Main Cities in California

1. San Francisco

A breathtakingly picturesque setting and charming European-style neighborhoods set San Francisco apart from other cities in the state. For a metropolis with less than a million inhabitants, this cosmopolitan, small-scale city is brimming with attractions. You will find some of the finest restaurants in the country, fabulous boutique shopping, award-winning theater performances, and interesting museums.

On a first impression, San Francisco wows visitors with its stunning scenery. The city packs over 40 hills into its compact space of only 49 square miles, which are nestled alongside the majestic Pacific Ocean coastline and the serene San Francisco Bay in Northern California.

Wandering around by foot (with stops to take cable car rides) is the best way to see the sights of San Francisco. Because the city is compact, it is easily walkable, as long as you don’t mind hiking up some steep streets. Along the way, you’ll be dazzled by elaborate Victorian houses, a colorful mix of cafés and shops, and luxuriant gardens.

Astounding views abound anywhere you can find a good vantage point, but especially from Telegraph Hill, the fashionable Nob Hill neighborhood, and Russian Hill. There are also fabulous vistas at some of San Francisco’s best parks.

2. Los Angeles

One could argue that Los Angeles is the only real city (that is to say a major metropolitan area) in California, if you consider its size and urban feel. Los Angeles is second only to New York City in terms of population. Over three million people live in the city of Los Angeles. However, the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to more than 10 million inhabitants.

At its core, Los Angeles is an urban jungle of skyscrapers, busy streets, and non-stop traffic. Beyond the downtown, the city has the feel of sprawling suburbia that could be anywhere in the country. However, the palm trees and bright sunshine remind you that you’re in SoCal.

Explore a bit further, and you’ll find a glittering, glamorous city worthy of its Tinseltown fame. Broad boulevards are lined by swaying palm trees and upscale boutiques. Anyone who loves designer fashion and high-end shopping should be sure to visit Rodeo Drive.

The city’s western border features wide swaths of sandy shoreline. Los Angeles’ beaches are a top draw for tourists and add to the quality of life for local residents. In fact, Los Angeles is arguably the best city in the country for beaches, which extend for about five miles along the Pacific coastline.

Venice Beach is famous for its fun-loving and artsy vibes, while Santa Monica offers a classic Southern California beach scene complete with an amusement park, oceanfront restaurants, and chic boutiques.

3.San Diego

Balmy weather and beautiful beaches provide the perfect setting for San Diego’s active outdoorsy lifestyle. This sunny SoCal city is known for its surfing culture and laid-back vibes, but it also has a quaint historic downtown and top-notch cultural attractions.

San Diego is California’s oldest city, with the first mission, founded in 1769. After being destroyed in a fire, the Mission San Diego de Alcalá was rebuilt in 1777 and today is a National Historic Landmark with luxuriant gardens and a fascinating museum.

Between the San Diego Bay and Broadway, the Gaslamp Quarter National Historic District dates back to the Victorian era. This area brims with trendy shops, restaurants, and happening nightlife. Locals and tourists alike head here to take a stroll, enjoy a gourmet meal, and watch theater performances.

Families with young kids will find plenty of things to do in San Diego. Ranking high on the list of children’s attractions are the San Diego Zoo, the 1,400-acre Balboa Park, and the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Outdoor activities are another main draw of San Diego. Some of the top outdoor adventures include kayaking in sea coves, cycling along the coast, and sailing in the San Diego Bay.