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Largest cities in California by population and area

Largest cities in California by population and area

Want to know which is California’s largest city? Here’s a list of the largest cities in California by population and area in 2019. 

California is one of the largest states in the U.S, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the largest cities in the U.S are located here.  The largest Californian cities can be ranked either by their population (the most populated city in California) or by area (the biggest city in California). 

Largest Cities in California by population 2019

1. Los Angeles

L.A is the most populous city in California with 3,971,883, according to the latest official reports. Los Angeles is also known as the City of Angels, and it is here you’ll iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign and Santa Monica Pier as well as Venice Beach. 

Some other interesting facts about Los Angeles include that it holds the third largest city economy in the world.

Population: 3,971,883

los angeles is the largest city in California

Photo: Shutterstock

2. San Diego

San Diego is the second-largest city in California with a population of almost 1.4 million people. The city is particularly known for its high standard of living and quality of life, which has attracted a lot of Americans to move here in the past decades. 

Population: 1,394,928

San Diego

Photo: Shutterstock

3. San Jose

San Jose is regarded as the capital of Silicon Valley, and in recent decades it has become famous for its innovation. San Jose is also infamous for its extremely high housing prices, which has skyrocketed in recent years. 

Population: 1,026,908

San Jose is one of the largest cities in California

Photo: Shutterstock

4. San Francisco

San Francisco is perhaps one of the most famous among the largest cities in California, and it’s a popular tourist destination, famous for the Golden Gate Bridge and nearby national parks. 

The city is also known for its unique architecture, especially the Victorian houses. 

Population: 864,816

San Francisco

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Fresno

Fresno is the fifth most populated city in California with a population of 520,052 people. It’s located in the center of the San Joaquin Valley, and it was founded in 1872 as a Railway station.

Since then, Fresno has seen huge growth, especially in the 20th century. In just 40 years, the population grew from 134 000 in 1960 to 428 000 in the year 2000. 

Population: 520,052


Photo: Tupungato /

6. Sacramento

Los Angeles might be the largest city in California, but it’s Sacramento that is the state capital city. The whole Sacramento metropolitan area has a population of more than 2.4 million people, and it’s a cultural and economic core of the region.

Population: 490,712


Photo: Shutterstock

7. Long Beach

Long Beach is part of the L.A metro area and is home to the second busiest container port in all of the U.S. It’s especially known for its beach and waterfront attractions and it is nicknamed the Aquatic Capital of America.

Population: 474,140

Long Beach

Photo: Shutterstock

8. Oakland

Oakland is often cited as one of the most dangerous cities in California, and the rate of crime is two to five times the U.S average, according to a crime rate comparison.

There are good things about Oakland as well, for example, its port is ranked as the fifth busiest in the U.S and the busiest port of San Francisco Bay. The city also has more than 50 neighborhoods, and it’s the county seat of Alameda county.

Population: 419,267


Photo: Shutterstock

9. Bakersfield

Bakersfield is a hub for energy production and agriculture in California, and it’s the county seat of Kern County. It’s the 9th most populous city in California and the residents are called Bakersfieldians.

Population: 373,640


Photo: ELW /

10. Anaheim

Anaheim is the most populated city in Orange County, and it’s especially famous for being home to Disneyland, and the NHL team Anaheim Ducks. The city was actually founded in 1857, by 50 families from Germany. 

Population: 350,742


Photo: Simone Hogan /

11. Santa Ana

Santa Ana is the county seat in Orange County and is famous for its Spanish colonial architecture. The city has a majority of Hispanic population and is also regarded as one of the safest cities in the U.S above 250 000 residents.

Population: 334,909

santa ana

Photo: Shutterstock

12. Riverside

Riverside is famous for its citrus industry, and being home to the largest Mission Revival Style building in the U.S. It’s located next to the Santa Ana River, hence its name Riverside.

Population: 322,424


Photo: Shutterstock

13. Stockton

Stockton was built during the California Gold Rush, and it’s the county seat of San Joaquin County. Stockton is also home to the oldest university in California – The University of the Pacific (UOP).

Population: 305,658


Photo: Todd A. Merport /

14. Chula Vista

If you translate the city’s name from Spanish to English it would be something like “Beautiful view” and Chula Vista is known as a scenic destination with a fantastic mountain backdrop. 

Population: 265,757

Chula Vista

Photo: Shutterstock

15. Irvine

A well-planned city in Orange County that is neighboring Santa Clara and Newport Beach. In 2016, the city with the highest percentage of Asian-Americans in the Continental U.S with half of the population being Asian American. 

Population: 256,927


Photo: Shutterstock

Largest cities in California by Area 2019

Below is a list of the biggest cities in California as per their total area. As you can see, there is a slight difference compared to Californian cities ranked by their total population where cities such as Palmdale, Lancaster, and Palm Springs aren’t in the top. 

RankCityTotal Area
1Los Angeles502.7 sq mi (1,302 km2)
2San Diego456.4 sq mi (1,182 km2)
3California City203.631 sq mi (527.40 km2)
4San Jose179.9 sq mi (466 km2)
5Bakersfield151.2 sq mi (392 km2)
6Fresno112.3 sq mi (291 km2)
7Palmdale106.2 sq mi (275 km2)
8Sacramento100.1 sq mi (259 km2)
9Lancaster94.5 sq mi (245 km2)
10Palm Springs95.0 sq mi (246 km2)

More about the largest Californian cities

California is the most populated state in the United States with more than 39 million people living within the Golden state. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose, as well as San Francisco, continue to grow and attract both Americans and foreigners.

The High-tech industry in Silicon Valley is booming and in general, the whole state has a low unemployment rate compared to inland states. The weather is pleasant all-year-round as well, which attracts further movements. 

The quality of life in the largest cities in California are great and there are several counties with lots of wealthy people, especially Marin, Orange County, San Mateo, Santa Clara, which has some of the highest median incomes in all of the U.S.

While the largest cities in California have adopted the classic modern look of cities of today with skyscrapers, some still hold some beautiful samples of Victorian and Neoclassical buildings as well as Spanish colonial architecture. 

architecture in the largest cities in California

Photo: Shutterstock

What is the most densely populated city in California?

Los Angeles is the most densely populated city in California as well as in the whole U.S with almost 7,000 people per square mile.

What is the most populated city in California?

Los Angeles is the most populated city in California with 3,971,883 residents. 

What is the biggest city in California?

Los Angeles is the biggest city in California, both in terms of area and population. 

Los Angeles - California's biggest city

Photo: Sean Pavone /

Why do cities in California start with San?

There are around 500 cities in California, but only 30 or so actually have names starting with San or Santa. The reason is simply that California used to be a Spanish territory when some of the cities where founded.

The Catholic Church created 21 missions on order by Spain to settle the Golden state. The words of San and Santa are the Spanish equivalents of Saint, and the missions were often named after Saints.

San is the masculine version, and Santa is the feminine version of the word.

Why do Cities in California start with San? 

Photo: Shutterstock

How many of the largest cities in California did you know about? Leave a comment below!