How Big is San Francisco? Square Mileage, and How the City Compares to Others

San Francisco, the City by the Bay, is world-renowned for its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant cultural scene. But just how big is this iconic city?

In this blog post, we’ll delve into the size and scope of San Francisco, exploring its population, geographical size, and even comparing it to other major cities.

Let’s set sail and discover the size of the City By the Bay.

Square Miles and Boundaries

San Francisco’s land area is relatively small compared to other major cities in the United States. Spanning just 47.355 square miles (122.6 square kilometers), it’s the second most densely populated major city in America, trailing only New York.

Some people call San Francisco “The 7 x 7” because its area is very close to 49, the size of a 7 by 7 mile square.

The city is located on the tip of a narrow peninsula, nestled between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the San Francisco Bay to the east. It is bordered by San Mateo County to the south and the Golden Gate Strait to the north.

Population and Density

As of 2021, San Francisco’s population was estimated to be around 815,201. Its density is a staggering 17,214 people per square mile. This high population density is a result of both its small land area and its status as a highly desirable place to live and work.

The highly-walkable city’s population is incredibly diverse, with a rich blend of ethnicities and cultures. San Francisco’s Chinatown, for example, is the oldest and one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States. The city is also home to a significant Hispanic community, primarily in the Mission District, as well as a thriving LGBTQ+ community, centered around the iconic Castro neighborhood.

Antique map of San Francisco. From the New York Public Library.

Size Comparison to Other Cities

To put San Francisco’s size into perspective, let’s compare it to a few other major cities:

  • New York City, the most populous city in the United States, covers 309 square miles – roughly ten times the size of San Francisco.
  • Los Angeles, the second-largest city by population, spans an enormous 469 square miles – about ten times the size of San Francisco.
  • Chicago, the third-largest city, occupies 234 square miles – almost five times the size of San Francisco.

Despite its relatively small size, San Francisco is a significant player on the global stage, attracting millions of tourists each year and serving as a hub for technology, finance, and culture.


Although San Francisco may be small in size, it certainly packs a punch in terms of culture, history, and charm. With its steep hills, diverse neighborhoods, and iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, California Academy of Sciences and nearby Muir Woods, the City by the Bay offers a unique and enchanting experience to residents and visitors alike.

So, the next time you find yourself wandering the streets of San Francisco, remember that while it may be small in size, its impact on the world is anything but. As the famous saying goes, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” In the case of San Francisco, this city’s spirit and character prove that great things can indeed come in small packages.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

Leave a Reply

Back to top button