what this cathedral has to offer, come visit at night when it glows with lights so you can embrace all beauty it generates.
The cathedral not only exerts jaw-dropping beauty, but it generates a field of interaction between people. Everywhere around this monument is people talking and laughing with each other. You have a group of young skaters that show off their tricks on a wall that resembles a ramp, MANY MANY couples sitting on a bench showing their affection, and groups or pairs of friends just hanging out. Surprisingly, yet not so, was that everyone here was amiable especially to tourists looking to make friends.
Additionally, once and a while you may come across a local vendor trying to sell something. I actually bought a “quality made” bracelet for my mother and it broke so it turns out I got slightly scammed. Nonetheless, I don’t regret coming across him. He was super friendly (it may be because he wanted me to buy something from him) and ridiculously nice. But even though I got slightly scammed, he showed me the utmost respect and kindness that I can only appreciate and cherish.
2. Arco Triunfal De León
The Arco Triunfal de León (Triumphal Arc of León) was built to commemorate its 83rd anniversary of the Mexican Independence. León bullfighter Antonio Velázquez, also known as the “Corazón de León,” donated a large sum of money to this iconic build.
This iconic monument plays a significant role in León’s history and in its people. During my time there, I started talking to a local street-goer about this incredible sculpture. But after the whole conversation I had with him, he told me something that truly made me understand how these people feel about this Arch.
He said with an exciting gesture, “It’s the Paris’s Arc, but in León!”
That simple phrase made my interaction with him so much more interesting! The locals praise this grandeur sculpture as a world-renowned attraction such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The locals don’t care if thousands upon thousands of tourists visit it every month, but they care about this icon with as a symbol of their thriving city.
It’s the symbol that identifies León and its people of heroes.
3. Pope Benedict XVI Square (Cathedral Square)
This small plaza is constantly filled with locals. It’s incredibly useful when trying to make new friends, for you find families or individuals sitting around the intricately built church and the storytelling murals. This is definitely an easy way to meet up with locals and have the opportunity to experience local culture. I found that asking for more information on the murals helped a lot in trying to jumpstart your conversation with them.
The exciting and lively ambiance of the plaza made it that much easier to approach the locals without feeling nervous or hesitant. There is so much commotion, cars are constantly coming up and down the streets and people are spending their day walking around this city; it’s very easy to be engulfed in the local environment. This is one of the best places to visit to maximize your local knowledge and maximize your local friend’s list.
Furthermore, the church itself is a true local attraction. Before I could check out the godly painted interior, I was greeted with Pope Benedict XVI’s statue at the entrance. A few locals were praying in front of the statue while others placed flowers at the base. I found this to be an easy way to approach the locals, for you can simply ask them for assistance on how to pray to the statue. They will be more than happy to help. This also applies to when you enter the interior, and kindly approach the locals. A word of advice is to respect their time praying. Don’t be a disruptive tourist and interrupt them during their prayer. Kindly wait until they are finished to approach them.
While this may not have a full list of things to do or places to see, I discovered that these 3 places truly showed me what the authentic culture was like in León. The whole city is yours to encounter and every corner you turn are locals just waiting to be your friend!
P.S. I’m adding a new section to my blog that will surely help you find new friends around the world! Stay tuned, friends!