Each year, they say that Vivid Sydney is bigger than ever. This year it is actually true! There are over 60 light installations, projections and illuminations throughout the city. As well as the usual areas (Circular Quay, the Rocks, Martin Place, Darling Harbour and The Star), new precincts this year include Pyrmont Park, Central Park in Chippendale and Chatswood.
Vivid started just 3 days ago and undoubtedly you are feeling overwhelmed already…which restaurant has the best view? Which cruise has the best deal? Is a hotel room with a view better than a cruise? Are the new precincts worth the trek? How will I see everything in just 2 weeks?
Well, don’t worry, as we are here with our annual Vivid Sydney guide!
Best Bars & Restaurants with a View
- The Dining Room at Park Hyatt – Faces directly the Opera House. Need I say more. Just check there is not a cruise blocking your view on the night you choose (luckily this is less likely at this time of year).
- Cafe Sydney – As well as having stunning views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from their balcony, the very building they are located in (Customs House) will also return with spectacular light projections.
- Opera Bar – Temporarily transformed into a retro games arcade for Vivid. It is also my favourite spot to view the Lighting of the Sails. Get there early to get a table!
- The Deep Purple Pool Hall – A pop-up bar inside the Concert Hall Northern Foyer, thanks to Jeremy Blackmore and Alex Dowd from Tio’s and The Cliff Dive, open from 22nd to 31st May, open from 6pm-late.
- Altitude – For $150 ($215 with matching wines), you can enjoy stunning views of Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, as well as a 7-course Vivid Degustation Dinner, with “playful dishes that highlight colour and rich flavours to complement the vibrant light show on Sydney Harbour”.
- MCA Cafe – Usually, this closes at 4pm (except 9pm on Thursdays). However, during Vivid they have extended the opening hours until 9pm every night. As well as perfect views of the Opera House and Bridge, it is also located on the Vivid Light Walk.
- Cafe del Mar – A great option if you are looking for views of Darling Harbour’s Vivid celebrations.
- The Deck – We dined here last night. Check out our review.
Other Restaurants near the Action
- Sake Restaurant & Bar – Opening early from 5pm every night during Vivid for a special pre-Vivid dining option. Check out our review from Sake a few weeks ago.
- Sokyo – Located near the Pyrmont action of course, and will be celebrating with Vivid Cocktails, Rainbow Rolls and Black Cod Tempura.
- Fort Denison – A lot of blogs are recommending this restaurant for Vivid. However, please note that whilst it has stunning harbour views, the eastern side of Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge will not be illuminated during Vivid. Therefore, in their own words “there is no guarantee that any lighting associated with the Festival can be seen from Fort Denison”. Having said that, it is one of my favourite Sydney restaurants, you will get a great view of the Harbour Lights (Sydney ferries and many cruise boats will be illuminated using brilliant LED lights that change colour as the vessels travel into different harbour zones), and they are not usually open for dinner (except New Years Eve), so this is a great opportunity to dine at this historic location.
Best Accommodation with a View
- Quay West – I am staying here with family in a 2 bedroom apartment with 180 degree views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera house. Read my review from our stay here last Sunday.
- Shangri La Sydney – Located next door to Quay West, with equally stunning views. Altitude Restaurant is located on Shangri La’s 36th floor, so if you decide to splash out on the Vivid Degustation as well, it is only a short elevator ride to your room.
- Cockatoo Island – If you can brave the cold, both glamping and camping are available on this island with picture perfect views of the Bridge. There are also heritage-listed apartments available to rent for the less adventurous.
- Sydney Princess Cruises – We have access to a 2-hour cruise on board this 20ft catamaran for just $32.50 (normally $80). You have the option to pay an additional $5 and hop off at Circular Quay, before rejoining a later boat back to King St Wharf. Food are drinks are not included, but there is a licensed bar on board, as well indoor and outdoor seating. Please contact us for details and bookings at this reduced rate.
- Captain Cook Cruises – We have access to discounted cruises. One-hour cruises with one complimentary drink costs just $25 (normally $39), whilst Dinner cruises cost $89 (normally $119). The latter include 3 courses, as well as unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks. Please contact us for details and bookings at these reduced rates.
- Lighting the Sails – This is how it all started in 2009, and is still the piece de resistance 6 years later. Universal Everything, a multi-disciplinary design collective from the UK, have created the artwork this year.
- Museum of Contemporary Art – Mechanised Colour Assemblage (2015) transforms the MCA façade into a series of sound and colour ‘machines’ that create a continuously morphing listening and viewing experience. The audience is plunged into a universe where voices and colours blend together to become a single element.
- Customs House – Enchanted Sydney projects free-flowing images of Sydney’s flora and fauna onto the iconic façade of Customs House. The artwork mixes familiar (and not so familiar) aspects of Sydney’s natural environment to create a continually evolving and blossoming world.
- Cadman’s Cottage – INTER/Play, the Light Walk’s biggest multi-player experience.
- Martin Place – illuminated food precinct and Drum Circle where you can punch out a rhythm surrounded by a light-filled ‘forest’.UPDATE – I went here last Thursday and last night. Make sure you don’t eat before you go. There is a cool outdoor bar with lots of seating, Theivery (the new restaurant in Glebe is there) and the pork rolls from Porteno are amazing!
