Are you considering moving to San Jose? San Jose, the capital of Silicon Valley, is known for its unbeatable weather, incredible hiking trails, and safe suburban neighborhoods. Thanks to the tech boom, though, living costs are considerably higher than those of other cities in the golden state. Even so, it’s still more affordable than San Francisco.
Is a move to San Jose all it’s cracked up to be? This guide will share everything you need to know about San Jose to get acclimated. We cover the best eats, activities, and places to live.
Find the San Jose Neighborhood For You
San Jose is an excellent place to live, but like any city, some San Jose neighborhoods may be preferable to others. Before moving to San Jose, find the right neighborhood for your needs, tastes, and budget. Here is the complete list of San Jose neighborhoods organized by their common characteristics:
Most Expensive San Jose Neighborhoods
The Rose Garden neighborhood is as beautiful as the name implies. The stunning architecture, including 19th-century homes, the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden namesake, and museums, make it one of San Jose’s most picturesque destinations.
For an upscale neighborhood with a close-knit community feel, check out Almaden Valley. The area holds the city’s historic Quicksilver mines and unbeatable hiking access to Mount Umunhum. It’s conveniently located near major shopping centers featuring Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, CostPlus, World Market, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods. If you set down roots in Almaden, your neighbors will likely be the type to host block parties and look out for your home and pets when you’re on vacation.
The Willow Glen neighborhood is a little on the ritzier side and perfect for raising a family or spending retirement. The downtown area hosts a busy calendar of community events, from food festivals to Christmas trolley rides. It’s home to restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, antique stores, and Hicklebee’s bookstore, where many famous authors come to host readings.
West San Jose/Santana Row
If you are looking for high-end shopping and fine dining, Santana Row is your neighborhood. Located just across from the Westfield Valley Fair mall, the shopping and dining district is home to high-end boutiques, elegant steakhouses, relaxing spas, and the Winchester Mystery House (made famous by the film starring Helen Mirren as the eccentric Sarah Winchester). Apartments are available directly above the shops for a convenient home right in the middle of the hubbub.
Best San Jose Neighborhoods for Nature-Lovers
San Jose’s newest neighborhood offers a selection of outdoor activities like hiking and golfing. It features the Eastridge mall, which has transformed from one of the city’s shabbier shopping malls to a vibrant place to hang out, complete with a kitten cafe.
South San Jose
A more suburban neighborhood, South San Jose offers some of the best access to hiking and mountain biking via Santa Teresa County Park. If hiking and biking aren’t your things, there are plenty of golfing opportunities with the Santa Teresa and Coyote Creek courses nearby and various breweries to stop at for a cold one.
North San Jose
If you are in tech and want a quick commute or walk to work, north San Jose is the place to be. At first glance, it may look like a concrete jungle of tech headquarters, but you can still escape and breathe some fresh air thanks to the Sierra Vista Open Space preserve.
Alum Rock appeals to the daring, outdoorsy, and active with its skate park, Raging Waters waterpark, and easy hiking access to the Lick Observatory.
Best Neighborhoods for Arts & Culture
As with most cities, downtown is San Jose’s hub for arts and entertainment. It’s home to the SAP Center, where the Sharks hockey team plays, the annual Christmas in the Park attraction, theaters, museums, and food co-op markets like the San Pedro Square Market. The downtown shopping scene has been getting better in recent years, too, with pop-up art and succulent shops claiming whatever space they can find among corporate buildings, restaurants, and apartments.
Despite the unfortunate closure of some theater spaces like the San Jose Repertory theater, the arts are still alive and well downtown. “Downtown San Jose has a small but rocking arts scene that thrives–from the live music at Cafe Stritch to the Subzero Festival in the summertime,” Miranda Carvalho, a local playwright, shares.
Mayfair is rich in history and culture. It was home to civil rights activist Cesar Chavez for over a decade. It features the Mexican Heritage Plaza, a venue for cultural events such as documentary screenings, mariachi performances, and holiday fiestas.
This little nook will allow you to escape the city. San Jose’s slice of Portugal will give you a taste of the country with stunning architecture, family-owned, long-running Portuguese restaurants and bakeries, and a small-community feel.
