Most foreign visitors who head to the Mexican state of Guanajuato for fun are headed to San Miguel de Allende or the capital city of Guanajuato, with a few diverging off to some of the “magic towns” and secondary cities for wineries, adventure activities, pottery shopping, or other attractions. When it comes to industry, however, the big city is Leon and if you’re headed to a conference it’ll probably be at the Poliforum Leon Convention Center.
This is an industrial city that attracts business travelers and doesn’t get many foreign leisure tourists. Because of that though, it’s not going to set you back much to stay in a hotel nearby.
Leon, Mexico is an important manufacturing center in the center of the country. It’s known far and wide as the “shoe capital of Mexico” because so much of the shoes sold domestically and exported elsewhere come from this area. That includes a good percentage of the cowboy boots you’ll find from Texas to Nashville. The good ones anyway.
There are entire shopping malls in Leon dedicated to footwear and there’s a sprawling shoe and leather market not far from the convention center. It’s not a one-industry city though: Leon and neighboring Silao factories pump out all kinds of goods, including cars for American and Japanese companies and the tires and electronics that go into them.
As a result of all this industry, there’s a steady flow of foreign visitors coming here to work out deals and find a supplier. The convention center here is so large it can host more than 37,000 people when full capacity is allowed. (It’s big enough for concerts.) Twice a year, Leon hosts SAPICA, Mexico’s large leather and shoe exhibition. Before the pandemic hit there was even a direct daily flight on Delta between here and Detroit because of the auto industry. Hopefully it’ll be back in action when things return to normal, joining direct existing flights to Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and several other cities.
If you’re flying into Guanajuato state, build in some time to explore the beauty and Mexican culture in the interesting Spanish colonial centers that you’ve more likely seen in travel articles and on social media. When you need to get down to business first though, here’s where to stay near the Poliforum Convention Center of Leon, Mexico.
Courtyard by Marriott Leon at the Poliforum
When you look at that exterior photo of the convention center at the top of this article, you’ll notice a hotel poking out of it. That would be the Courtyard by Marriott Leon at the Poliforum. Looks like they could have called it “in the Poliforum.” With this mid-range international chain hotel, you know exactly what to expect and you’ve got a good chance of encountering staffers who speak some English, especially at the front desk.
Staying at a Courtyard hotel is seldom going to wow you, but you get a predictable layout in all 140 rooms, an ergonomic chair for working, a fridge in the room, and a fitness center. There’s even a pool outside.
Rates at the Courtyard by Marriott Leon are often a great value, starting at $60 for a standard. So you might want to spring for an upgrade to get some extra space. Check prices online here.
Radisson Poliforum Plaza Hotel
This full-service hotel near the Leon convention center gets good reviews from guests. The Leon Radisson Poliforum has a pool, gym, restaurant, bar, and fitness center, plus there’s valet parking available. It has some meeting facilities of its own too for functions in the hotel itself. There’s also a spa on site if walking a convention floor all day has you stressed out.
Holiday Inn Leon – Convention Center
As with a Marriott Courtyard, you pretty much know what you’re going to get in a Holiday Inn no matter where you are, but I have to say from experience that the Holiday Inn properties in Mexico tend to be on the newer and nicer side. Most of them are renovated and have spacious public areas.
This Leon Holiday Inn is one of several from this brand in the city, with a second a couple miles to the west at Plaza Mayor and a Crowne Plaza a bit further. At this one you are within walking distance of the convention center and this is a good choice for traveling with a family: there’s a heated outdoor pool and kids eat free at the restaurant. The hotel also has a fitness center and it offers free shuttle transportation from the airport. It’s an excellent value, with rates sometimes dipping below $60 per night. Book direct here or check prices at Expedia.
Metria Hotel Leon
Metria originally opened as an NH Hotel, but the Spanish chain closed it down when the pandemic hit and now it operates as an independent property. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the convention center and has free parking on site.
Rates start at $60, check your dates here.
Hampton Inn by Hilton Leon
If you’re in the Hilton loyalty program or you’ve got a preference for Hampton Inn, this property is just a half-mile away from the convention hall entrance. It’s packed with all the basic amenities: a pool, restaurant, fitness center, and small business center. As with most other hotels in the area, self-parking is included in the room rate.
Rooms here are as nice as you would expect in other countries for the brand, with an ergonomic work chair and often a fridge and sofa bed as well. Rates generally start at around $60 at the official Hilton page or you can compare rates here.
One Leon Poliforum
Like City Express, the “One” brand of Mexican chain hotels lures business guests who aren’t planning on spending a lot of time at the hotel and just need a good night’s sleep in a clean place. Breakfast and parking are included, there are laundry facilities on site, and guests here can walk to the Leon convention center in about 15 minutes. There’s no restaurant on site, but plenty are nearby in this commercial zone.
This no-frills hotel often has rates listed below $35 a night. Check it out on Hotels.com here.
HS Hotsson Leon
This Leon hotel is further away than some of the others, at close to a mile, but it’s one of the larger full-service properties in the area. In many respects, it is the most luxurious hotel near the Leon convention center and it’s often the only one where the rate for a regular room is edging up close to $100. So if you’ve got a $150 per night budget on the expense account and don’t have loyalty preferences, this is a good choice to spring for a suite.
The HS Hotsson has a swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant, and bar. It’s walking distance to two malls on the same side of the street, one of them filled with local shoes. See more and check rates at this link.
Other Hotels in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico
If you don’t mind being a little further away, or you’re looking for an even cheaper place to flop, you can look for other options for Leon Mexico hotels on this map below:
Article by editor Tim Leffel, who lives in nearby Guanajuato City. Photos by the Poliforum and the respective hotels. For more information on what to do when business is done, see the official Guanajuato Tourism website.