Trip Ideas - 12 min read

San Francisco vs. Los Angeles: Which City Should I Visit?

Lauren Abbott

Lauren Abbott, Updated October 8, 2022

Disclosure: Town & Tourist may receive a commission for purchases made through links in this article, at no additional cost to you.

San Francisco and Los Angeles are two of the largest cities in California. Located in separate regions of the state, they each have their own perks that make them worthy travel destinations. 

Both cities have a lot to offer tourists. San Francisco is most known for its Chinatown and Golden Gate Bridge. It is best for budget-conscious travelers who don’t mind foggy weather. Los Angeles boasts mouthwatering Birria Tacos and sunny weather year-round. Known for The Hills and Rodeo Drive, it’s ideal for tourists who can get past the crowds.

The best destination choice will depend on which factors are most important to the traveler. For example, if you are concerned about your budget, you might consider staying in San Francisco, as it has cheaper hotel costs. On the other hand, someone with safety as a number one priority might choose Los Angeles instead.

Weather preference also plays a huge role in the answer to this question, as those who are looking for a sunny climate will prefer Los Angeles, while those who do not mind the fog will do well in San Francisco. 

If you can’t decide between taking a trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco, this article is for you. We’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide to help you compare both cities and make the best choice for your upcoming travel plans. Read on to get all the details on San Francisco vs Los Angeles in every category. 

City Culture 

Credit: Expedia

San Francisco boasts a vibrant art and music scene, and is home to many festivals, museums, and art galleries. The city has a large Hispanic population, and has influence from Mexican culture

It was also the birthplace of the gay rights movement in the United States. The city of San Francisco is very diverse, with many components that make it unique from the largest Chinatown in the country to Silicon Valley.  

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse regions in the country, featuring concert halls, sports stadiums and arenas, and art galleries. Los Angeles’ deep Latin roots contribute to its vibrant culture. The multiethnic city is full of energy and is considered to be the birthplace and center of “California culture” as a whole. 

Both cities are home to their own MLB teams and bustling business districts. Los Angeles is a much bigger city, with approximately four times the amount of people in San Francisco’s entire population. Travelers will have a big city experience in Los Angeles, with the opposite feeling in San Francisco. 

Attractions 

Credit: Brook Ward / Flickr

When planning a trip to San Francisco or Los Angeles, there are numerous points of interest to consider. Both cities are home to historical landmarks, sights, and activities that are worth checking out. Be sure to do some research and careful planning so that you can take advantage of your time.

What Attractions Should You See in San Francisco?

The first and most obvious choice for what to see in San Francisco is the famous Golden Gate Bridge. One of the best places to see this sight is from the adjacent Golden Gate Park. Guests can enjoy breathtaking views of the historical landmark with access to a botanical garden and beach on the property. 

Beyond viewing the bridge, the most worthwhile attractions in the city include Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Alcatraz Island. The pier contains several restaurants, shops, and entertainment options with views of the bay. 

What Attractions Should You See in Los Angeles? 

Credit: Ansel Adams / Flickr

The Griffith Observatory and Santa Monica Pier are among the most popular attractions in Los Angeles. The Hollywood Bowl is another must-see sight, along with the beloved Rodeo Drive. There are plenty of beaches throughout the city with their own attractions to explore within. 

Universal Studios in Hollywood and Disneyland Park are two notable attractions to experience in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art displays some of the city’s most remarkable works of art in one place. Los Angeles covers a massive surface area, with a seemingly endless list of attractions for tourists to experience while traveling there. 

Accommodation 

Credit: Architectural Digest

Accommodation options are often very different when traveling from city to city. The same applies to stay options between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

San Francisco is home to many upscale hotels that are centrally located near the best attractions. The city is also known for its unique row houses, which are an option for a unique stay in a vacation rental instead. 

Los Angeles also has plenty of hotels in its city areas with luxury amenities. For an alternative arrangement, guests can opt for a vacation home rental in the Hollywood Hills for a more secluded accommodation. 

Hotel Costs 

Credit: Expedia

Hotel costs are a major component when travelling, and may be a deciding factor in which city you choose to visit first. With different accommodation options comes a difference in price, which is something to consider before you book. The season and number of guests are going to have an impact that you’ll have to take account for.

How Much Do Hotels Cost in San Francisco?

The average cost to stay one night in a hotel in San Francisco is $397. Budget hotels and motels may be found for close to $88 for a single night per person. 

The average cost of a three night stay in San Francisco is $1,900 per person. This estimate includes hotel prices, planned activities, and meals throughout the day.

How Much Do Hotels Cost in Los Angeles? 

The average cost for one night in a Los Angeles hotel is slightly more expensive at $404. For budget options, travelers may be able to find nightly rates as low as $111 per night. 

The average price of a three night stay in Los Angeles is $1,300 per person. This estimate includes hotel rates, activities you may do, and meals for each day. 

Weather 

Credit; JJ Merelo / Flickr

Being located in California, both San Francisco and Los Angeles are known to have optimal weather. While they are located in the same state, the climate slightly differs between them as a result of the distance. 

Los Angeles is generally sunny for most of the year and boasts mild temperatures. San Francisco, on the other hand, is known for its foggy weather and sees little to no difference in temperature as the seasons change. 

What Are The Average Temperatures in San Francisco? 

San Francisco’s climate is consistent for most of the year. Regardless of the time you visit, you can expect temperatures in the mid-60’s at most times. 

From November until May, the average temperature is between 57°­­F/14°C – 63°F/17°C. June through October has a range of 66°F/19°C – 70°F/21°C

What Are The Average Temperatures in Los Angeles? 

