· ·

San Francisco vs Los Angeles: Which Is Better in 2024?

lombard street in san francisco, ca

Last Updated on January 4, 2024

While California is home to many other popular cities (such as San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento), San Francisco and Los Angeles are easily the two most famous and popular in all of Cali, let alone the entire United States of America. The two cities are both located on the west coast, but they are very different in many ways.

Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran, CA
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Tae Fuller

San Francisco is famously known for its timeless landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, while Los Angeles is well-known for Hollywood, Beverly Hills, its own arts district, beautiful beaches, and more. With both having so much to offer, which city is better?

Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles CA
Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Alex Barnes

In this article, we will compare the two iconic cities in terms of cost of living, vacation, lodging, nightlife, food, public transportation, safety, healthcare, quality of life, weather, population, attractions, and traffic.

By the end of this article, you should have a better idea of which city is the right fit for your lifestyle and personal preferences. Let’s dig in!

Cost Of Living In San Francisco vs Los Angeles

Let’s be honest: both San Fran and LA are rather pricey when it comes to the cost of living. But at the same time, they are not quite comparable in overall cost. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a high cost of living index of 99.6 as of 2024.

In contrast, Los Angeles has a cost of living index of 78.7. While still higher than other cities in America, this makes it much more affordable than San Francisco. The cost of housing is the biggest expense in both cities, but it is significantly higher in San Francisco.

According to a report by RentCafe, the average monthly rent for a 737 sq. ft. space (one-bedroom apartment) in San Francisco is $3,340, while in Los Angeles, the average rent clocks in at $2,786 per month.

Just about all other living expenses, such as groceries and transportation, are also higher in San Francisco.

Winner: All in all, Los Angeles is the easy winner here if you’re wanting to save some money on living expenses.

Attractions in San Francisco Vs Los Angeles

This probably goes without saying, but both San Francisco and Los Angeles have countless attractions to offer. San Francisco is known for some very iconic landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Lombard Street.

You can also take a ride on those timeless cable cars, visit Golden Gate Park, take a walk through Chinatown, check out the many pieces at the Palace of Fine Arts (or the many other art museums), and much more.

Chinatown street view in San Fran, CA
Chinatown in San Fran, CA. Photo by Vincent G

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is known for its thriving entertainment industry and beautiful sunny beaches.

Some of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles include Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica Beach. You can also visit one of the several theme parks (like Universal Studios), soak in some views at the Griffith Observatory, walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame, grab some ice cream at the Santa Monica Pier, explore art at the Broad, and much more.

Santa Monica Pier crosswalk
Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Gerson Repreza

Winner: It’s a tie. Both cities offer so many attractions for visitors and new residents alike. Chances are, you’ll have a hard time doing everything there is to do in either city- there’s so much to do.

San Francisco Vs Los Angeles Vacation

There’s no doubt about it, San Francisco and Los Angeles are both wildly popular vacation destinations that attract millions of visitors year-round.

San Francisco is a huge metropolitan area in North Cali (NorCal) and is known for its world-famous landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. It also has tons of rich history and cultural attractions, with numerous museums, art galleries, and guided tours for visitors to explore. Another plus: It’s also home to the Golden State Warriors.

People sitting in grass field in SF, CA
Grass field in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Oli

San Fran is located in the Bay area, which means you’re also very close to neighboring metro areas like Oakland, Napa Valley, Pacifica, and Hayward. You can get to these cities by car or by taking the BART train.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is known for its entertainment industry and beautiful beaches and mountains. Some of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles include Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood Sign, Runyon Canyon, Venice Beach, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica Beach.

Rodeo Drive in Hollywood Hills, CA.
Crosswalk on Rodeo Drive in Hollywood Hills. Photo by David Vives

Being right along the Pacific Ocean, Los Angeles is home to many beautiful beaches including The Strand beach in Santa Monica, Topanga Beach in Malibu, and Long Beach. There are also many cultural and historical attractions such as the Griffith Observatory, the Santa Monica Pier, the Getty, and Universal Studios.

For exploring the city, you can choose to explore by your own means by walking the streets or you can opt for a guided tour. Guided tours tend to be easier in terms of transportation and also give you a personal guide to show you the local favorites of LA that you otherwise might miss.

Winner: It’s a tie. Both LA and San Fran are very unique cities in their own ways and it all depends on what you decide you want from your trip.

Weather In San Francisco vs Los Angeles

Weather is yet another important factor when choosing whether to live or visit San Francisco or LA. Both cities have beautiful weather in general, but they are quite different from one another.

