Seattle and San Francisco are similar in many ways. With tech businesses, local seafood, world-class cultural attractions, and vibrant nightlife venues, these west coast cities have a lot in common. Both cities are also liberal-leaning, have pretty good transit, and offer a range of fun things to do for both couples and families on vacation.
Although Seattle and San Francisco have many similarities, they offer a slightly different flavor. Therefore, we decided to put together an article that compares these two US cities in terms of weather, accommodation, nightlife, tourist attractions, and much more.
To sum it all up, if you are trying to decide whether to visit Seattle or San Francisco, this travel guide is here to help you reach your final decision.
Table of Contents
Seattle or San Francisco: General Vibe
The fourth-largest city in all of California, San Francisco has a slightly larger population than Seattle overall. We should also mention that it is much cheaper to live in Seattle than in San Francisco. If you are into hiking and wish to enjoy nature, you’ll definitely find more things to do in San Francisco which is home to places such as the Mount Sutro Open Space Reserve, Angel Island, and the Bison of Golden Gate Park.
Much of the architecture in San Francisco is old, dating back to before World War II, which lets tourists experience history. Keep in mind that like most places in California, San Francisco is very densely-packed.
Then, Seattle enters the scene. Known as the Coffee Capital of the World, the city boasts a youthful vibe and is renowned for its countless coffee shops and microbreweries. The capital of culture in the Pacific Northwest has many iconic landmarks and architectural marvels to check out. Whether you are looking for an urban adventure or outdoor enjoyment, you’ll find both in Emerald City.
Seattle or San Francisco: Weather
While San Francisco and Seattle are coastal cities, they have slightly different climates. Most people who have lived in both places will tell you that the weather is generally better in San Francisco. The truth is that Seattle is a wet place to live with 37 inches (93.9) of rain a year. It’s not one of the coldest places in the US, but Seattle does get a lot of rain. However, summers in Seattle are fairly dry allowing you to enjoy a variety of outdoor attractions.
San Francisco boasts a warm-summer Mediterranean climate and a significantly lower level of precipitation than Seattle. You will experience about 260 sunny days per year in SF which is great for all you nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
It is also worth mentioning that San Francisco sees zero inches of annual snowfall. That said, SF is definitely the winner in this category.
Seattle or San Francisco: Things to do
You’ll never run out of things to do and see in both Seattle and San Francisco. SF is home to a wide range of world-class attractions such as the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, and the Ferry Building. Art lovers visiting San Francisco will want to stop by the Palace of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art. If you are traveling to San Francisco with your kids, visit attractions like the San Francisco Zoo and the Golden Gate Park.
With places like the Fillmore and Performing Arts Center, San Francisco is also a great place to watch live music performances. Looking for day trips from SF? Pay a visit to the nearby towns like Berkeley and Oakland. Seattle has no shortage of fabulous tourist attractions and picturesque neighborhoods. Explore the streets of Fremont and Capitol Hill or watch sports events at Mariners’ and Seahawks’ stadiums. The city is home to amazing museums like the Museum of Pop Culture, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Museum of Flight. The number one attraction in Seattle is the famous Space Needle.
Since both Seattle and San Francisco are packed with spectacular attractions and a variety of things to do, we definitely have a tie in this category.
Seattle or San Francisco: Prices
Compared to the rest of the cities in Washington, Seattle is an expensive place to live. We can also say the same for San Francisco which is also costly compared to other places in California. However, the cost of living in SF is about 37.1% higher than in Seattle.
In Seattle, expect to pay roughly $130 per night for a hotel room. The city is home to some seriously awesome hotels. If you are looking for lower rental prices in Seattle, you’ll find that prices begin to drop outside the city center in the suburbs. The average price for a hotel room in San Francisco in the downtown area is about $212. You will experience a price drop for accommodation in SF as soon as you exit the center of the city.
To sum it all up, San Francisco is more expensive than Seattle in terms of cost of living and accommodation. But, when it comes to entrance fees to museums and other attractions in Seattle and San Francisco, expect to pay a similar amount of cash.
Seattle or San Francisco: Nightlife
In terms of an active nightlife, San Francisco feels way more vibrant and alive than Seattle. On the other hand, Seattle also has its share of amazing places to go out in the evening, especially live music venues.
SF is home to legendary venues such as the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Castro Theatre, and San Francisco Jazz Center. You can stay up late for midnight movies at the Clay Theatre, enjoy cocktails at one of the speakeasy-inspired bars, or see stand-up comedy performances at places like Cobb’s Comedy Club and the Masonic.
Then, there is Seattle, known for its superb music scene. It is the birthplace of the Grunge music scene in the 90s and home to the iconic SubPop Records. In Seattle, travelers will find popular spots such as the Moore Theater and Easy Street Records. Seattle also houses way more cool breweries than San Francisco. Feel like singing karaoke in Seattle? Head out to The Waterwheel or the Japanese-style Karaoke lounge Rock Box in Seattle.
Seattle or San Francisco: Food
The food culture in the US is awesome and foodies visiting Seattle or San Francisco are in for a real treat. Why? Let’s just say that these two cities are consistently ranked within the top 50 culinary destinations in the US. Being coastal cities, both Seattle and San Francisco offer sensational seafood and fish delicacies that come straight from the depths of the Pacific. However, there are certain differences between San Francisco and Seattle in the food and drink scene.
If you are visiting Seattle and wish to enjoy burgers and fries, make a reservation at the famous Dick’s. Pizza lovers will want to visit Pizzeria Credo, while Rockcreek Seafood & Spirits is an amazing dining establishment that offers fresh seafood. Craving sushi rolls? Book a table at the legendary Umi Sake House in Seattle.
There is no shortage of culinary diversity in San Francisco. Whether you are craving prime ribs, pizza, burgers, or International cuisine, this coastal city in California offers something for everyone. SF is a haven for those who wish to sample seafood. Try the Dungeness crab which you will find at most seafood dining establishments in San Francisco.
Seattle or San Francisco: Transportation
In terms of transportation, San Francisco is a clear winner. Although both cities are pedestrian-friendly, SF public transit is much better with trolleys, cable cars, ferries, buses, and trains.
Seattle only has a bus system, light rail, and commuter rail. Many people who have lived in both San Francisco and Seattle say that the public transit in Seattle is often unreliable.
Realistically, if you live in Seattle and San Francisco, you will want to own a car. We should also mention that if you plan on driving to work, Seattle can offer you a shorter commute time in your vehicle.
Seattle or San Francisco: Final Verdict
You’re going to find different things in both San Francisco and Seattle. SF offers a typical California vibe with posh bars, unique attractions, and plenty of things to see and do. On the other hand, Seattle has an amazing music scene, award-winning coffee joints, and a bunch of microbreweries for all you beer lovers out there. So, we’ll have to declare a tie here!