- University of Sydney – Spectacular 3D-mapped projections on the University’s Quadrangle facade, light art along the main promenade, and Sea of Hands (an interactive installation which will grow throughout the festival). Please note, this only runs from 25th to 31st May. UPDATE – I went here last Tuesday. It was even better than expected. There is a Little Creatures Bar (with cider and mulled wine, as well as beer) and food stalls selling pies, nachos and burgers. There are also lots of deckchairs and it’s a lot more relaxing than the crowds in the city.
- Darling Harbour – The Vivid Laser-Fountain Water Theatre will combine fountain jets and spirals, rainbow lasers and dancing flames, choreographed together in a glorious symphony of light and music to a soundtrack devised by Sydney’s electric music gurus, The Presets. There will also be projections on the roof of the Australian National Maritime Museum and fireworks every Wednesday to Sunday during Vivid (various times). UPDATE – I went here last Wednesday. To be honest, the Maritime Museum projections are not as good as last year.
- The Star – Vivid Lounge at Sky Terrace, on The Star’s rooftop, will be transformed into an electric urban space brought to life by light and music. There will be Vivid Cocktails, food from various Star restaurants (including Momofuku Seiōbo pork buns), interactive projected video games and the opportunity to project your faces onto the side of the building as you belt out karaoke songs. UPDATE – I went here last Wednesday. I am not much of a singer and the Vivid cocktail and food menu is very limited, but the $10 Chandon, in glasses with flashing lights, went down a treat.
- Museum of Sydney – Rapidly moving neon balls portray the ups and downs experienced by all Australians in the so-called ‘Lucky Country’. The work is a beacon of optimism and hope for a shared Australian future where all are valued and given the same opportunities.
- Vivid Light Walk – This starts inside The Opera House, goes via The Rocks and ends at Walsh Bay. Highlights include: glow swings, interactive games, paint the iconic buildings around Circular Quay, musical ‘beat dice’, playable piano stairs, the Geometric Eye, floating fibre optic dresses, a 3m tall light-up doll made entirely from crochet and the obligatory selfie stage (with a ‘You Are Here’ arrow sign).
- Pyrmont Park – You can let off ‘digital fireworks’ using glowing drumsticks and a drum kit.
- Central Park – Silent Disco (Friday and Saturday nights from 5.30-9.30pm), night markets, The Newtown Hotel Pop Up Bar on Level 3, street art projected onto the Brewery facade and free interactive entertainment. UPDATE – I went here last Tuesday and loved it! There were no crowds, plenty of seating, food stalls selling Brazilian sausages, organic soups, Anita Gelateria (they give Gelato Messina a run for its money!), Brooklyn Boy Bagels and other treats. The food court inside has an al fresco terrace with stunning views of the light projections. The Newtown Hotel pop-up bar on level 3 also has views, admittedly through glass, and was bit noisy.
- Chatswood – An aquatic wonderland with giant 3D sea creature projections.
For me, it is all about the pretty lights to be honest, but that is just a third of Vivid’s program. The festival also includes Vivid Ideas and Vivid Music. Both of which have some great events lined up including…
- Robowars – Robowars tournaments have been run all over Australia for the last 10yrs. Builders construct combat robots from metal, power tools and remote control toy parts to build the ultimate fighting machine. These robots will be coming to Sydney to battle it out over the day to see who will be the champion, 30th May from 3-11pm, free entry.
- Archkidz PLAY[ground] – Archikidz invites kids of all ages to come PLAY at Vivid! This June long weekend, the Hyde Park Barracks courtyard will be transformed into a huge vibrant, green city PLAY[ground], that will inspire your child to see the city in a new light and think about how they can shape the city of tomorrow. PLAY[ground] features a number of interactive play installations to see, touch and explore; and is designed to inspire kids – our future thinkers and city-makers – to think about how they can shape the city of the future, 6th-8th June from 10am-4pm, free entry but reservations are highly recommended.
- Etsy Craft Party – Craft Party is Etsy’s annual, worldwide celebration of meeting and making and you’re invited. Join the Etsy community in a one-day crafting spectacular with activities to suit any age or skill. On Saturday 6 June, people around Australia and the world will come together to turn paper into beautiful works of art in exploration of this year’s Craft Party theme, Kaleidoscope: Paper Taking Shape; 6th June from 12-11pm, free entry.
- Daniel Johns at Sydney Opera House, 28th and 29th May at 8pm.
- Grace Jones at Carriageworks, 31st May to 2nd June at 8pm.
- An Evening with Morrissey at Sydney Opera House, 26th to 31st May at 8pm.
- Hoodoo Gurus: Be My Guru – The Evolution Revolution at Powerhouse Museum, 22nd and 23rd May at 8.30pm.
Finally, don’t miss…
- The Vivid Bridge Climb – The top of Sydney Harbour Bridge must surely be best place to watch Vivid. As well as admiring the stunning views, you will also be part of Vivid in your specially designed Vivid Climb Vest. Your vest will illuminate the iconic shape of the Bridge as the city comes alive with light during Vivid Sydney.
- Vivid Skywalk – Take the experience to new heights and marvel at this illuminating festival from the Vivid Skywalk Observation Deck. You’ll get the ultimate view from that glass-floored, sky-high platform. Your Vivid Skywalk ticket also gains entry to the Sydney Tower Eye Observation Deck, where you can take a closer look at the city’s lit-up landmarks using powerful binoculars and multilingual touchscreens.