San Francisco has a more mild climate that is almost moody in feel, with temperatures in summer rarely rising above 70 degrees Fahrenheit or dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The city is famously known for its fog, which can roll in at any time of day. Napa Valley, right up in the northern region of San Fran, has essentially the same weather.

view of Golden State Bridge in SF, CA
Golden State Bridge in San Fran, LA. Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

On the almost opposite end, Los Angeles has a more Mediterranean type of climate, with warmer summers and mild winters. The city is known for its sunny weather. After all, it never rains in Southern California! However, this can also lead to more droughts and wildfires than San Fran comparatively.

skyscraper in Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles skyscraper view. Photo by Joel Mott

Winner: Tied, since each city offers great weather in its own respect. If you prefer beaches and sunny weather, Los Angeles is your best bet. If you prefer milder weather year-round, San Francisco takes the crown.

San Fran vs LA Lodging

When it comes to lodging, both San Francisco and Los Angeles have countless options for you to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel, something for the family, or a budget-friendly hostel, both cities have something for every traveler.

However, the truth is that lodging is generally a bit more expensive in San Francisco. According to TripAdvisor, the average nightly rate for a hotel in San Francisco ranges between $208 and $234, while in Los Angeles, it ranges between $204 and $216.

This is not a huge difference, but it is enough to consider if you’re staying more than just a few nights. To find the cheapest hotels for your stay, TripAdvisor scours the internet and curates all of your options possible so you can make an educated choice.


Winner: Los Angeles. It offers slightly cheaper lodging options when it comes to accommodations of the same value and style.

Food in San Francisco Vs LA

Grand Central Market in Los Angeles CA
Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Jermaine E

As with most things on this list, San Francisco and Los Angeles are equally well-known for their food scenes, with numerous restaurants and local grub hubs to choose from.

Being in the Bay area, San Fran is known for its seafood, sourdough bread, and gourmet cuisine. On the other hand, Los Angeles is known for its wildly diverse cuisine, from Mexican and Korean to vegan and organic, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Sure, San Francisco has a higher concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants (such as Atelier Crenn and Lazy Bear), but Los Angeles has a much wider variety of options at different price points. You can opt for a fancy and expensive dinner at Nobu, or you can visit somewhere like Grand Central Market for some very affordable yet equally delicious grub.

Winner: Los Angeles takes the cake here, with its countless food offerings to choose from that can accommodate any diet or budget constraints. You can look at any open forum (Reddit, Quora, etc) and find raving reviews of LA’s ever-growing food scene.

San Francisco Vs Los Angeles Nightlife

Nightlife in club in LA California
Club in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by rooftop bars. Some of the most popular nightlife hot spots in San Fran include Raven Bar, DNA Lounge, Cat Club, and Temple.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, is known for its glamorous and very vibrant nightlife scene, with so many celebrity hotspots and upscale nightclubs. Some of the most popular nightlife spots in LA as of 2024 include Academy, Exchange, Sound Nightclub, Warwick, and The Three Clubs.

Winner: This one is a tie since it’s all about personal preference. You really can’t go wrong in either city. San Fran has many smaller pitstops mixed in with some big hits, while LA is well known for its huge megaclubs that serve celebrity culture.

Dating Scene in San Francisco vs Los Angeles

Couple enjoying the sunset on top of their car in Los Angeles
Couple enjoying the sunset in Los Angeles. Photo by Karsten Winegeart

Both being metropolis cities, San Fran and LA both offer a great dating scene if you’re single and looking. However, they do have a few differences in terms of demographics, culture, and social activities that could make one city better than the other depending on what you’re looking for.

San Francisco is known for its diverse dating scene and has a big reputation for being a more progressive and liberal city when it comes to the dating scene. The city has a large LGBTQ+ community and is generally more accepting of non-traditional relationships.

San Fran also has a lively nightlife and social scene, making it pretty easy to meet new people and, ahem, try new things. It’s also home to Silicon Valley, so there are a lot of well-establish tech professionals in the area.

However, due to the high cost of living, dating in San Francisco can be expensive, with some people finding it a challenge to juggle dating with other financial responsibilities.

On the other hand, Los Angeles is a more sprawling and diverse city, with arguably a wider range of dating options available. The city is famously known for its entertainment industry, which attracts many young, single professionals to the city.

The amazing SoCal weather and the beautiful beaches also make it a fun place for dating and outdoor activities (such as the Hollywood Sign hike or Runyon Canyon). However, many complain that the dating scene in Los Angeles can be more superficial and driven by wealth, status, and looks, which makes sense given the huge focus on the entertainment and influencer industry. This causes some people to find it hard to connect with others on a deeper level.

Winner: It’s a tie. All in all, both San Francisco and LA offer very different dating scenes with each having its own advantages and challenges. It is up to individual preferences and priorities to determine which city is a better fit for one’s dating life.

