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Vivid sydney lights 2023 on the harbour bridge feature

Vivid Sydney Guide 2024: Best Things to Do During the Festival of Light

Vivid Sydney 2024 will run for 23 nights from Friday 24th May to Saturday 15th June, transforming the harbour city into a light exhibition that celebrates creativity, innovation and technology for an estimated 3.48 million attendees.

The free-to-attend light festival is more than a few RGB displays, it’s a chance to get out and connect through events and installations with innovators and leaders in technology, food, arts, and music. Last year saw more than 198 light artists and collaborators create installations around Sydney Harbour, stretching eight kilometres from Circular Quay to Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, and Central Station. This year, they’re expecting an even bigger turnout, so we’ll update this guide as announcements happen.

To streamline things, organisers have grouped the events into four categories for this year’s event: Vivid Light, Vivid Music, Vivid Ideas, and Vivid Food. We’ll explain each of them below.

Lightscape | Image: Vivid

Vivid Light (Walking Guide)

The Vivid Sydney light walk stretches nearly eight kilometres and runs from Sydney Opera House to Central Station. Our walking guide below will take you through all the light exhibitions along the way so you don’t miss any of the action. We highly recommend starting at the Opera House and tackling the light walk over two or three nights depending on fitness levels and crowds.

Opera House to Circular Quay

Distance: Less than 1km
Number of attractions: 4

Must-see light installations and events along the way:

What our experts say: Our walking map of Vivid Sydney starts from the steps of the Sydney Opera House. Sure to be a favoured installation for Instagrammers, ‘Lightscape’ is a ticketed event found in The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. This global exhibition will bring you through tunnels of light.

After you’ve taken in the Lighting of the Sails projection on the Sydney Opera House, make your way to Circular Quay Wharf 2 and you’ll come across Our Connected City and Gumscape with Road and Creatures (which is displayed across the front of Customs House). These two events are free for the public and are some of the most popular at Vivid every year.

From there, walk along the tram line to First Fleet Park and you’ll start the next leg of our walking tour through The Rocks.

Sea sand and stars
Sea, Sand, and Stars by Guan Wei | Image: Vivid

Through The Rocks

Distance: 1.5km
Number of attractions: 6

Must-see light installations and events along the way:

What our experts say: The next leg starts in First Fleet Park and walks through The Rocks past the beautiful Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art which offers an otherworldly view into the arteries and bones behind the iconic Clock Tower building.

Make your way across to Cadmans Cottage and watch a captivating presentation of portraits of people morphing, shifting and unifying, made from a combination of live footage, digital effects, and Artificial Intelligence.

Next, walk to Hickson Road Reserve where you will find a canopy thick with countless LED ropes, a technicolour, immersive installation by Angus Muir.

Before moving on, look up towards the pylons of the infamous harbour bridge and catch a glimpse of a kaleidoscope of surrealistic, colourful life depicting humanity’s deep connection to nature through the prescient story of the Torres Strait 8.

Stateless by Sinclair Park | Image: Vivid

The Rocks to Barangaroo

Distance: 2.6km
Number of attractions: 7

Must-see light installations and events along the way:

What our experts say: Now you’ve popped out at the end of The Rocks, it’s time to walk to Walsh Bay where you’ll find ‘Migrating Light’ which connects you with the human history of Sydney through a series of holograms featuring migrants and their stories, told through audio, archival images and personal artifacts.

Next, make your way around the headlands to Barangaroo and stand within an otherworldly 15-metre tall installation of glowing light and atmospheric soundtrack at Portal and immerse yourself in a mesmerising display of treescapes at Encounters.

While you’re here, check out the expansive circular structure depicting the mating dance of Australia’s only native crane pieces and contemplate stateless persons around the world through an installation of 4000 solar-powered LED candles.

Hika rakuyo
Hika Rakuyo | Image: Vivid

Barangaroo to Tumbalong Park

Distance: 2.1km
Number of attractions: 5

Must-see light installations and events along the way:

What our experts say: From the buzzing streets of Barangaroo to the vibrant waters of Darling Harbour, witness lasers, projections and Japanese philosophy at Cockle Bay.

Then, walk towards the Australian National Maritime Museum where you will find a coming-of-age and mother-and-son narrative that uses a unique blend of modern, digital illustration and First Nations iconography.

Before moving on, check yourself out, literally – see your eyes projected onto a towering building in the distance in the Darling Quarter.

Stopping by Tumbalong Park is a must, as here you’ll find a grand-scale installation inspired by Neolithic-era architecture.

Head to the Chinese Garden of Friendship Forecourt and take a look at a motion-triggered light installation that represents our neurons and their branches, crafted from translucent material and LED light filaments.

Poem booth
Poem Booth | Image: Vivid

Tumbalong Park to Central Station

Distance: 1.3km
Number of attractions: 3

Must-see light installations and events along the way:

What our experts say: Get in touch with your poetic side at ‘Poem Booth’ and witness poetry machines powered by Artificial Intelligence translate what they see in front of them into unique pieces of poetry, prompting you to ask what creativity now looks like.

Pass by the Powerhouse Museum and spy a red neon sign ‘Humanity’ that appears to flicker, switching between the word ‘Humanity’ and ‘Humility’.

