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10 Largest Cities in California

Anaheim

With a population of just over 39 million citizens, California has the largest population of any state in the US. With such a large population, you can bet that the cities in California rank among the largest and most densely populated in the country.

So, I decided to take a look at the 10 largest cities in the state of California.

The 10 Largest Cities in California

Anaheim

Located in Orange County is the city of Anaheim, which is one of the most densely populated cities in California. Anaheim is most noted for being the home of the famed Disneyland Resort, which receives well over 15 million visitors a year. The city boasts a population of just under 350,000 citizens, spread across an area of about 50 mi².

Amongst the cities, great attractions are its very clean streets, its family-friendly atmosphere, and its unique character. Anaheim is home to the Los Angeles baseball team and the Anaheim Ducks ice hockey team. It is also home to the Anaheim Convention Centre.

Anaheim

In the last few years, Anaheim has experienced unprecedented growth, with a plethora of hotels, shopping centers, and businesses popping up at a frankly alarming rate. The city has found itself housing a large influx of visitors and workers for whom there is often not enough housing space. 

Also of interest, Anaheim is the only city on this list that does not have its own airport.

Bakersfield

Located about two hours North of Los Angeles in central California sits Bakersfield, one of California’s largest cities. This city is a paradise for those who love the outdoors, due to its easy access to the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as its collection of national parks and forests.

Lovers of country music are likely to enjoy Bakersfield due to its historical importance in the development of the genre. Bakersfield is often referred to as “Nashville West” and is regarded as the country music capital of the West Coast. Residents will find plenty of dance halls and music venues in this lovely city. Bakersfield has been home to many country legends, including Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

In addition to its rich cultural heritage, Bakersfield is also known for having a stable housing market, sunny weather, and top-rated amenities such as good schooling and clean streets. If you are a music lover who thrives in the big city, Bakersfield will be a paradise for you.

Bakersfield is home to just over 400,000 people spread across an area of roughly 150 mi².

Oakland

On the east side of San Francisco Bay sits the city of Oakland, another one of California’s largest and most densely populated cities. In recent years Oakland has become one of the most popular destinations for young people who are just starting their professional careers, as well as college students and families.

Compared to San Francisco, Oakland is a much more affordable place to live, but it still provides its citizens with fantastic amenities. These include world-class restaurants, some great high-end shopping, and breweries. 

Oakland

Population decreasing…

Oakland is one of the only big cities in California to actually decrease in population due to losing a large percentage of its citizens in 2011.

It is home to a bunch of beautiful parks and also provides easy access to the Pacific Coast Highway. To top it all off, Oakland has lovely weather and bustling nightlife. The City is home to about 440,000 people, who are spread out over a 55 mi² area. 

If you are an outdoorsy person who also loves the big city, Oakland is bound to score high marks on your list of Californian cities.

Long Beach

The city of Long Beach is located about 30 miles south of Los Angeles, and for many years it has been one of the most popular places to live in Southern California. If you love food, music, and great festivals, then Long Beach is a must-visit.

Long Beach has some of the best schools in the country and also boasts a plethora of job opportunities, making it a very attractive spot for young professionals and new families.

It is also home to the Port of Long Beach, which is one of the largest seaports in the entire world. This makes this thriving city a hub of international trade. The city also scores high marks for its year-round sunny weather and its urban, suburban feel.

The city has a population of just over 450,000 citizens in an area covering just over 50 mi². The population has remained relatively stable, with a mere 1.7% growth since the 2010 census.

Sacramento

California’s capital city is also its sixth largest in terms of population. Sacramento is located just north of San Francisco Bay. Despite being a densely populated metropolis, Sacramento is known for having a very laid-back atmosphere.

If farm food is something you enjoy, then Sacramento’s farm-to-fork restaurants are going to be heaven for you. The city is also home to a plethora of farmers’ markets, world-class wineries, and local breweries. 

Sacramento

Very affordable…

Despite being one of the most densely populated cities in California, Sacramento boasts a very affordable housing market. This makes it a great option for young professionals and families.

Sacramento also boasts a number of cultural attractions and outdoor activities. This helps to keep the city’s 500,000 citizens busy all year round. The city has a landmass of just under 100 mi², one of the largest areas in the state. The city’s population has been projected to grow by 54% by 2060, boosting the population to well over two million people.

Fresno

Nestled between San Francisco and Los Angeles is the city of Fresno. It is the largest farming community in all of California. The local population is just under 550,000 residents, spread out over about 150 mi². Fresno is the most densely populated city in the Central California Valley.

The city has a relatively affordable housing market and low living costs. Fresno is an agricultural hub that features a multitude of attractions for its residents and tourists alike. Some of the top attractions are the Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno Chaffee Zoo, and the gorgeous Shinzen Japanese Gardens. (I can personally recommend the latter as a fantastic item for your itinerary, especially if you like the outdoors and natural beauty).

