After being on the road for eight months, I've become a huge proponent of spending at least four or five days in each city. Sometimes however, you just don't have the luxury of time.
After spending two nights in each Leon and Granada, here are a few highlights:
Once the former capital, Leon is a small and beautiful colonial city, and a common stop for travellers because it is one of the rare places where you can go volcano boarding.
Bigfoot Hostel organizes daily trips down the Cerro Negro. Approximately $25 (plus $5 entrance fee) covers your transport, guide, equipment, and a free beer and cookie upon your return. They seem to have a monopoly on the tour and many tourists have the tank-top paraphernalia to prove it. Feeling exhausted from cannoning, I chose instead to hang out with the chiclet salesmen (picture below) at the hostel.
If Leon is impressive, Granada is even more grandiose and impeccably clean. While the centre of Granada was very beautiful, I think the market was my favourite part of our stay. Not very touristy, a bit gritty and dirty, it had a delicious comedor section, and a cheese man who would rather talk about philosophy than sell queso fresco.
Also in Granada, I discovered fritangas! A fritanga is a stand that sells food in the evenings and sometimes even into the wee hours of the morning. Depending on the location, you can find a range of deep fried street food such as tacos and enchiladas to full-fledged barbecued meats accompanied by savoury or sweet plantains and served in a banana leaf. This amazing fritanga in the picture below is on Calle La Libertad, up the hill west of Parque Central - go early, they sell out fast.