Vivid Sydney

The Ultimate Guide

We've sourced the best spots (and installations) for you to ‘do’ Vivid right.

Planning your Vivid Sydney visit well in advance? You've come to the right place.

Every year Vivid Sydney seems to get bigger and bigger. There are more lights, more walks, more crowds (erm...), and more days to explore and experience this festival of light.

2018 is Vivid Sydney's 10th year anniversary and with it comes three weeks of spectacular light display. It runs from 25 May - 16 June 2018 and includes displays on icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Customs House.

Pro tip: Plan to visit early on in the week and avoid weekends. Seems logical, seeing as they’re the working days, but we do tend to forget these things, so here’s your hint hint and your nudge nudge. You’ll avoid most of the crowds, and there’s a greater chance you’ll get to have that installation all to yourself. Vivid Cruises also tend to be cheaper on weekday evenings and depart after the workday is done.

What to do at Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney cruises

See Vivid from a whole different perspective by hitting the Harbour. Cruises tend to be inexpensive starting at less than $20 per person and usually include a drink or food.

Most leave from Darling Harbour/King Street Wharf and pass under the Harbour Bridge toward the Opera House, letting you see some of the event's best illuminations up close.

Vivid festival cruise with Go Whale Watching

Vivid festival cruise with Go Whale Watching from Groupon

Enjoy the scenic and 360 panoramic views of Sydney’s illuminated buildings and landmarks

  • Departure point: King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 1 hour
  • Food/Drink included: Choice of beer, soft drinks and wine.
From AUD

$19

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Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Supercat

Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Supercat from Groupon

Escape the mob by boarding Sydney Supercat and taking in the sights and sounds of Vivid in comfort and style on Sydney Harbour.

  • Departure point: Sydney Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 2 hours
  • Food/Drink included: Choose from sparkling wine or beer, additional $6 for the buffet dinner.
From AUD

$19

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Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Pearl Cruises

Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Pearl Cruises from Groupon

Watch in awe as Sydney is transformed into a city of colour and light during Vivid Festival and enjoy prime position from a 20-meter long, three-level catamaran.

  • Departure point: Sydney Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 2 hours
  • Food/Drink included: Sparkling wine cocktail upon arrival and canapés.
From AUD

$29

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Vivid festival cruise with champagne cocktail

Vivid festival cruise with champagne cocktail from Scoopon

Soak up the sights and sounds of Sydney’s Vivid Festival on a fabulous floating nightclub also known as Sydney Pearl Cruise!

  • Departure point: Darling Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 2 hours
  • Food/Drink included: Choice of champagne or soft drinks upon arrival and canapés.
From AUD

$29

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Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Glass Island

Vivid festival cruise with Sydney Glass Island from Groupon

Indulge in the sights and sounds of the 2018 Vivid Festival with a spectacular cruise aboard the Sydney Glass Island cruise vessel.

  • Departure point: King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Food/Drink included: Glass of wine upon arrival and standing dinner buffet.
From AUD

$39

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Vivid festival harbour cruise with standing buffet

Vivid festival harbour cruise with standing buffet from LivingSocial

Experience the sights and sounds of Vivid Festival 2018 with a spectacular cruise aboard the gorgeous Sydney Glass Island cruising vessel.

  • Departure point: King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Food/Drink included: Drinks upon arrival and standing buffet.
From AUD

$39

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Vivid lights Sydney Harbour cruise

Vivid lights Sydney Harbour cruise from Viator

Take in unobstructed views of the light shows at VIVID Sydney, one of Australia’s favorite annual arts festivals and admire mesmerizing light projections displayed on the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

  • Departure point: Darling Harbour
  • Length of Cruise: 1 hour
  • Food/Drink included: Choice of glass of wine, beer or soft drinks and buffet dinner.
From AUD

$42

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Vivid festival cruise with buffet dinner

Vivid festival cruise with buffet dinner from Groupon

Watch over 50 buildings and landmarks come to life with colourful light effects and 3D designs for over two hours.

