San Francisco vs Los Angeles: The Honest Comparison You Need!

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Last updated on February 1, 2023 by Wandering our World

San Francisco and Los Angeles are two major cities on the west coast of California. Most people assume these two cities are the same because they are in the same state and on the same coastline.

They also both have lovely beaches, museums, restaurants, and tourist attractions that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

However, there are important differences between these two cities because of their densities, neighborhoods, tourist sites, and location. So the best choice for you will depend on your particular interests and the goals you have for yourself during your travels!

For example Los Angeles is probably the more iconic city with numerous tourist attractions, beautiful beaches and celebrity spotting opportunities! In contrast, San Francisco is probably better for adventurers who want to walk and explore outside in areas with fewer crowds.

But that’s just scratching the surface!

Luckily below we compare both cities,looking at which has the better beaches and attractions, which is better for celebrity spotting, which is cheaper and more. Let’s get started!


  1. Which Has Better Beaches
  2. Which Has Better Tourist Attractions
  3. Which Has More Celebrities
  4. Which City IsLess Crowded
  5. Which Is Cheaper To Visit OrLive In
  6. Which Is The Better Choice
San Francisco vs Los Angeles Infographic

Which Has Better Beaches?

People don’t often think about the beaches in San Francisco and Los Angeles because these cities are famous for so many other reasons. But they are both cities on the west coast with several beaches next to the Pacific Ocean.

Los Angeles has warm and pleasant beaches. They attract tourists from around the world, including Venice Beach, Huntington Beach and Redondo Beach. Venice Beach was made famous by hippies and bodybuilders in the 1960s and 1970s.

You’ll find outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts, and workout areas all along the beach in Los Angeles.

The beaches in LA are buzzing, great for sunbathing and socializing, and still a place where people love to stroll around and hang out.

venice,california,la  skate park  in Venice beach on a sunny day.

San Francisco has more of a rocky coastline with frequent cloudy and foggy weather conditions. So, you might not be able to do much sunbathing at San Francisco’s beaches!

However we do think the beaches inSan Francisco are better for people who like to take long walks on the beach. Ocean Beach actually has the longest shoreline in San Francisco, while Baker Beach has the best views in the city of the Golden Gate Bridge and the sea. Unfortunately, swimming is not recommended because the tidal waves are rather intense. 

If you want beaches with warmer water, fewer rocks, and pleasant swimming conditions, choose Los Angeles. The city is farther south than San Francisco, which is why the water is warmer.

San Francisco beach views are arguably better looking, but that’s about it. If you only want to walk and explore without going into the water, you may like San Francisco beaches more. But they still don’t have as much to offer as beaches in Los Angeles.

Winner: Los Angeles

Classic view of famous Golden Gate Bridge in beautiful golden evening light on a sunny day with blue sky and clouds in summer, San Francisco, California, USA

Which Has Better Tourist Attractions?

Hollywood is perhaps the most well-known neighborhood in Los Angeles. It is the entertainment capital of the world.

If you’re a film or television buff, you can visit many of the entertainment studios in the city. Some of which include Warner Brother’s, Disney, MGM and Universal Studios. Since celebrities frequently come in and out of these studios, so you may see one during your visit.

People know San Francisco for the Golden Gate Bridge. This 1.7-mile bridge has been featured in several movies and television shows throughout the decades and has become a symbol of the city. When you stand on the beach, the bridge really is one of the most beautiful sights you’ve ever seen.

Another great tourist attraction to visit in San Francisco is the legendary island federal prison known as Alcatraz – a famous ‘Dark Tourist’ site in the city as we’ve written about before.

Many famous criminals of history were imprisoned there, including Al Capone. And, of course, there were several movies and television shows made about Alcatraz as well.

Both cities have incredible tourist attractions. You won’t get bored in either city because they have so much to see and visit. 

Winner: Draw

Golden Gate Bridge seen from Marshall beach in San Francisco, California, USA

Which Has More Celebrities?

Los Angeles is the home of many famous neighborhoods which house the rich and famous, including Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Bel Air and Rodeo Drive.

And if you visit any good local restaurant or public shopping area in one of these LA neighborhoods, then you will have a good chance of running into someone famous.

San Francisco has many celebrity residents in it. Since the cost of living in San Francisco is relatively high, you can expect to see rich and famous people there occasionally. The difference is they don’t make themselves known to the public because they remain private and discrete.

So if you want to find celebrities that greet fans, you are better off visiting Los Angeles. That’s where many celebrities work after all.

Winner: Los Angeles

Los Angeles at foggy sunrise

Which City IsLess Crowded?

The one thing that tourists despise is large crowds. Yet, you can’t really avoid people when you visit big cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles. Perhaps the best thing you can do is choose the city with fewer people and hope for the best!

Los Angeles has a population of roughly 4 million people, making it the second most populated city in the United States. San Francisco has a population of around 874,000 residents.

Despite that, people are often surprised to learn that San Francisco has around 25% of Los Angeles’ population!

The San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas are also proportional to these statistics. For instance, the San Francisco metro area has 4.75 million people over more than 47 square miles. The Los Angeles metro area has 13 million people over 33.9 square miles.

As you can see, your best chance of avoiding large crowds is to choose San Francisco. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t run into crowds here and there, but you can find plenty of spots to walk, run, and explore without bumping into people in San Francisco.

Winner: San Francisco

San francisco Hyde Street Cable Car Tram of the Powell-Hyde in California USA

Which Is Cheaper To Visit OrLive In?

San Francisco and Los Angeles are expensive cities to live in and visit. Hotels, home rentals and restaurants have around the same price in each city. The neighborhoods play a major role in pricing, though. 

Statistics show that the San Francisco Bay Area’s average home rental cost is $2,900 per month, whereas the price in Los Angeles is $2,350 per month. But if you go outside of the Bay Area, you’ll find the prices are much lower.

Plus, you don’t have to rely as much on public transportation in San Francisco. That means you could save a lot of money if you choose to walk rather than take taxis and buses.

The main reason for that is the fact San Francisco is a much more walkable city than Los Angeles. The neighborhoods have a compact design, making them a short walk from each other. You won’t have to travel far to get to the store or any local business that you need to visit.

Classic view of historic traditional Cable Cars riding on famous California Street in beautiful early morning light at sunrise in summer, San Francisco, California, USA

Los Angeles is not a walkable city. In fact, it is virtually impossible to go anywhere in Los Angeles without a rental car, taxi or bus. Because of this, you’ll spend more money on transportation while you’re in Los Angeles. But since housing is often cheaper in Los Angeles, the cost balances itself out.

Either way, you can expect to spend a lot of money during your trip to San Francisco or Los Angeles. You may be able to save a few bucks here and there, but it will still be an expensive trip no matter what.

Winner: Draw

Aerial view of the business district in Downtown of Los Angeles in background from  Lincoln Heights neighborhood.

San Francisco Or Los Angeles: Which Is The Better Choice?

San Francisco and Los Angeles offer unique sights and experiences to all their visitors, and you’re going to love a visit to either one.

However, Los Angeles is the more iconic city with numerous tourist attractions, celebrities, and beautiful beaches. Some parts of it may be slightly cheaper than San Francisco too, so for many it is the better choice.

San Francisco is better for adventurers who want to walk and explore outside in areas with fewer crowds. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is special, but there’s less chance to celebrity spot or sunbathe on the beach.

Recommended For Your Trip ToSan Francisco Or Los Angeles


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.