Los Angeles sees almost 300 sunny days out of the year on average. During the warm months, temperatures typically stay in the 70’s range, while cold and wet winters bring it down to the 50’s. 

From November until April, the average weather is between 73°F/20°C – 68°F/22°C. May through October has a range of 75°F/23°C – 84°F/29°C.

Public Transportation 

Credit: waltarrrrr / Flickr

Public transportation is an important factor to consider as a tourist traveling to a new city. Your planned activities and budget for your trip will likely depend on what the city has available in regards to getting around. 

San Francisco’s public transportations consist of SF Muni buses and trolleys. Los Angeles features the LA Metro, and has one of the best public transportation systems in the country

How Much Does Public Transportation Cost in San Francisco? 

Public transportation costs around $3 per adult, and children ride for free. The famed cable cars are slightly more expensive at $8 general admission. There are no free rides for cable cars at all due to high demand

The metro busses run from 5am to 1am. There’s a alternate service that run from midnight until 5am, covering the time in which the metro is down, called Allnighter.

How Much Does Public Transportation Cost in Los Angeles? 

To ride the LA Metro, tourists can expect to pay $1.75 for a one-way trip. All-Day passes can be purchased for $3 per person if you plan on taking multiple trips throughout the day.

The metro runs from around 4am until around 12-1am. On Friday and Saturday, all bus lines runs until 2am. There is no late night alternative.

Cuisine 

Credit: DOLA

One of the most attractive features of any travel destination is the food. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have amazing cuisine that brings millions of tourists to each city yearly. The multi-cultural influences in both cultures contribute to their delicious cuisine options, from Mexican to Chinese food.

With its bay area location, San Francisco is known for its fresh seafood, including dungeness crab. The United States’ original Chinatown is also a noteworthy aspect of the city‘s famous cuisine. Another food item that originated in San Francisco is sourdough bread. 

Los Angeles features authentic Mexican cuisine, most notably the viral birria tacos. The city is a melting pot of different cultures and restaurants, from Mediterranean to Italian. Many famous dishes have originated from Los Angeles, including the chili burger and hot five sundae. 

Safety

Safety is of the utmost importance when traveling to an unfamiliar location. The crime rate in a particular city is a good way to gauge exactly how safe it will be when you are traveling. 

San Francisco has a crime rate of roughly 6,000 crimes per 100,000 people, while Los Angeles is about half of that. As a result, the city of San Francisco has over 50% more crime than its counterpart. This translates to Los Angeles being slightly more safe for tourists than San Francisco

Credit: Jordan Anthony / Flickr

How Many Days Do You Need in Los Angeles? 

Los Angeles has an endless list of attractions to explore throughout the city. With such a large surface area to cover with a substantial distance between sights, it is a good idea to plan additional time for all of your planned activities.

In general, it is ideal to spend approximately nine days in Los Angeles to experience everything before you leave. With so many people all around constantly, there’s bound to be some interruptions. Grant yourself more time overall to navigate through your plans without worry of a tight schedule.

How Many Days Do You Need in San Francisco? 

The amount of time necessary for the best experience traveling to San Francisco will depend on what you plan to see and do. If you are content seeing the sights in the city, a three day trip will be more than enough time.

Alternatively, a minimum of one week is recommended for day trips to other attractions such as the Wine Country. Renting a car will make it easier to enjoy the area with less restrictions.

Credit: liz west / Flickr

While both cities see millions of tourists each year, Los Angeles is the clear winner at over 50 million annual visitors. San Francisco welcomes approximately half of these tourists yearly. Take into account that both are already heavily populated by permanent residences.

San Francisco will offer your trip a low profile with the potential to see some famous landmarks. Los Angeles can grant you the chance to experience some modern culture and glamor.

What is The Best Time Of Year to Visit San Francisco?

The best time to visit San Francisco is between September and November. Visitors during this time experience predictable autumn weather and low tourist crowds. There also a few annual events taking place, like the Fringe Festival.

As opposed to other sections of California, spring offers milder temperatures and less rainfall, making it a favorable time to travel there. The hotel rates are generally lower as well..

What is The Best Time of Year To Visit Los Angeles? 

The best time to visit Los Angeles is between March and May. Spring is where the weather is mild and manageable. The crowds are less overwhelming, and the air is far more breathable. The hotel rates are a bit higher than in winter but much more acceptable than the summer time.

Autumn is not cost efficient, but the season offers great events. The Emmy Awards, Dia de los Muertos, and the LA Auto Show are some noteworthy annual occurrences. Temperatures aren’t too dire, so you can secure a good hotel rate if you book far in advance.

Is It Better For Tourists in Los Angeles or San Francisco? 

Credit: Mike McBey / Flickr

The answer to this question will depend on what each traveler is looking for. In general, San Francisco is slightly better for tourists because it is not as crowded.

Being in a new place can be overwhelming at first, especially in a highly populated city like Los Angeles. Tourists can take their time seeing all the sights on their list in San Francisco. 

Is Los Angeles Expensive For Tourists? 

Los Angeles is one of the most expensive cities to live in the United States, with high rent prices and overall costs. Despite this fact, the city is not as expensive for tourists to visit as you may think. 

In fact, the city is home to plenty of free and low cost attractions that bring the average vacation cost down. Travelers should not be scared away by the high cost of living for Los Angeles residents

Is San Francisco Expensive For Tourists? 

San Francisco is the city in the United States with the highest rent in the country. While it is not necessarily overly expensive to travel to San Francisco as a tourist, it is certainly not cheap either.

Travelers can take a trip to the city with moderate accommodation options at a reasonable price overall. The time of year also plays a major impact on expenses.

Recommended for you

Travel smarter

Join the thousands of travel enthusiasts who are part of our T&T community.