Make your way to Sydney during Vivid Sydney, the annual festival that sparks the soul of Sydney with creativity from 27 May to 18 June. This year, Vivid Sydney will boast the longest light walk in the history of the event, so why not make the most of Sydney while the city really turns it on? Here’s a 48-hour itinerary with plenty of ideas on what to do during one of the world’s largest festivals of light, music and ideas.
Credit: Ken Done / Spinifex Group / James Morrison
Start the day on Sydney’s stunning coastline, walking along the clifftop trail from Coogee to Bondi — don’t forget to look out for whales, as it’s whale-watching season. Explore the vibrant food scene at Bondi — try a decadent breakfast at Bills, elegant brunch at The Pacific Club Bondi, or brekkie bowl at local favourite Speedos – one of the world’s most Instagrammable cafes.
Insider Tip: Snap a stunning high-angle shot of the famous Icebergs Pool from the coastal walk.
Head towards the city, checking out Sydney’s hottest shopping streets along the way: the 333 bus from North Bondi travels to Circular Quay via Bondi Junction, Paddington and Surry Hills. Bondi Junction Westfield is a one-stop hub for luxury global names, The Intersection Paddington has exquisite Australian fashion and Surry Hills has a vibrant collection of small, interesting boutiques.
Insider Tip: Visit Elms, which curates gorgeous clothing and gifts from Australia and New Zealand.
Lunch, markets and culture
From Surry Hills, it’s about a ten-minute walk to Darling Square in Haymarket, which is a fun lunch spot for the whole family. There are more than 40 restaurants with 20 different cuisines – try Dopa by Devon for tasty rice bowls and colourful Korean shaved ice desserts. After lunch, check out the sprawling indoor Paddy’s Markets for souvenirs and stroll The Goods Line, a cleverly designed urban walkway running from Railway Square to Darling Harbour.
Insider Tip: Take the time to explore Central Park Mall with a welcoming outdoor space, 13-screen cinema and cult eateries.
Choose your own afternoon adventure in Darling Harbour! Hang with the stars at Madame Tussauds, see a magical underwater wonderland at SEA LIFE Aquarium or relax and pop the bubbly at the Champagne Bar at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. You could also take the children for a play at Darling Quarter Playground, unwind in a pocket of paradise at the Chinese Garden of Friendship, or climb naval ships and submarines at the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Catch a ferry from Barangaroo Wharf (close to SEA LIFE Aquarium) to Circular Quay before the sun goes down and the lights go up for Vivid Sydney. Sydney Opera House will be aglow for Lighting of the Sails and, for the first time, the festival boasts the longest continuous Light Walk in the history of the event, from Sydney Opera House to Central Station.
Insider Tip: There are many road closures during Vivid Sydney, so it’s best to use public transport.
Credit: Martu Artists and Curiious
Watch as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge light up, listen to live music or book a three-course dinner cruise with Captain Cook to see Vivid Sydney from the water. See For Sydney With Love by iconic Australian artist Ken Done, projected onto Customs House. Follow Future Natives, a trail of neon birds by artist Chris Daniel along the Light Walk, and admire Earth Deities, a towering illuminated sculpture by Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran at Hickson Road Reserve. At nearby Walsh Bay, grab a bite to eat at Walsh Bay Kitchen, or a drink with water views at The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf.
Credit: Ramesh Nithiyendran
Credit: Chris Daniel
In and around Circular Quay, there are plenty of dining options from casual to fine dining. Tuck into tender Aussie steak at luxe waterfront eatery 6Head, in Campbells Cove, visit Gateway at Circular Quay for more than 30 casual restaurants or admire the view of the harbour while dining on high-end, innovative cuisine from Aria or Quay.
Insider Tip: Bookmark the spectacular Cherry Blossom Wonderland Igloo balcony suite at Pier One Sydney for private group dining, in collaboration with Insta-star Tara Milk Tea (bookings open in early April)
Credit: Pier One featuring @taramilktea
Catch a ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Zoo for a morning full of memorable animal encounters. A fun way to travel there is by the Taronga Zoo Ferry Express, which includes return rocket ferry, zoo entrance and express entry on the Sky Safari cable car from the wharf. Once there, don’t miss keeper talks, the Wild for Seals show and visiting red kangaroos, koalas, giraffes, lion cubs and more.
Art and culture
This afternoon, immerse yourself in the art, history and culture of Sydney around the harbour. Explore Sydney Royal Botanic Garden with one of their signature tours like the Aboriginal Heritage Harbour Tour; then head on a self-guided Culture Trail, which will take you past the Art Gallery of New South Wales, or take the time to uncover what’s beneath the sails on a Sydney Opera House backstage tour. You could also explore the waterside precinct of Barangaroo, with innovative architecture, boutiques, dining and a unique Aboriginal Culture Tour, taking in the six-hectare headland. Insider Tip: Many areas on the SOH backstage tour are off-limits to regular visitors and show guests, so you’ll have a VIP view!
Tonight, enjoy the spectacular lights of Vivid Sydney from the incredible vantage point of Sydney Harbour Bridge with a Vivid Climb, which run for about three hours, or get a bird’s eye view with Sydney Heli Tours. Then stroll The Light Walk to see incredible light installations and enjoy glowing drinks and street food at colourful eateries along the way. Don’t miss seeing Convergence by Mandylights at The Goods Line Tunnel – a laser installation in a disused rail tunnel.
Credit: Mandylights; Tanwee Shrestha
Insider Tip: Why not extend your stay with a fabulous road trip to the Snowy Mountains for a unique Australian winter experience. Build a snowman, carve out snow angels in the freshly fallen snow, have a ski lesson then enjoy hot chocolate at Eagles Nest, the highest restaurant in Australia with panoramic views. There are also regular flights from Sydney to the Snowy Mountains Airport.