Public Transportation Comparison

People on the BART train in San Francisco, CA
BART train in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Corey Agopian

When it comes to public transportation, San Francisco and Los Angeles have rather different public transport systems.

San Francisco has a comprehensive public transportation system, including buses, trains, and cable cars. By far, the BART system, which runs through all of San Fran and the Bay area, is very well-developed and can get you just about anywhere you need to go. San Fran is also well known for those movie scene-worthy streetcars, which are popular with tourists.

Los Angeles, on the other hand, has a more limited public transportation system, with buses and a few rail trains. The City of Angels is known for its traffic jams, which means you can be spending time stuck in traffic just to get a few miles down the road. However, the city has announced that it is investing in expanding its public transportation system with the addition of some new metro lines.

Winner: San Francisco. You’ll have a much easier time getting around the city here, and the BART system makes it even easier to get around the entire Bay area.

Crime Rate in Los Angeles Vs San Francisco

With cities so big, the crime rate is an important consideration as you’re deciding which city to visit or live in. Let’s be clear: both San Francisco and Los Angeles, being densely populated, have their fair share of crime. However, San Francisco has a higher crime rate compared to Los Angeles in 2024.

According to Best Places, San Francisco has a violent crime rate of 39.6, while Los Angeles has a violent crime rate of 29.1. In terms of property crime, San Fran’s rate clocks in at 79.2 while Los Angeles comes in at 35.1.

However, both cities have safe neighborhoods and areas, and it is important to research the specific neighborhoods before making a decision. It’s also important to note that both cities also have a high rate of homeless people if that matters to you. Naturally, there tends to be a larger homeless community near the downtown areas of each city.

Winner: Los Angeles by a landslide. While both cities have higher crime rates compared to the United States average, San Francisco has a much higher rate of both property crime and violent crime.

San Francisco Vs Los Angeles Population

In short, both of these cities are wildly popular and therefore come with a high population density. However, Los Angeles covers a lot more physical space and therefore has a much higher population.

According to Macro Trends, San Francisco is a densely packed city with a population of just over 3.3 million people, while Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with a population of over 12.5 million people across all of the LA county area. All in all, this means that Los Angeles is more crowded and has more traffic, while San Francisco is more compact and walkable.

Winner: San Francisco. With its smaller size, it naturally has a lower population density.

FAQs: Los Angeles vs San Francisco

Is San Francisco or Los Angeles better?

Honestly, there is no one surefire answer to this question. I could easily say that Los Angeles is better if I prefer beaches and work in the entertainment industry. The next guy/gal could easily say that San Francisco is better if they work in tech, enjoy milder weather, and love the PNW lifestyle.

The answer to this question completely depends on your individual preferences and priorities. San Francisco is known for its beautiful scenery, diverse culture, and high-quality cuisine, while Los Angeles is known for its entertainment industry, beautiful beaches, and sunny weather. Both cities are filled to the brim with their own unique charms and at the end of the day, it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

Which is more expensive SF or LA?

Overall, SF is considerably more expensive compared to LA. Both cities are more expensive than most cities in the United States, but you’ll need more income to live in San Francisco. In fact, SF is listed as the second most expensive city in the US for 2022-2023.

Is LA in San Francisco?

LA is not in San Francisco and they are separated by roughly 382 miles. LA is in South California (SoCal), while San Francisco is in North California (NorCal). If you want to drive from San Francisco to LA, the drive would take roughly 6-7 hours depending on how many stops you make.

Is there a direct train from San Francisco to Los Angeles?

Currently, there is only one train that operates from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and that is Amtrak. They offer 20 departure times per day. If you’re looking for a more eco-friendly travel option, Amtrak is a great choice.

The Final Verdict: San Francisco vs Los Angeles

crosswalk in San Fran, CA
Street in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Robert Bye

At the end of the day, the decision between San Francisco and Los Angeles ultimately comes down to a simple matter of personal preference. Both cities have their own unique offerings and a few drawbacks.

Los Angeles is cheaper than SF and has beautiful beaches and countless food options, but the traffic is very hectic and the dating scene tends to be more shallow. San Francisco has nice mild weather year-round, a better transportation system, and a smaller population, but is more expensive, has a higher crime rate, and offers fewer dining options compared to LA.

hollywood sign in los angeles, ca
Hollywood Sign in LA. Photo by Caleb George

As you’re considering a move or a vacation to either of these cities, be sure to perform your own research on the specific neighborhoods and their amenities to make an informed decision. Whether you prefer the mild climate and cultural offerings of San Francisco in NorCal or the sunny weather and diverse population of LA in SoCal, both cities offer something for everyone.

Wayfare With Pierre contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon links, I may receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *