san francisco trolley

San Jose vs. San Francisco: Where Should You Live

San Francisco and San Jose both make the top 20 when it comes to the best U.S. cities to live in. But they both have unique qualities.

If you’re planning a move to California and the Bay Area, you need to know all the facts in order to choose the best place to live. Consider your personal preferences in all these categories. What might be a con to one person could be a pro to you.

Let’s compare San Jose vs San Francisco in the categories of beauty, entertainment, nature, career opportunities, and more! Then you can make the right choice for yourself and move to your dream home!

Beauty

The first question you may have about San Francisco, CA and San Jose, CA is “Which is prettier?”” 

We all want to live in a place that has great beauty to offer us. Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder though. These two cities offer different kinds of beauty, and you may want to consider your personal preferences as you make the decision of where to live.

San Francisco

There’s no arguing against San Francisco’s beauty. And that includes beauty of all kinds. There’s stunning urban architecture, a vibrant art scene, surrounding suburbs with zen-style houses, and of course the surrounding natural elements.

More than once it’s been named one of the most beautiful cities not just in the countries but the world. You’ll be stunned by the rolling hills and quaint little town cars. There are vibrant farmer’s markets, fashionable hotels, the ever-bustling Chinatown, and parks all over the city. It doesn’t get more beautiful than that.

If you’re trying to experience some of San Francisco’s beauty before you move there, you can’t miss Golden Gate Park, Coit Tower, and the famous Lombard Street with its twists, turns, and flowers. Keep an eye out for the cherry-headed conures living in the city.

San Jose 

While San Jose may not be as famous as San Francisco, it still has plenty of beauty to offer its inhabitants.

It has a smaller urban area that has a uniquely Latin look to it. Somehow, it seems like it’s always sunny. Unlike San Francisco, its beauty is never diminished or threatened by a rolling smog.

Here you’ll find the beauty of stunning suburban homes and mansions, the Japanese Museum, the historic Peralta Adobe and Fallon House, redwoods, and several parks around town.

It’s a smaller kind of beauty compared to San Francisco, but it’s pure and inviting.

Entertainment and Activities

Once you get to one of these fantastic places to move to in California, how will you spend your time? Both locations have different kinds of options, and it’s once again imperative to consider your own preferences. If nightlife isn’t your thing, don’t value nightlife even if it sounds promising at the moment.

San Francisco

There is no limit to the activities available to a person in San Francisco. 

If you’re an art or history buff, you could be entertained by the endless amount of museums and galleries in San Francisco indefinitely. The same goes for the science technology museums which are especially fun for families.

There’s also a great amount of nightlife in San Francisco including among the LGBTQ community. San Francisco is the kind of city that you can never feel lonely in because the people there are generally outgoing and welcoming to newcomers.

If you’re more of the quiet type, you can always explore the many shops, cafes, and parks that San Francisco has to offer.

If going out and seeing a show is your preferred activity, you’re in luck in San Francisco. There are touring Broadway productions that come through San Francisco with frequency, regional theaters holding productions of all kinds including small experimental pieces, massive stages for large concerts, and intimate venues to discover your new favorite underground band.

San Jose

It’s worth noting whether it’s your thing or not, that there isn’t much nightlife to speak of in San Jose. This is a much more family orientated neighborhood, so if you’re single and looking to find your match, you may have more luck elsewhere.

However, there is still downtown with plenty of activities to offer. The Sharks hockey team plays in San Jose. There are theaters, museums, and historic sites just like San Francisco but in a smaller quantity. There are small concert venues and regularly scheduled playwright shares. San Jose is a great city if you like to be the first witness to a new artist.

Access to Nature

Whether you prefer an urban or suburban area to live in, most people like to know that nature is never too far away. Luckily, both San Francisco and San Jose have wonderful access to some of the most famous natural sites in the nation.

San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for several natural sites. There’s the Marin Headlands with its gorgeous views of the San Francisco bay and staggering sharp cliffs. For a moment, you may feel like you’ve somehow ended up in Greece. You’ll also be able to see the beautiful Golden Gate bridge.

You can spend a day hiking the Land’s End Trail or explore the Golden Gate Park which is even bigger than Central Park. 

Take a boat round around the bay for an aquatic nature adventure.

San Jose

San Jose is no stranger to natural attractions. 

Enjoy the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for lovely views of the sea and shore. Explore the amazing peaks of Castle Rock State Park or Mount Umunhum where you can find the highest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

Discover some of California’s most unique natural phenomena at Natural Bridges State Park with its fascinating stone structures over the water. Take a relaxing stroll through Hakone Gardens or stand in the awe of the majesty of giant trees in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

The list of ways to experience and appreciate nature is endless when it comes to San Jose and its surrounding areas.

Diversity

Diversity can add interest to your life, balance the politics in your area, and introduce you to customs that you haven’t experienced before. Let’s take a look at how San Francisco and San Jose compare to each other when it comes to the diversity of the people living there.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an incredibly diverse city. You can find over 112 languages spoken there, and different neighborhoods boast inhabitants from all different corners of the world. Public services are required to offer Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog there!

In fact, San Francisco is the fifteenth most diverse city in the nation. It’s hard to beat that! There are substantial percentages of Hispanic, Black, White, and Asian citizens of San Francisco. 

San Jose

San Jose is also capable of boasting diversity. Its population is actually a little larger than the population of San Francisco., and the percentages of races living there are similar to San Francisco.

The difference is that there is a smaller percentage of White people living in San Jose while they have a higher percentage of Hispanic citizens. 

Either way, if you move to San Francisco or San Jose, you know that you won’t live in a homogenous area, and you’ll have neighbors of all backgrounds to love.

Career Opportunities

In order to live in a place, you have to have a way to make your living. No one wants a long commute so it’s best if you can find work in or near the city you live in. Let’s look at some of the job and career prospects in these two fantastic California cities.

San Francisco

Tech is the largest industry in San Francisco. Over 20% of jobs in San Francisco are in the tech industry. There are so many employers from Google, Apple, and Tesla to smaller startup companies with tons of potential.

There are also job opportunities in business services, real estate and construction, and consumer services.

Of course, if you’re moving to San Francisco to pursue a career in the arts, you’ll find plenty of artistic opportunities as well as survival jobs such as barista and restaurant service jobs. San Francisco is a bustling city with all kinds of businesses looking for employees.

San Jose

San Jose has career opportunities aplenty, but many inhabitants choose to find work in the surrounding cities as well and take the commute in order to have a balance of a good home and the best possible job.

The major employers of the San Jose area include IBM, Amazon and Wholefoods, Google, and eBay. The unemployment rate of San Jose is very low compared to other areas of the country, and the average cost of living is very comparable to the average pay rate. This is an excellent city to move to for a job.

Transportation

Both people living in San Francisco and San Jose may benefit from having a car, but you can also get by with public transportation. The kinds of transportation in each city are a little different, and it’s definitely easier to use public transportation in one over the other.

San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for its efficient public transportation. It’s considered one of the best public transportation systems in the country, and it’s revered for the imagery of quaint town cars traversing the city’s famous hills.

In short, you don’t really need a car to live in San Francisco, and some people even find it to be more of a hassle than it’s worth. In fact, it has one of the lowest percentages of vehicles to households in the U.S.

You can also use a bike to get around most of San Francisco, but first, make sure that you know the level of hills between you and your destination. You don’t want to get stuck!

San Jose

On the other hand, having a car is strongly encouraged in San Jose to get around its suburban areas and to reach neighboring cities. You can get by using public transportation, but it will be more of a hassle than you would face in San Francisco.

There’s a light rail and bus system in San Jose that can get you around most of the city. If you’re craving a trip to San Francisco, you can take the Caltrain.

If you really don’t want to have a car and can’t always rely on public transportation, rideshare apps are always an option, but keep in mind that they can be expensive. You may eventually find that owning a car is the more cost-effective measure.

Food

California is famous for its culinary adventurousness, wholesomeness, and innovation. They’re always one step ahead of the culinary trends, and that is reflected in the amazing restaurants and markets in its cities. Let’s look at some of the best food in San Francisco and San Jose.

San Francisco

Did you know that only five U.S. cities host Michelin Star Restaurants? Did you know that San Francisco is one of them?

You won’t experience better dining anywhere in the world than you will in San Francisco. Restaurants pride themselves on fresh ingredients and creative recipes that are sure to delight and inspire. 

The best thing about the San Francisco restaurant options is that you can get great meals at both a high price range and as quick, cheap bites. Of course, they’ll be of different quality and you can never beat a meal out at a five-star restaurant, but we have to remember the small taco places too.

San Jose

While it may have Michelin Star Restaurants, San Jose is still able to offer some fantastic meals to its visitors. There’s something for every palate and price range in this food-oriented town.

There are sushi spots and authentic Chinese restaurants (forget PF Chang’s). You’ll find excellent falafel and pho. And there’s of course no shortage of fantastic places for an authentic Hispanic meal. 

This is one benefit of being such a diverse area. All those cultures bring their own unique flavors and dining experiences so that you’ll never run out of dining options in San Jose.

Median Age

If you’re looking for new friends, neighbors you can relate to, and potential dates, you need to know about the average age of people living in your city. Of course, you can make friends with anyone, but the median age can give you an idea of the personality of an area.

San Francisco

The median age of people living in San Francisco is 38 years old, which makes it a strongly millennial city. But don’t be fooled. It isn’t necessarily a family heavy city.

Most of the millennials living in San Francisco do not have children and may choose to remain that way. They have the lowest percentage of kids compared to every other U.S. city.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t raise your own family in San Francisco, but don’t expect it to be filled with families to connect with on every corner.

San Jose

San Jose is pretty similar in age demographics. Most of its inhabitants are middle-aged adults who have been lifelong residents of San Jose.

However, more and more young people are moving out of the Bay Area because of the cost of living (we’ll get to that). So, you may soon find that the age demographic of San Jose is getting younger especially as people move there from expensive areas in order to raise a family at less expense.

Cost

We’ve talked about the job opportunities in San Francisco and San Jose, but how do the opportunities compare to the cost of living? How good is the work-life balance in order to afford to live in both locations? Let’s take a look.

San Francisco

San Francisco residents have a famously bad work-life balance in order to maintain the cost of living in this amazing city. It’s considered one of the most expensive cities in the country.

Everything is expensive. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $3,000. The cost of groceries is high. The cost of eating out is high. The cost of entertainment is high. Even haircuts are more expensive in San Francisco than in other parts of the country.

Only people with the highest paying salaries in San Francisco can really consider buying a home or raising a family in this city.

San Jose

San Jose is also expensive to live in, though it isn’t quite as bad as San Francisco. A person, on average, needs about $2,000 less a month to live in San Jose. A four-person family can expect to pay over $3,000 in living expenses a month before taking rent into account.

However, especially if you’re willing to commute, there are lots of high-paying jobs in the area to support that kind of life. Though we recommend finding that job before you try to move there.

While rent and other living expenses are expensive in San Jose, you may be able to save on entertainment that you wouldn’t be able to save in San Francisco. There’s plenty of public entertainment as well as small venues which cost less than San Francisco’s counterparts.

Climate

Everyone should know the climate of the place that they’re planning to move to before they get there. It helps you know what to expect your every day to look like, and it can even have a profound impact on your mental health.

San Francisco

The first thing anyone should know about the climate and weather of San Francisco is that it is a very foggy city. In the morning the fog rolls in off the bay and covers the city. This phenomenon occurs mostly in the summer when the temperatures and pressure levels are right, but it can happen year-round.

While fog may sound like a con of living in San Francisco, it is a pretty neat natural weather phenomenon, and you may grow to love seeing it roll in off the water.

A definite pro of San Francisco is that you’ll rarely experience weather extremes there. The weather stays mild consistently throughout the year, and you’ll never need more than a light jacket.

The one major weather event that you’ll need to be aware of is the threat of wildfires. These wildfires won’t burn the city down, but you may experience unhealthy air qualities resulting in staying in the house during the summer.

San Jose

Like San Francisco, San Jose is known for its mild weather. The temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees or rises about 85 degrees. You also don’t have to worry about severe rain there or the fog of San Francisco.

However, San Jose is susceptible to earthquakes and (like San Francisco) wildfires polluting the air. Unfortunately, San Jose is also more susceptible to actually burning due to the fires, and you may find occasional evacuations.

San Jose vs San Francisco: Where Should You Go?

We’ve pitted San Jose vs San Francisco, and unfortunately, there isn’t one clear winner. In some ways, San Francisco is clearly the better, but in others, you can’t beat San Jose. In other categories like climate, they’re pretty equally matched. And in others, it all comes down to what you prefer. For example, they have such different entertainment scenes.

Whichever you choose to live in, you’re sure to love the amazing food, culture, and climate that both San Francisco and San Jose have to offer.  

Have you found your dream home in San Francisco or San Jose? Are you ready to make the move? Let us help! Contact us for local and long-distance moving today!