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Major Cities in California by Size [2024]

Interested in learning more about cities in California, including what it's like to live there? Explore California's major cities by population.

Sometimes you just want to know where everyone is else is moving to! This guide covers California's major cities by population, including a list of every city in the state as well. Additionally, you'll learn about our top five favorite cities for renters.

Let's dive in!

All of the rental data included here comes from our internal database of rent estimates, which is available for download. Population insights comes directly from the U.S. Census website.

Cities in California: The Ultimate Guide

Major Cities in California by Population

Explore California's biggest cities by population to get a grasp of how dense the city may feel as a potential resident.

CityPopulation
Los Angeles3,971,883
San Diego1,381,162
San Jose971,233
San Francisco808,437
Fresno545,567
Sacramento528,001
Long Beach451,307
Oakland430,553
Bakersfield410,647
Anaheim344,461

Full List of Cities in California

Here's a full list of the over 400 cities in California. It's best to know all of your options before making a move.

California Cities
Alturas
Amador City
American Canyon
Anaheim
Anderson
Angels Camp
Antioch
Arcadia
Arcata
Arroyo Grande

5 Biggest Cities in California

Here's a little bit of information about the biggest cities in California. If you're looking for more information about living in California's major cities, check out our guide to the 22 best places to live in California.

1. Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the largest city on our list, and almost twice the size of the next major city. Physically, it's also imposing at total of 502 square miles. Expect to pay a premium to live in California's most popular city, though. Currently, the overall median rent in the city stands at $2,089. If you're looking to explore the area for rental deals, check out our neighborhood guide.

best places to live in California

2. San Diego

At a little over 1.3 million residents, San Diego is the second biggest city on our list. If you are lucky enough to live in San Diego, you'll enjoy all the classic features of the California lifestyle (great beaches, world class dining and shopping, and incredible weather). The Gaslamp Quarter (or District, if you’re a native), which is located Downtown, is home to the city's major nightclubs and bars. It’s one of San Diego’s most popular neighborhoods.

shutterstock 664935280

3. San Jose

San Jose is the third city on our list with just under a million residents. It also shares a Bay Area location along with San Francisco (below) as well as a Bay Area price tag - the current median rent is $2,792 a month. In fact, San Jose is the fifth most expensive housing market in the entire world. Those who are willing to pay this premium often do so in order to be closer to the country's biggest tech hub in Silicon Valley.

san-jose-section-8-resources.png

4. San Francisco

A close second to San Jose in population, San Francisco had a little over 800,000 residents at the time of the last census. San Fran is also the second most densely populated city in the U.S., and if you check it out on a map, you can see why. Most of the city in concentrated at the tip of a peninsula. Surrounded on all sides by beautiful ocean and abundant economic opportunities, San Franciscans pay a premium in rent for the idyllic location, with an overall median rent of $2,673 a month.

San Francisco golden gate bridge

5. Sacramento

Though only fifth on our list for population, Sacramento is our number one choice for renters in California because it offers the chance to live the California dream at a more affordable price point. With listings as low as $700 a month, you might be surprised to find options in Sacramento within your budget (even if you never thought you could live in California).

As the capital city, you'll still have plenty of opportunities to live an urban lifestyle. Close to some of the most beautiful national forests in the country, there's also plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventuring and to take into the natural beauty of California. The only downside is that it's located in the center of the state, so a bit far from the beach.

Ready to Find Your Next Home in California?

If you're wanting to do more than just learn about California's biggest cities, and you're ready to take the plunge and move, then let Apartment List help you find a great location! Check out the listing guides for the top cities we mentioned here and start looking at fantastic apartments right now:

FAQs about Cities in California

What is the biggest city in California?

With over 3.9 million residents and 500 square miles of territory, the largest city in California by population is Los Angeles. It has almost twice as many residents as the next most populated city, San Diego.

What is the smallest city in California?

Amador City in California has around 200 residents and takes up less than 1/3 of a square mile.

How many cities are in California?

California has 482 municipalities, which includes cities, villages, and towns.

What is the safest city in California?

At a rate of 5.18 crimes per 1,000 residents, Rancho Santa Margarita has the lowest crime rate in California.

What is the cheapest city in California?

At a cost of living that's 21.26% lower than the average city in California, Fresno is the cheapest city in the state. The average Fresno resident spends $4,452 a month.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
CONTENT EDITOR
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Tristian Brown
SENIOR CONTENT ASSOCIATE
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More

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