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.

The 2018 festival was Vivid Sydney's 10th year anniversary and with it came with three weeks of spectacular light displays. It ran from 25 May - 16 June 2018 and includes displays on icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Customs House. While the 2019 dates haven't been announced yet, each year's festival falls within a couple days of the previous year's dates.

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.

Once the 2019 cruises go on sale, we'll be updating this space so you can lock in your tickets as early as possible to get on the best boat on your preferred date.

For the meantime, you can check out the cruises below:

Clearview glass boat dinner cruise

Clearview glass boat dinner cruise from RedBalloon

  • 2.5-hour cruise
  • Includes canapes, drinks and 3-course dinner
  • Price per person
From AUD

$150

View details
Dinner and dancing cruise for two

Dinner and dancing cruise for two from RedBalloon

  • Includes 3-course dinner and wine
  • Price is for two
From AUD

$438

View details
Sydney Harbour dinner cruise

Sydney Harbour dinner cruise from RedBalloon

  • 3-hour cruies
  • Includes dinner buffet and 3 alcoholic beverages
  • Price per person
From AUD

$125

View details

Vivid Displays

This year Luna Park and Government House made their Vivid debuts. Of the standard locations, the Sydney Opera House's Lighting of the Sails remained a perennial favourite and was a must-see on any journey through this festival of light. The 2018 display was called Metamathemagical and is the brainchild of Aussie artist Jonathan Zawada.

Here are some of the 2018 display highlights:

Image: Vivid Sydney

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

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

Smaller displays shall a lit up The Rocks, Millers Point, Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour. More recent newcomers, Chatswood and Taronga Zoo joined the Vivid party.

Our Vivid precinct guide can help you plan a 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

Lights for the Wild
Where: Taronga Zoo



Vivid Sydney Maps

While the displays change locations slightly each year, you can pre-organise your Vivid night out easily with these precinct maps from the 2018 festival for a rough idea of what the next one will have in store.

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 included:

  • 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


Vivid Sydney Activities and Experiences

If you're looking for a more unique way to experience the Vivid light displays than walking around or taking on a cruise, you're in luck.

Each year more and more options open up, and this year went all out. From dance parties atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge to motorcycle side car tours of the city, there was a host of Vivid-themed activities to do during the festival.


Vivid Ideas

Influences from all walks of life, including filmmakers and artists, discussed 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 offered specials to lure in visitors. While heaps of places offered specials and remained open later than usual, only a select few were offering something vividly spectacular for your eyes and your tastebuds.

Here were our top picks for the 2018 event:

Opera Bar

We reckon it's pretty fair to say that Opera Bar had 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.

For more info: Visit the Opera Bar website

Expert tip: For those looking to maximise the experience, but keep the cost down, there are often 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 got a VIP pass into one of the most relaxing spaces in the heart of the action. All you needed to do was simply flash your card at the Cruise Bar rooftop on level 3 of the Overseas Passenger Terminal and you'd be ushered into a world of panoramic harbour views and complimentary nibbles. It was open every night of Vivid from 5:30pm-10:30pm.

For more info: Visit the American Express Invites Lounge


Royal Botanic Gardens

Martin Place might be saying goodbye to its food stalls this year but take a step in the right direction (that is, toward the Royal Botanic Gardens, although technically left down Macquarie Street from Martin Place) and you'd enter a culinary world inspired by the botanics that surround. Plant-based meals, cocktails in lightbulbs and a cupcake ATM awaited hungry stomachs.

For more info: Vivid Sydney


Barangaroo

The Barangaroo precinct was already a magnet for foodies with its array of high-end restaurants and crowd favourites. Add Vivid into the mix and you never know what to expect. Colourful cocktails? Neon desserts? The sky's the limit.

For more info: The Streets of Barangaroo


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, Barangaroo 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 throughout the city, it's recommended to take public transport to Vivid. There will be increased 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 late-May until mid-June..

When did Vivid Sydney start?

Vivid Sydney has been lighting up the Sydney foreshore since 2008. 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.

Night Photography Course

Night Photography Course from finder.com

Perfect your nighttime photography skills and use the brilliantly coloured Vivid displays as your inspiration.This three-hour lesson meets in The Rocks at 5:30pm each Friday and will help you master composition, shoot in manual mode, control ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

View details

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.

20 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MichelleJuly 31, 2018

    By subscribing to the Finder newsletter, will I be updated (via the newsletter) once the 2019 dates are released, please?

    • finder Customer Care
      JhezelynJuly 31, 2018Staff

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for your comment.

      You’ll definitely be updated when you sign up to our newsletter. You’ll be notified via email the latest deals across shopping, money, tech and more.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

  2. Default Gravatar
    May 26, 2018

    Will there be extra train services on the South Coastline to Wollongong?

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniMay 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Leone,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Trains on most lines to city circle stations run frequently on weekdays and every 10 to 15 minutes on weekends.

      Extra services will run on the weekends to help large crowds get to and from the city and between the Vivid Sydney precincts.

      On Fridays additional late night trains will run on the T2 Inner West & Leppington Line. On weekends, additional services will run on the T2 Inner West & Leppington Line and the T8 Airport & South Line.

      For more info on Vivid Sydney 2018’s transport services, please visit this page.

      I hope this helps.

      Have a great day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  3. 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,

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  4. 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

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  5. Default Gravatar
    HaydenMay 26, 2017

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

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  6. Default Gravatar
    kellyMay 21, 2017

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

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  7. Default Gravatar
    BecMay 28, 2016

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

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  8. Default Gravatar
    MianMay 24, 2016

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

    • finder Customer Care
      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

  9. Default Gravatar
    mickMay 23, 2016

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

    • finder Customer Care
      StephanieMay 24, 2016Staff

      Hi Mick,

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

      Regards,

      Stephanie

  10. Default Gravatar
    GwenMay 30, 2015

    What services are available for handicapped people?

    • finder Customer Care
      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

Ask a question
Go to site