In the Golden State of California lies two West Coast powerhouse cities. These are the two most-visited cities in California, so we understand the dilemma that comes with figuring out how to pick between San Francisco and Los Angeles! San Francisco draws in travellers for its contrasting hippie and tech vibes, whereas Los Angeles is full of glitz and glam with its booming film industry and celebrities a-plenty. Let’s take a deeper look into which Californian city would be best for you.  

City size 

Los Angeles
Photo by ejimmy3 on Instagram

Los Angeles trumps San Francisco in terms of its sheer size with 90 neighbourhoods and almost four million people. Comparatively, San Francisco has a population of just one million. Both cities have plenty to see, do and eat so this factor comes down to personal preference. With less ground to cover, San Francisco may fit in better to your itinerary. 


Both cities are expensive to live in and visit, with food, drink, accommodation and entertainment costs comparable. However, San Francisco is a little easier on the wallet with its easy-to-use public transport system. By default, Los Angeles is harder to get around as it’s more spread out so your transport costs will be higher.  

Things to do 

We can’t pick a winner in this category!  

San Francisco
The iconic Painted Ladies Houses
Photo by taisaandrade on Instagram

San Francisco is very cultural with its diverse neighbourhoods (like Little Italy and the Mission), beautiful bay featuring Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, variety of museums and parks, and history with Alcatraz Prison and the Painted Ladies Houses. On the other hand, Los Angeles is renowned for its sunny beaches (think Malibu and Venice), Griffith Park and Observatory with its jaw-dropping views across the city, the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame and Hollywood Sign walk, as well as being the gateway to several theme park giants.  

Griffith Observatory
A spectacular view from Griffith Observatory
Photo by thestatedept on Instagram

For the sporting fans out there, both are big sporting cities for baseball (LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants) and basketball (LA Lakers and San Francisco Golden State Warriors) so don’t miss a game if you’re there during these sporting seasons!  


Venice Beach
Venice Beach
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Los Angeles has sunny, warm weather practically all year round. Its average winter lows are 10° Celsius and average summer highs are 28° Celsius. If you don’t mind a bit of chill, San Francisco could be right for you. Its bay’s location means wind and fog are prevalent, with some rain in the summer months.  


Chinatown dumplings
A selection of freshly made dim sum in San Francisco’s Chinatown
Photo by thebestoflife on Instagram

We think San Francisco has the better food scene, thanks to its melting pot of cultures. Its Chinatown is the oldest in the USA, ready and waiting for you to indulge in cheap and cheerful dumplings, noodles and traditional sweets; the freshest seafood can be found along Fisherman’s Wharf; and the Mission District is renowned for its Mexican food.  


Napa Valley
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With San Francisco’s proximity to Wine Country, this is an easy decision. Places like Napa Valley and Sonoma are not far away, so you’ll be sipping on a zesty chardonnay or a hearty merlot in no time at all. 

Day trips 

Photo by magicalpursuits on Instagram

Los Angeles has prime position with San Diego and Palm Springs just two hours’ drive away, or Anaheim and its theme parks 30 minutes’ drive away. As mentioned earlier, Wine Country makes for an easy day trip from San Francisco, as does Silicon Valley and neighbouring universities like Stanford. 

Getting around 

San Francisco is blessed with its Muni and Bart public transport systems, making it a piece of cake to get from A to B. Its compact size also makes it a walkable city. If visiting Los Angeles, be prepared to drive and sit in traffic at peak times. While it does have public transport, it isn’t as accessible or easy to use as San Francisco.  

We hope this has shed some light on how to pick between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Both West Coast cities have pros and cons, and both are incredible cities in their own right. Spend time there on a Globus or Cosmos West Coast USA tour.  

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