Before heading home, catch ‘Fireplaces’ at Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour and Vivid Fire Kitchen at The Goods Line and find giant fire pits, fire sculptures, flame throwers and fire barrels.

Vivid sydney lights 2023 supernove
Supernova | Image: Destination NSW

Vivid Music

Tumbalong Nights

Also taking centre stage for Vivid 2024 will be local and international talent at various venues in Sydney. The best bit is that so much of it is entirely free. You can indulge in 12 evenings of FREE live music at Tumbalong Park as part of the festivities. The live music kicks off at 7.30pm each Thursday to Saturday (including Sunday 9 June) and DJs will be spinning tunes all night long from Sunday to Wednesday.

The kids don’t miss out either, with FREE kids shows each Saturday from 5pm.

Some of our favourite acts making up the line-up this year include Mallrat + Tiffi, Bare Necessities, Forest Claudette and Sydney born LA-based THE BLSSM, and Jalbu Muna.

Vivid LIVE

If you’re still wanting more, Vivid LIVE’s program will feature contemporary music packed with solo acts, collaborations and performances that promise to transcend you into the next dimension. You can enjoy these ticketed performances at the Machine Hall Precinct, Sydney Opera House and Carraigeworks, just to name a few. Some of the local artists we are most looking forward to seeing in this year’s line-up include Gamilaraay singer-songwriter Thelma Plum and Budjerah as well as international acts including American indie duo Deerhoof, Swedish electronic music artist and songwriter Fever Ray and French musical duo Air.

Here’s a full list of music acts performing during Vivid 2024:

Vivid sydney lights 2023 biotechture
Biotechture | Image: Destination NSW

Vivid Ideas

Along with all the lights and music, Vivid 2024 also wants to get us thinking, talking and diving deep into the nuances of this year’s theme – Humanity. There will be countless installations, theatre performances, talks and current affairs discussions. Vivid Ideas will host these deep dives each evening during the festival at various locations throughout Sydney, so there’s something for everyone.

In Conversation with Amy Poehler

Time and date: 27th of May from 7-8:40 pm

Amy Poehler will give audiences a special first look at Disney and Pixar’s ‘Inside Out 2’. This will be a 30-minute look at select scenes from the sequel to the studio’s Academy Award-winning ‘Inside Out’ that was released in 2015. The film sees Poehler once again voice the role of Joy.

“I’m really looking forward to taking part in Vivid Sydney this year, a place that welcomes Joy in every way,” said Poehler. “I can’t wait to share a little of Inside Out 2: a movie that lets Joy and Sadness, Anxiety and Envy—all try to work together in hilarious and touching ways.”

Other events we are looking forward to include After The Fact, where every weeknight of Vivid Sydney, some of the brightest minds dissect and debate the breaking stories of the day.

We are also looking forward to the return of Queeries after a sold-out session at Vivid Sydney 2023, with some of Australia’s LGBTIQ+ creatives taking the stage for a night of stories, stand-up, performance and queer excellence. A big theme for this year is an inquiry into the sex work industry in Sydney led by writer, performer and Kings Cross local Vashti Hughes and the Inner City Legal Centre’s Managing Solicitor Katie Green.

There will also be film screenings at Golden Age Cinema exploring “the Golden Age of Humanity” alongside immersive dance and art installations all designed to nurture connection and encourage contemplation on the human experience.

Vivid fire kitchen
Vivid Fire Kitchen | Image: Vivid

Vivid Food

For all the foodies out there, Vivid Food will also be returning for its second year, after a warm welcome in 2023. Just as much a part of our culture as music, ideas and of course, light, Sydney has a plethora of hatted chefs and restaurants, and Vivid 2024 wants to celebrate all the culinary goodness Sydney has to offer. This year, the delicious festivities will be taking place at The Goods Line in Ultimo.

Visitors can expect unique dining experiences, like Sydney-based chef Danielle Alvarez’s A Culinary Canvas event series, which will showcase women in Australian gastronomy. Go on an adventure with the VividPlace Food Trail, which will take you across Sydney to experience Vivid-inspired menus from 20 different chefs and restaurateurs. Enjoy an exciting fusion of traditional and modern flavours at a night of innovative dining with Mitch Orr, the head chef at Ace Hotel’s Kiln. And don’t worry about missing out, either, with Vivid-inspired menu items appearing on most restaurant menus across Sydney during the festival.

Best restaurants in circular quay bennelong 2
Bennelong | Image: Supplied

Places to Eat During Vivid Sydney

Best Restaurants in Circular Quay

If you’re hanging around Vivid, then you’ll want to check out our list of the best restaurants near Circular Quay. Any of these restaurants on our list offer you a seat at the most picturesque dining locations in Sydney. However, it’s not just the views that will grab your attention, this area is a melting pot for some of the best restaurants in Sydney. We’ve been lucky enough to sample food from all of the restaurants on this list, often thanks to our friends in the industry. And while our round-up includes some fine-dining options that’ll blow you away in both flavours and price, we’ve also done our best to include some value-for-money options for date night.