Home to the annual Italian Family Festa, the hub of family-owned Italian restaurants near downtown delivers on its promise of bringing a taste of Italy to San Jose. Despite the large population of Italians settling in places like New York and New Orleans, San Jose still boasts a surprisingly rich history of Italian immigrants.
San Jose is lucky to be home to one of the last three remaining historic Japantowns in the United States. If you don’t live in the area, you’ll likely be drawn to it for the weekly farmer’s market, art galleries, and festivals. Vegans and vegetarians will love getting fresh tofu from the San Jose Tofu Company.
San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the world, second only to Vietnam itself. While you can find delectable Vietnamese cuisine all over town, Little Saigon is the cultural hub that hosts impressive events like the Tet celebration. You can participate in or observe pageants, cooking and eating competitions, traditional dances, and historical reenactments. There are plenty of carnival rides, food trucks, and art galleries to enjoy.
Historic San Jose Neighborhoods
This 200-year-old neighborhood is the perfect place for wining and dining. With J. Lohr Winery tucked into a corner and a host of delicious eateries featuring a variety of cuisines, The Alameda is an exciting place to live or visit for a weekend date night. Close enough to downtown to get to San Jose events but far enough to feel a little more peaceful, this neighborhood is great for those who like a moderately-paced lifestyle.
Elena Johal of the local Keller Williams real estate group comments: “San Jose is one of the fastest-growing and fastest developing cities in the Bay Area where most companies prefer to have their offices, including Google, which is developing one of their largest campuses here. Homes are consistently growing in value because this is where the think tank of Silicon Valley prefers to live. In addition to single-family homes, numerous high rises are being built to accommodate a modern, compact lifestyle for those who love downtown.”
A historic, beautiful, and quiet neighborhood featuring estate homes, a lively theater scene, and frequent live music events, this nature-filled neighborhood near downtown truly is like one big park. Its convenient location offers hiking access via the Coyote Creek trail. The neighborhood also hosts San Jose’s annual Bark in the Park dog festival. (Don’t worry, there’s human food there too!)
This bayside former port city is the place for nature lovers and history buffs. Home to a wildlife refuge and a ghost town, there’s plenty to explore on foot or via kayak in Alviso. The location makes the commute to San Francisco a breeze (a maximum of 50 minutes of driving time in moderate traffic), so consider settling in Alviso if you’re working in the city.
Cost of Living in San Jose
If you’re moving to San Jose, it’s safe to assume you have a great job leading you there. Otherwise, you’ll likely find it difficult to make ends meet. San Jose is the 2nd most expensive city to rent in the U.S. The average cost of living for a four-person family, excluding rent, is around $3,960 a month. That’s 80% higher than the national average! To be considered middle class in San Jose, your income must be at least $107,000 per year.
According to Zillow and Redfin, here are the current San Jose housing rates (medians):
- Home value: $1,482,586
- The list price per square foot: $904
- Price of homes currently listed: $1,200,000
- Rent price: $2,995
The highest rents are in the Willow Glen and Rose Garden neighborhoods.
The combined sales tax rate in San Jose, California, is 9.38%. For California, the sales tax rate is currently 6%, the County sales tax rate in San Jose is 0.25%, and the San Jose sales tax rate is 0.25%.
Where to Work in San Jose
Professionals of every trade can find fulfilling employment in San Jose or the surrounding cities.
Major employers include IBM, eBay, Hitachi, County of Santa Clara, Cisco Systems, Adobe, SAP Center, San Jose State, Western Digital, Amazon/Whole Foods, Google, UPS, and Intel. The unemployment rate in San Jose is generally lower than that of other parts of the country, but older workers may face fierce competition, as the majority of new hires in the city are younger. Most people who move to San Jose are relocating for a new job because the higher average salary in the city matches the cost of living.
Education Opportunities in San Jose
Silicon Valley offers plenty of private and public schooling options, including performing arts-oriented campuses and STEM-focused curriculums. To begin your search, browse this complete list of San Jose school districts. You can find the school ratings and rankings on Niche.