  • Departure point: Guests will be picked up, location is subject to change.
  • Length of Cruise: 2 hours
  • Food/Drink included: Choice of beer, wine or soft drink upon arrival and enjoy dinner buffet menu from roasted chicken to pasta with pancetta and mushrooms.
From AUD

$42

View details

Find more Vivid Sydney cruises and book other activities to do during the festival

Vivid as you've never experienced it before

Vivid only comes around once a year, and honestly, how often will you see the city glowing like the emerald city on steroids? #onceinabluemoon. My suggestion? Make the most of this festival by turning it into a memorable event for you and your loved one with one of these experiences.

BridgeClimb Sydney during Vivid

BridgeClimb Sydney during Vivid from Adrenaline

Highlights:

  • Experience Vivid like never before with a Sydney Harbour Bridge BridgeClimb while the lights are on.
  • Boogie on a 70s-style disco floor on the top of the Harbour Bridge
  • Includes a souvenir photograph
From AUD

$253 (adult)

View details

Vivid Displays

This year Luna Park and Government House make their Vivid debuts. Of the standard locations, the Sydney Opera House's Lighting of the Sails remains a perennial favourite and a must-see on your journey through this festival of light. This year's display is called Metamathemagical and is the brainchild of Aussie artist Jonathan Zawada.

Image: Vivid Sydney

Custom House's bespoke display is also not one to miss, inspired by Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, which turns a century old.

And in celebration of a decade of Vivid, you can also tuck into the making of the 10th birthday cake, which is was created in conjunction with Masterchef and will be detailed on the ASN Co. Building in The Rocks.

Smaller displays shall also light up The Rocks, Millers Point, Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour. More recent newcomers, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo will once again join the Vivid party.

Our Vivid precinct guide can help you plan your journey through the festival.

The Spirit of Fun
Where: Luna Park

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie
Where: Customs House

Ball Pit
Where: The Rocks

The Bower
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens

Mystery Gateau
Where: The Rocks

Synergy
Where: Circular Quay



Vivid Sydney Maps

This year's official maps have yet to be released however here's a sample from last year which can give you an idea of where most of the Vivid displays will be. Simply click on the area you'd like to visit below and the section will expand into a map.

Images from Vivid Sydney

Vivid LIVE and Vivid Music

Artists from around the world joined the Vivid LIVE line-up, with award-winning acts performing at the Sydney Opera House, City Recital Hall and Carriageworks during the festival. Some of this year's scheduled acts include:

  • Solange
  • Ice Cube
  • St Vincent
  • Orange is the New Black's Big Boo Lea Delaria
  • Mazzy Star
  • Cat Power
  • Kurt Elling
  • Goldheist

Image: Vivid Sydney

Orange Is The New Black's Big Boo: Lea Delaria
Orange Is The New Black's Big Boo: Lea Delaria

Ticketmaster

Game Changers & Creative Catalysts: James Cameron
Game Changers & Creative Catalysts: James Cameron

Ticketmaster


Vivid Sydney Activities and Experiences


Vivid Ideas

Hear ideas from influences from all walks of life, including filmmakers and artists, as they discuss ideas with other industry leaders. Key events included Game Changer: James Cameron, IQ2 #MeToo and Game Changer: Jane McGonigal and Kriti Sharma.


Vivid food

All along the Vivid walks, restaurants offer specials to lure in visitors. While heaps of places offer doing specials and remain open later than usual, only a select few are offering something vividly spectacular for your eyes and your tastebuds.

2-Course Steakhouse Dinner with Wine and Vivid Cocktails

2-Course Steakhouse Dinner with Wine and Vivid Cocktails from RedBalloon

Get ready to experience a culinary journey like never before!

Highlights:

  • Mouth-watering selection of premium meat cuts
  • Vivid-themed cocktail for each person
From AUD

$149

View details
Vivid Sydney Japanese Fusion Dinner with Cocktails

Vivid Sydney Japanese Fusion Dinner with Cocktails from RedBalloon

Indulge in a set menu with your fave foodie partner against the backdrop of Vivid Sydney lights in Darling Harbour.
Highlights:

  • Vivid Sydney themed set dinner for two.
  • Cocktails and dessert included.
From AUD

$199.90

View details
2-Course Meal with Wine and Vivid Cocktails

2-Course Meal with Wine and Vivid Cocktails from RedBalloon

Sit down to an indulgent spread of coal-roasted meats and delicious sides at Sydney's Hunter and Barrel.
Highlights:

  • Enjoy succulent, coal-roasted meat and delicious sides.
  • Vivid-themed cocktails on arrival.
From AUD

$95

View details

Here were our top picks for the 2018 event:

Vivid food

Opera Bar

We reckon it's pretty fair to say that Opera Bar has the best seats in the house. It sits right below the lit up sails, and looks out toward the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park. The bar always showcases something fun, neon and bright to coincide with Vivid Festival and while this year's spectacular is still hush-hush last year's saw the venue transform into a Garden of Neon complete with illuminated ceiling and a retro games arcade. This year we're holding out for something similar.