Our list of the Best Restaurants in Circular Quay

Best Restaurants in Barangaroo

Head around through The Rocks during Vivid and you’ll come across the new dining precinct in Barangaroo. It’s home to plenty of cuisine options, with everything from Korean BBQ to great steak and seafood. The Crown dominates the peninsula, however, it’s home to some great restaurants with Nobu, a’Mare, and Woodcut being the standouts for us. If you’re looking for a more relaxed fair, check out the list below which includes Ume Burger, Belles Chicken, for all you seafood lovers, and more.

Our list of the Best Restaurants in Barangaroo

Best Romantic Restaurants in Sydney

Vivid Sydney can be a great excuse for date night, so we’ve rounded up some of our favourite romantic restaurants in Sydney. Not every restaurant on this list is located smack bang in the middle of Circular Quay, however, if you’re already in the city, do some bar hopping and make your way into any of these restaurants as you explore the Sydney CBD. If you had to splurge on a very special occasion, get your bookings in now for Bennelong (inside the Sydney Opera House) before tables book out.

Our list of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Sydney

cruise bar
Cruise Bar | Image: Supplied

Places to Drink During Vivid Sydney

Best Bars in Circular Quay

Hustling and bustling Circular Quay is home to a great selection of bars, and we’ve sifted through the best to remove all the tourist traps. Being only a stone’s throw from the heart of Sydney’s best bar scene in The Rocks, there are plenty of spots to choose from over this end of the harbour. If you’re looking for a quick drink, we can’t recommend the cocktails at Double Deuce Lounge enough. However, if you’re looking to escape the crowds, head down to Apollonia

Our list of the Best Bars in Circular Quay

Best Bars in The Rocks

Stepping into The Rocks is like taking a step back in time, both figuratively and literally. There’s a bar or pub on every corner, but choosing a list of the best is something of a challenge. In doing so, we’ve left off the pubs, hotels, and clubs. Instead, we’ve nailed a list of bars and lounges that specialise in cocktails, drinks, and spirits like our favourite whisky. If you’re looking for a quiet place to hang out away from the crowds during Vivid, our list of the best Bars in The Rocks has you covered.

Our list of the Best Bars in The Rocks

Best Bars in Sydney

If you’re looking further afield, check out our list of the best bars in Sydney. With plenty of knowledge about all things whisky, beer, and cocktails our team has ventured into some of the coolest, fanciest, and hard-to-find joints in the harbour city. Of course, having a few friends in the industry means we’ve been able to explore most of these bars at our own pace, basking in the atmosphere, trying the food on offer, and most importantly, the high level of mixology shown at every bar listed below.

Our list of the Best Bars in Sydney

Where to watch the vivid sydney drone show 1
These are the best places to watch the Vivid Drone Show | Image: Google Maps

Best Places to See the Vivid Sydney Drone Show

Time and date: from 9:10-9:20pm on Friday the 8th, Saturday the 9th, and Friday the 15th
Concept and direction: Gill Minervini
Drone technology: ATN
Soundtrack: Peewee Ferris

The Vivid Sydney Drone Show is back for 2024 and this year organisers are flying more than 700 drones into the sky above Circular Quay at from 9:10-9:20pm on Friday the 8th, Saturday the 9th, and Friday the 15th for a show titled ‘Love Is In The Air’. Here, the drones will showcase universal symbols of love in colours and formations with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

We’ve rounded up the best places to catch the action on our interactive Google map.

Of course, the best place to view the Vivid drone show is around Circular Quay, stretching from the grassy knoll near the Park Hyatt all the way to the Sydney Opera House. However, if you can’t make it into the heart of the action at Circular Quay (it’ll be jam-packed), we recommend viewing the drone show on any of the Vivid Sydney cruises, or even the Ferry if you can time it right.

Alternatively, the Cahill Walk Lookout vista point is another great option sitting above all the tourist mayhem down below.

Outside of the city, there are great vantage points to see the drone show from across the harbour around Milsons Point at Copes Lookout, Stanton Lookout, the City Lookout from Milsons Point, and Broughton Street Lookout. The Pylon Lookout on the Sydney Harbour Bridge offers a spectacular close-up.

Vivid Sydney FAQs

What is Vivid?

Vivid Sydney is an annual festival that celebrates creativity, innovation and technology. Owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the three-week-long event runs primarily out of the Sydney Opera House, transforming Sydney into a spectacle of colour and light.

Staged for its 14th year in 2024, Vivid Sydney sees activations and installations from the world’s brightest light artists, alongside live music performances, discussions with thought leaders, and innovative experiences from food creatives.

Over the full 23-night event, more than 3 million visitors are expected to attend, significantly bolstering the domestic economy and swelling New South Wales’ international image.

In 2023, a record 3.48 million people attended the festival from NSW, interstate and around the world, injecting a whopping $206 million into the NSW economy.

When is Vivid in 2024?

Traditionally held during the cooler months, Vivid 2024 is no exception. This year the Sydney event will run from Friday 24 May to Saturday 15 June 2024. Across these dates, the Sydney Opera House and surrounding areas will play host to several activations, installations and concerts, transforming the city into a proverbial playground of sight, sound and colour.

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