NYC Vs San Francisco: Figuring Out the Difference

New York Vs San Francisco

Choosing between whether you want to join the Yorker or the San Franciscan gang? It’s a tough choice. Pretty much like the last time you tried comparing apples to oranges! While both cities may have much in common, there are also some striking differences between these two.

This article will investigate the evergreen NYC vs San Francisco debate. Keep reading to find out if you’d rather have a window overlooking the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge!

San Francisco and New York Similarities

It’s only fair to begin a comparison by looking at what you will be getting into if you settle down in either city. It’s actually quite astonishing when two cities that couldn’t be further apart geographically, end up with eerie similarities.

To start with, both cities are bustling and full of opportunities. They happen to be two of the most popular, not to mention expensive cities. Both San Francisco and NYC are art havens with numerous art galleries, art spaces, art schools, and studios. 

Lastly, both cities attract dream chasers and people who aspire to be the best versions of themselves, and honestly, neither city fails the ever-ambitious.

San Francisco vs New York Size

Size does matter, so let’s see how these two compare. New York City spans a land area of 300.4 miles and this area houses an enormous population of 8.7 million. 

On the other hand, San Francisco seems quite tiny relatively, with its land area of 46.9 miles and population of 865K. One look at the population density of both cities (27K for NY and 18K for San Francisco) reveals that New York is by far the more populous of the two.

If busy streets make you feel alive, then head for New York without a second thought. 

NYC vs San Francisco Cost of Living

One of the biggest considerations when choosing a permanent abode for yourself is figuring out how much it’s going to cost you. A word of caution here, both cities are notoriously expensive, and being a resident in either city means that you’ll be paying through the nose.

However, San Francisco is generally considered more expensive. Housing prices in San Francisco are some of the highest in the world. Buying a home in San Francisco would cost you a whopping $1237,600, whereas you would have to pay $677,200 in NYC. It’s worth mentioning here that the median home cost in both cities is way above the national average.

If you don’t have the bucks for buying real estate, you can rent instead, as is the trend in both cities. Generally, locals opt for renting out single-bedroom apartments or homes. Let’s see how the cities compare in San Francisco vs NYC rent. In San Francisco, a rental unit will cost you $2720 on average, while in NYC you would be paying $2300 per month. 

Utilities in San Francisco will also cost you more than in the Big Apple. For basic utilities, you would be paying an average of $258, while you’d be paying $169 for the same stuff in NYC. 

So, let’s come down to the million-dollar question, “Is San Francisco more expensive than New York?” Well, it certainly is. While groceries, healthcare, transportation, etc, will cost you around the same; housing and utilities are sky-high in San Francisco. This makes San Francisco 44% more expensive than New York. 

The cost of living in both cities is high, with transportation, food, and entertainment costs adding up quickly. However, salaries in both cities are generally higher than in other parts of the United States, which helps to offset some of the high costs.

San Francisco vs New York Crime

It’s only natural to be worried about the security situation especially when you’re thinking about relocating to a major city. The crime rate of both cities is one major difference between San Francisco and New York. The good news is New York is ranked amongst some of the safest major cities and it is a lot safer than San Francisco.

According to FBI data, New York has a property crime rate of 24.9, which is even lower than the national average. On the other hand, San Francisco scored 79.2 for property crime, which includes offenses like burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Violent crime rates in both cities are higher than the national average, with San Francisco taking the lead by scoring 39.6, followed by New York at 28.2. Violent crimes include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Perhaps, San Francisco’s abundant homeless population has a dark role to play in the elevated crime scene in the city. New York’s harsh weather isn’t too welcoming for the homeless, so you would see a lot of them flocking to cities with favorable conditions like San Francisco.

Additionally, New Yorkers generally reside in high-rise buildings with doormen and on-site security measures. Contrarily, San Francisco has detached rental units with no security. 

Living in NYC vs San Francisco

New York City and San Francisco have very different cultures and lifestyles. It really comes down to your personal temperament and how you want to spend your life. 

New York City is often called the city that never sleeps, with a fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle. People in New York are known for their workaholic attitudes. Additionally, the city is home to some of the world’s most important financial institutions and corporations. 

San Francisco, on the other hand, is known for its laid-back, bohemian vibe. Home to Silicon Valley, the city is a hub for innovation and technology, with a thriving start-up culture. A common joke among the locals here is that coding language would replace all human languages very soon!