For more info: Visit the Opera Bar website

Expert tip: For those looking to maximise the experience, but keep the cost down, there are food trucks galore hanging in the Opera House forecourt. Grab something cheap and on-the-go, to make the most of your evening out.


The American Express Lounge

New to the festival, American Express holders get a VIP pass into one of the most relaxing spaces in the heart of the action. Simply flash your card at the Cruise Bar rooftop on level 3 of the Overseas Passenger Terminal and you'll be ushered into a world of panoramic harbour views and complimentary nibbles. Open every night of Vivid from 5:30pm-10:30pm.

For more info: Visit the American Express Invites Lounge


Cafe Del Mar

Heads up party people: Darling Harbour is gets in on the lights action too. One of best viewpoints is Cafe Del Mar. It's the ideal place to view the installations over the water and to see the facades of Darling Harbour's towering hotels all lit up. It often hosts special Vivid meal and drinks deals on the terrace. Even if it doesn't this year, the terrace is still the place to be.

For more info: Visit the Cafe Del Mar website


The Deep Purple Pool Hall

Probably our favourite event on the bill, the Opera House is notorious for hosting pop up bars during the festival. Last year's bar was the Deep Purple Pool Hall and the name of the game was be all kinds of "Vivid". The drinks menu was drowned in "downtown favourites" including a Clementine Highball (Glenmorangie Orange Mandarin Soda, Lemon and Thyme), Negroni, Old Fashion and a Pickled (Jameson, Pickle) and , as you've likely guessed, there was free pool.

Stay tuned for this year's party.

For more info: Visit The Sydney Opera House website


Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf

Venture beyond the city and Circular Quay and over to the finger wharves. You'll pass quite a number of installations as you wander down one of the many Vivid Trails, but from this more quiet spot of the show you can view the Vivid boats as they sail by, cocktail (or wine) in hand.

For more info: Visit The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf's website


Where to stay during Vivid Sydney

Are you visiting Sydney just to see the Vivid lights? (We don’t blame you). Or, perhaps you want to avoid the madness that is Sydney transport by making the CBD your home base for the evening? Whatever your reasons, there are some beautiful hotels in the city you can check into to make seeing the Vivid lights that much more enjoyable.

They also have some kickass views of the lights, too. #winning

Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour
Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour

finder.com.au Hotels


What do I need to know about Vivid Sydney?

Is Vivid Sydney free?

Yes, Vivid Sydney's displays are completely free to access. However, if you'd like to join a cruise or bridge climb, then you'll need to pay for admission to those attractions.

What time does Vivid sydney start?

The Vivid Sydney light displays will be turned on at 6pm each night during the festival.

How does Vivid Sydney work?

Being a free event throughout Circular Quay, The Rocks, Martin Place, Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour (with smaller displays in other parts of the city), Vivid is like a giant open-air gallery. It's a free event where you can walk around and check out light-based displays and illuminations created by a range of artists. There are guides available and each attraction is signposted and explains what it is you're looking at and who created it.

Are there many Vivid Sydney road closures?

Many roads leading toward Circular Quay and The Rocks will be closed or restricted during the event. Given those limitations, and the road closures along George Street, it's recommended to take public transport to Vivid. There will be an extra 3,500 public transport services available during the event, and the ferries will be illuminated each night from 6pm.

How long does Vivid Sydney go for?

While it's usually an 18-day event, this year the festival will be running for 23 days, from 26 May until 17 June.

When did Vivid Sydney start?

Vivid Sydney has been lighting up the Sydney foreshore since 2009. It began as a light festival promoting energy efficiency with light paintings displayed on the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Can I do a Vivid Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb?

Yes! The twilight and night-time Bridge Climbs are available during Vivid and offer panoramic views of the harbour displays.

Do you have any tips on how to photograph Vivid Sydney?

If night photography isn't your forte, consider joining a night photography class prior to the festival, or even during the festival to try and capture the best images.

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16 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    KathyDecember 27, 2017

    I am seeking information about Vivid 2018. Can you please direct me to the relevant information. Dates, Taronga Zoo details etc. Thank you,

    • Staff
      JoanneDecember 27, 2017Staff

      Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      While it’s usually an 18-day event, this year the festival will be running for 23 days, from 26 May until 17 June.

      The Vivid Sydney Taronga Zoo comes with a picture-perfect views of the harbour and a menagerie of animals, Taronga Zoo had all the makings of a memorable Vivid Sydney experience. Its theme for the event was of course animals, with larger-than-life luminescent sculptures, conservation talks and interactive displays. It is also called Lights for the Wild, it was a ticketed event with only two sessions per day at 5:30pm and 7:30pm.

      Our Vivid precinct guide can help you plan your journey through the festival.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

  2. Default Gravatar
    KylieJune 2, 2017

    I am arranging a bus from the Hunter Valley. Some of my travellers are going on a dinner cruise on Darling Harbour while the others are going to walk around. Can you please advise the best place that our bus driver can drop those who are walking round. and pickup those walking round. Want them to get to see as much as they can. thankyou

    • Staff
      MayJune 2, 2017Staff

      Hi Kylie,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      There are lots of the installations in Circular Quay, so this may be the best place to get dropped off for those who are walking.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    HaydenMay 26, 2017

    Are there more or less Train and bus services from Blacktown?

    • Staff
      RenchMay 29, 2017Staff

      Hi Hayden,

      Thanks for reaching out to us.

      Sydney has a vast network of trains and buses across the city. You can view Sydney Trains, Ferries and Buses network maps on this page and has further information in public transports.

      Hope this helps. Have a safe journey!

      Cheers,
      Rench

  4. Default Gravatar
    kellyMay 21, 2017

    Looking for the best place to dine and see the lights.

    • Staff
      HaroldMay 22, 2017Staff

      Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      If you are looking for a place to eat at the right spot. Typically, those around The Rocks generally do extend their kitchen hours during the event. You may want to consider the available option/s here.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  5. Default Gravatar
    BecMay 28, 2016

    Are normal shops open later than usual during vivid? e.g Dymocks, clothes shops etc

    • Staff
      StephanieMay 30, 2016Staff

      Hi Bec,

      Generally retail shops will not extend their hours due to Vivid. However restaurants and cafes, particularly those around The Rocks generally do extend their kitchen hours during the event.

      Hope that helps,

      Stephanie

  6. Default Gravatar
    MianMay 24, 2016

    Will one hour cruise cover the laser light & fountain show and fireworks in darling harbour?

    • Staff
      StephanieMay 25, 2016Staff

      Hi Mian,

      Thanks for your question.

      Due to safety issues, Vivid cruises will not include the laser light, fountain shows and fireworks displays as they are all over water.

      If you wish to see these displays, you will need to disembark and watch these from land-based vantage points.

      Hope that helps,

      Stephanie

  7. Default Gravatar
    mickMay 23, 2016

    What is a “must see/do at vivid” this year??

    • Staff
      StephanieMay 24, 2016Staff

      Hi Mick,

      Please see the article above for highlights at this year’s Vivid.

      Regards,

      Stephanie

  8. Default Gravatar
    GwenMay 30, 2015

    What services are available for handicapped people?

    • Staff
      StephanieJune 1, 2015Staff

      Hi Gwen,

      Thanks for your question!

      Vivid is committed to delivering an inclusive and accessible event for all and have provided many streams to ensure that all who wish to attend the event may experience it to the fullest.

      In terms of transport, there are accessible train stations, bus routes, parking and drop off/pick up locations throughout each precinct. Unfortunately, as certain precincts – such as The Rocks – are historical, there may be limitations to mobile accessibility. However, Vivid has provided an accessibility map of the area to help guide anyone with mobile disabilities through.

      For the vision impaired, there is a ‘Text to Talk’ option, which allows you to listen to a description of each light installation using your screen reader or smartphone. These are available on the Vivid website, where you will also find further information on accessibility.

      I hope this helps and I hope you enjoy the event!

      Cheers,

      Stephanie

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