- Alum Rock Union Elementary School District
- Berryessa Union Elementary School District
- Cambrian School District
- Campbell Union High School District
- East Side Union High School District
- Evergreen Elementary School District
- Franklin Mckinley Elementary School District
- Moreland School District
- Mount Pleasant Elementary School District
- Oak Grove Elementary School District
- San Jose Unified School District
- Union Elementary School District
San Jose State University is known for its computer science, business, engineering, nursing, and marketing majors. To save money, community colleges De Anza, Evergreen, and West Valley are excellent local options that provide a variety of two-year programs for every discipline.
Nearby, you’ll find Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, University of San Francisco, and California State University–East Bay.
San Jose is a laid-back setting for retirement. The City of San Jose retirement services are best in class. Living in a San Jose retirement community is ideal for active retirees with plenty of access to golf courses and beautiful hiking trails. The Villages Golf and Country Club retirement homes in San Jose in the Evergreen area stand out as one of the top retirement communities in the United States.
San Jose Transportation
While a car is strongly suggested, you can make do by utilizing San Jose public transportation options:
- Light rail and bus system to help you navigate the city
- Caltrain to take you to San Francisco for work or play
- Plenty of rentable electric scooters and bicycles for short distances
- Lyft or Uber options are available in most areas if you need a quick but affordable ride
The San Jose traffic in this highly populous city can make for long commutes, so plan ahead when making the trip to work in the mornings. For those who frequently travel for work or leisure, the San Jose International Airport provides a frequent schedule of flights to all major destinations.
Best Restaurants in San Jose
San Jose’s culinary scene caters to palates of all flavors, but the Vietnamese and Mexican food is particularly noteworthy. There’s also no shortage of grocery shopping options in San Jose: Chavez Supermarket, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, Lunardi’s, Nob Hill Foods, Safeway, Lucky, Grocery Outlet, Target, FoodMaxx, and Cost Plus World Market, all have at least one location within the city limits.
Some of the best San Jose restaurants include:
- ChaCha Sushi – With signature rolls named after local icons and popular movies, noodle dishes, and delectable desserts like fried ice cream, ChaCha is one of the best places for Japanese food in San Jose.
- Fu Kee – Skip the Panda Express and drop by Fu Kee for more authentic Chinese fare. The string bean chicken is one of the best dishes on the menu.
- Falafel’s Drive-in – Offering a mix of American food like burgers and shakes and authentic falafel created from a family recipe, Falafel Drive-in has been a mainstay in San Jose since 1966.
- Pho Kim Long – Pho isn’t hard to find in San Jose, but Pho Kim Long is the cream of the crop. The cash-only eatery is affordable and loved by Vietnamese locals and pho first-timers.
- Nick the Greek – For fast Greek food, turn to Nick the Greek. You can choose meat or the veggie filling for a pita drizzled with tzatziki. Grab some cheesy Greek fries on the side.
- La Victoria – The Bay Area is blessed with superior taquerias. But La Victoria is in a different league. Famous for its “orange sauce,” the iconic taco and burrito spot offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
- La Costa – This tiny, cash-only joint with outdoor seating represents the best of San Jose Mexican food with tacos, tostadas, burritos, and quesadillas. (Warning: The burritos are newborn baby-sized.)
- La Villa Delicatessen – La Villa in downtown Willow Glen is a San Jose tradition. Grab a number and wait in line for fresh-made ravioli for all of your special occasions or casual dinners.
- Original Joe’s – With origins in nearby San Francisco, this fine Italian dining place has steak, seafood, veal, pasta, and traditional Italian desserts like cannolis, gelato, and tiramisu.
Other San Jose Favorites
- Bill’s Cafe – With multiple locations throughout San Jose, this breakfast and lunch spot offers all the regular menu items like hashbrown skillets, omelets, eggs benedict, pancakes bigger than your head, and club sandwiches.
- In-N-Out Burger – If you’re not from California, the numerous In-N-Out Burger locations in San Jose and the surrounding cities are an exciting treat. Try the well-done fries and animal-style burger off of the secret menu. In-N-Out’s burgers, fries, and shakes are always affordable, and they pay their employees above minimum wage so that you can feel great about this fast-food choice.
- Treat Ice Cream – For homemade ice cream quality taste, pick up a tub of Treat Ice Cream. The San Jose icon was recently bought out by Marianne’s in Santa Cruz, but you can still find it in San Jose in select stores like MJ Market in Almaden or the Lunardi’s grocery store. Treat is also served at shops like Sweet Retreat in South San Jose and the Willow Glen Creamery. One of the standout ice cream flavors is mocha java chip because of its rich coffee flavor and generously-sized chocolate chunks.