Both cities are a foodie’s paradise. Food in New York is a product of every culture under the sun. New York is famous for its pizza, bagels, and hot dogs, to name a few. The food venues are also as diverse as the menus. You can find everything, from Michelin-starred restaurants to old-fashioned diners. 

While the food scene in San Francisco may not be as diverse as that of NY, Asian food is hands down the best in the country. This is particularly so because of the large Asian population here. Immigrant-founded restaurants not only provide authentic-tasting food but are also easier on the pocket. 

San Francisco is known for its farm-to-table cuisine, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. If you crave seafood, then head out to San Francisco, where you’ll find the best seafood, thanks to its location on the coast.

Chinatown NYC vs San Francisco

This debate comes up because you’ll hardly find any locality in the entire US which comes as close to China. Both areas are known for their vibrant communities, unique cuisines, and ornate architecture. However, there are some key differences that set them apart. 

San Fran’s iconic neighborhood was established in the 1850s, making it the oldest Chinatown in the country. On the other hand, New York’s Chinatown may not be as old, but it is definitely the largest and like all things NY, quite diverse. 


New York’s Chinatown is crowded (surprised?), whereas the one in San Francisco is hilly, and comprises just about 100 blocks. You can easily explore it all on foot.


Among the many stores in San Francisco’s Chinatown, some worth visiting are China Herbs Co, and China Wok Shop. Furthermore, you can also purchase some excellent calligraphies here. 

Some attractions of visiting NY’s Chinatown are getting to buy your personalized chopsticks, buying statues and fabric at the Pearl River Mart, and getting your hands on authentic Asian groceries. 


Did you know that San Francisco’s Chinatown has over 300 restaurants making it one of the best food destinations in the city? Well, now you do! From dim sum to hot pot, you can find it all over here.

New York’s Chinatown has a lot to offer food-wise. You can try street food like buttercream buns, traditional donuts, and chive dumplings. If you’d rather eat at a fancy restaurant, head out for Jing Fong, or the Golden Unicorn.

San Francisco vs New York Vacation

In spite of being expensive cities, both are popular vacation spots. New York tends to be busier, with something going on at all times. San Francisco, with its relaxed vibe, attracts people who like to take it slow and enjoy being closer to nature. 


NY and San Francisco both have iconic landmarks and alluring places to visit. It’s probably impossible to list the must-visits in NY, but some really popular locations are the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, and the Empire State Building.

San Francisco has a diverse set of tourist spots, and among the well-known ones are the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the Legion of Honour, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Cable Car Museum. 


New York’s Broadway is the ultimate king of theatre. Even if you’re not a fan, just checking this off your bucket list is a big achievement!

Music Scene

New York is known as the musical capital and its live music scene outshines that of San Francisco. Some popular venues in New York include the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the Radio City Music Hall, and the Beacon Theater.

San Francisco offers some vibrant music venues too, which include the Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, and the Chapel. 

Budget Travelers

New York is better in this category because there are quite a few hostels and affordable hangouts for backpackers and budget travelers. 

However, don’t despair if you want to travel economically to San Francisco. If you head out to Union Square and Downtown areas, you can find pocket-friendly lodgings there. 


New York is great for pedestrians since everything is close by. You can try your luck at walking in San Francisco too, but the hills can take a toll on your legs.


Which is better NYC or San Francisco?

There is something to do for everyone at any time of the day in NYC. It is home to world-famous cultural attractions and is abuzz with all sorts of recreational activities. San Francisco, on the other hand, is inclined towards nature-friendly activities and has a more relaxed lifestyle.

Is San Francisco more expensive than New York?

San Francisco is slightly more expensive than New York. You would need $8420 per month in San Francisco and $8000 per month in New York, to maintain the same standard of living.

Is NYC bigger than San Francisco?

Yes, NYC is roughly 6.5 times bigger than San Francisco. Additionally, San Francisco has a population density of 18,000 people per square mile, which is way less than New York’s. 

Is tax higher in SF or NYC?

Taxes are almost similar in both cities. The income tax bracket shows some variation. In San Francisco, the income tax bracket is lower for people with low incomes (1% compared to NY’s 4%). The bracket is higher in San Francisco for high incomes, (12% compared to NY’s 10.9%)

Final Thoughts

There’s no winner or loser in the NYC vs San Francisco debate because, after all, it’s all about where you would like to live. 

If you prefer working hard throughout the week, partying even harder on the weekends, and enjoy being surrounded by people then New York is the place to be.

In contrast, if you have a techno mindset, and would rather live close to nature than a concrete jungle, then San Francisco might be your dream come true. 

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