The city has relatively mild weather all year round and is a great place to raise a family. The Fresno County population grew by just over 1% between 2012 and 2013, the highest growth rate in three years, and one of the highest in California. The average home sells for about $280,000.

San Francisco

“If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. If you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”

More than 50 years have passed since the original Monterey Pop Festival and the release of Scott McKenzie’s hit tune. Despite this, though, San Francisco remains a beautiful and bustling city, filled with history, culture, and some of the trendiest restaurants in the world. 

Plenty of opportunities…

San Francisco has got one of the most thriving economies in America, which makes it a great place to go if you are looking for work. The city is home to many successful businesses ranging from local legends to international giants like Wells Fargo, Gap Incorporated, and Securitize. 

It also has a host of wonderful attractions, including the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, and of course, the world-famous prison island of Alcatraz. These attractions bring millions of visitors to the city every year, many of whom give the city high marks for its tourist-friendly atmosphere. 

San Francisco

A great place to live…

The city by the bay has a high per capita income, mild weather, a stable housing market, and a good school system. To top it all off, you will find many outdoor activities to keep you busy all year round.

San Francisco covers an area of just over 45 mi², with a population of about 880,000 citizens, making it one of the most densely populated areas in California. It has been predicted that San Francisco’s population will grow by about 20% by the year 2035. The average home in San Francisco sells for about $1.4 million.

San Jose

Nestled in the very heart of Silicone Valley in the southern end of San Francisco sits the third largest city in California. San Jose is well known for being the home of some of the world’s largest and most popular tech companies. This makes it a venerable hub for jobseekers who flock to the city in their millions every year seeking their fortune.

San Jose is not a cheap place to live, with the average home selling for about $950,000. That being said, anyone who lives there will tell you that it is a great place to be, offering a high standard of living, a thriving job market, and top-rated schools and educational institutions.

In addition to the collection of world-famous tech companies, San Jose is home to a host of great museums, beautiful parks, and world-class theatres. Despite being what many might call the tech capital of the world, San Jose is known for having some beautiful natural scenery as well. The city is home to just over one million citizens and covers an area of roughly 178 mi².

San Diego

With a population of approximately 1.4 million people and a landmass of roughly 326 mi², San Diego is one of the least densely populated cities on my list of the 10 Largest Cities in California. Its massive circumference makes it the second-largest city in the state of California.

San Diego’s booming job market, year-round sunny weather, and numerous cultural and recreational attractions make it one of the most popular places to settle down in California. In fact, the city was voted the seventh happiest city in America at one point in time. 

A great vibe…

Compared to many of the other popular cities in California, San Diego has a relatively affordable housing market, with the average home listing for about $680,000. If a coastal city with an urban vibe is what you are looking for, then San Diego is the perfect place for you. 

San Diego is a relatively safe city with a good schooling system, which makes it a good place for families. It is also one of the fastest-growing cities in California, with a projected population of about 1.9 million people by the year 2050. Luckily it has plenty of space and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

Los Angeles

Known as the “City of Angels” and “La La Land,” Los Angeles is not only one of the most famous cities in California but the entire world. Just off the top of your head, you would probably be able to name at least five world-famous movies and television series that have used Los Angeles as their milieu. 

Los Angeles has long had a thriving film industry which has attracted millions of citizens to its streets and buildings for decades. The city is also well known for its many famous residents, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, and George Clooney. 

Los Angeles

Plenty to see…

Of course, I cannot talk about Los Angeles without mentioning its world-famous beaches and other tourist attractions. Some of the most popular are the Getty Art Museum, the Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Universal Studios in Hollywood, and of course, the world-famous Hollywood Sign.

With about 40 million visitors in 2021 and a projected 51 million visitors by the end of 2023.

The city of Angels is home to nearly four million residents and covers an area of roughly 460 mi², making it the undisputed largest city in California.

Want to Know more about the Cities of California?

Then check out our thoughts on the Richest Cities in California, the Safest Cities in California, the Cheapest Places to Live in California, or the Cheapest Beach Towns In California in 2023.

Or, if safety is a concern, take a look at our in-depth guide to the Most Dangerous Cities in California and the Most Dangerous Neighborhoods In Los Angeles.

Plus, find out how they compare with the worst cities in America with our guides to the 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the US, the 10 Most Dangerous Cities in NJ, the Most Dangerous Cities In Ohio10 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods In Chicago, the Most Dangerous Cities In Florida, or even the 10 Most Dangerous States in the US.

Final Thoughts

From the gorgeous beaches of sunny Los Angeles to the laid-back atmosphere of San Diego, California absolutely deserves the title of The Golden State. California is the most populous state in America and is showing no sign of slowing down. 

For folks who love sunshine, music, culture, and the hustle and bustle of the big city, California is absolutely the perfect place to live or visit. Amongst the 10 largest Californian cities I’ve listed, you are guaranteed to find one that suits your needs, circumstances, and wallet.

Happy sunny living!

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