For Your Coffee Fix
Those who like to get their coffee fix somewhere other than home will be happy to know that San Jose features two main coffee shops besides the ubiquitous Starbucks. Like the rest of the Bay Area and much of California, you can find a handful of Peet’s Coffee and Philz Coffee locations scattered throughout the city. Both companies have roots in the Bay Area, so you’re still supporting a “local” business even though they are chains. You can also support true local coffee shops like Nirvana Soul downtown and Moon Beans in South San Jose.
Things to Do Once You Move to San Jose
San Jose is a versatile city with plenty of activities for everyone, thanks to the convenient beach access, surrounding hills, and traditional city amenities.
In the Great Outdoors:
- Hiking in the foothills.Quicksilver in Almaden and IBM in South San Jose are great areas.
- Horseback riding in South San Jose near the Calero area and Morgan Hill.
- Golfing at Santa Teresa, Coyote Creek, or for mini-golf, there’s Golfland.
- Visiting Santa Cruz beaches is only a half-hour drive over the mountains. Places to visit include Capitola and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (made famous by Jordan Peele’s 2019 horror film Us).
The Sports Scene:
- Watch 49ers football games at Levi’s Stadium in nearby Santa Clara.
- Cheer on the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center downtown.
- Hang out at San Jose Giants baseball games (and stay for the frequent post-game fireworks shows!).
- Browse dozens of furniture, antiques, clothing, and plant stalls at the De Anza Flea Market at nearby De Anza Community College (which happens on the first Saturday of every month).
- Shop at luxurious boutiques in downtown Los Gatos, Willow Glen, Campbell, and Santana Row.
Entertainment and Theme Parks:
- Enjoy live music at downtown San Jose jazz festivals.
- Catch all touring Broadway shows at the San Jose Center for Performing Arts.
- Rock out at concerts at the Shoreline Amphitheater in nearby Mountain View.
- Ride thrilling roller coasters at California’s Great America in Santa Clara.
- Get cozy at drive-in movies at the West Wind Capitol drive-in.
- Spend summer days at the Raging Waters water park.
- Browse museums downtown and in the Rose Garden.
- Walk on the wild side in Happy Hollow Park and Zoo.
What’s it Like Living in San Jose?
Here is what you should know before moving to San Jose.
San Jose Weather
The mild temperatures that rarely dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and seldom climb higher than 85 degrees and rare rainy days make it a fairly peaceful place in terms of weather. The cold season is short-lived, with December being the coldest month in San Jose with an average low of 44°F and a high of 60°F.
It is crucial to be aware that small earthquakes and summer wildfires are not uncommon. The most important things to have are sturdy tables for shelter and flashlights in case of power outages. In case of fires, you may have to evacuate or wear masks when going outdoors until the air quality improves. To prepare your new home for earthquakes, read this guide.
The Nightlife (or Lack Thereof)
The twenty-something crowd may be disappointed by the limited nightlife scene downtown (but there are a few clubs and bars). Singletons looking to find their match might find the local dating pool sparse. The city’s nickname is Man Jose because of the disproportionate ratio of men to women.
Many middle-aged people in the area are lifelong residents. Still, younger generations are opting to become part of the mass exodus from the Bay Area that has been going on for the past several years. While it’s not as bustling as places like LA and SF, San Jose offers gems. The rich history, cultural diversity, and easy access to surrounding cities, beaches, and California landmarks make it a suitable place for families to settle down or young professionals to start their careers.
Moving Tips for New Residents
Moving tends to make you realize just how much stuff you have. For everything that doesn’t fit in your new home, use the self-storage at the Life Storage location in San Jose.
It’s more than worth it to move to San Jose! Variety is the spice of life, and San Jose has no shortage. Whether you’re moving here for a tech gig, or the moderate temperatures and natural beauty appeal to you, you can find your thing here in the heart of Silicon Valley.
As you’re finding your way to San Jose, we hope this guide helps you make the city your home sweet home.
Article was originally written by San Jose expert Kristen Pizzo and published on July 25th, 2020. It was updated by Kristen with new information on July 28th, 2022.