The ultimate guide to Vivid Sydney 2016

If you’re planning see this year’s Vivid, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve sourced the best spots (and installations) for you to ‘do’ Vivid like a PRO.

Every year Vivid Sydney seems to get bigger and bigger. There are more lights, more walks, more crowds (er), and more days to explore and experience this festival of light. This year, Vivid Sydney runs from 27 May to 18 June, which gives you more than enough time to pre-plan how you’ll experience this spectacle.

Pro tip: plan to visit early on in the week. 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.

What to do at Vivid Sydney 2016

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.

Behind-the-scenes Opera House tour during Vivid from Viator


  • Take an exclusive tour during the Vivid Sydney festival and learn how the iconic building transforms for the festival
  • Get restricted access to areas inside of the Opera House
  • Price is per person with upgrades to include dinner available
From AUD


View details

Vivid Sydney cruises

6pm Sunday to Thursday Cruise with Food + Drink
90-Minute Budget Vivid Cruise
2-Hour Tall Ship Vivid with Buffet and Drinks
2-Hour Cruise with Sparkling and Canapés
6.30pm Small Cruise with Canapés + Open Bar...
6pm Friday or Saturday Cruise with Food + Drink
Vivid Cruise on Glass Island with Wine
Private 6.30pm Cruise with Canapés + Open Bar...

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

Vivid Highlights


Image: Vivid Sydney

One of the most exciting additions this year, Taronga Zoo is throwing itself into the mix, with part of it's display featuring a bright multimedia display of ten giant animals from Australia and Sumatra including the Asian elephant and Corroboree frog.

As in year's past, light displays will illuminate the Sydney Opera Houses’ sails, and the façades of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and Customs House (best seen from the train platform at Circular Quay Station). Smaller displays will light up The Rocks, Millers Point, Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour.

Renderings of some of this year's displays have now been released, and here are some of the anticipated installations:

Laser Dragon Water Theatre
Where: Cockle Bay


Where: Martin Place


X Factory
Where: Chippendale

Sydney's Hidden Places
Where: Circular Quay


Sentiment Cocoon
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens


Electric Jellyfish
Where: Museum of Sydney


Vivid Sydney Maps

While the 2016 program and maps haven't been fully released yet, the maps from last year should 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. Please note, maps of the Taronga Zoo displays aren't yet available as it's a new event for this year, but we'll add it as soon as it's available.

Circular Quay, Opera House, Walsh Bay and Darling Harbour


University of Sydney




Central Park


Pyrmont and The Star Casino


Images from Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney Activities and Experiences

4-Hour Vivid Photography Workshop
Behind-the-scenes Opera House tour during Vivid
2-Hour Vivid Sydney Walking Tour
Night Photography Course
Waterfront Buffet Dinner during Vivid

Vivid food

You’ll see the stickers plastered on most of the windows along the Vivid walking path. Heaps of places are doing specials, and opening up later than usual. But only a select few are offering something vividly spectacular for your eyes and your tastebuds.

Vivid food

Opera Bar

I reckon it’s pretty fair to say that Opera Bar has the best seat in the house. It sits right below the lit up sails, and looks out toward the Harbour Bridge and Luna Park. They’ve got a pretty fun Vivid event going on, too, much like last year's Garden of Neon. This year's event however includes an illuminated ceiling, and a retro games arcade.

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.

Cafe Del Mar

Heads up party people: Darling Harbour is getting in on the lights action as well this year. One of hit pick viewpoints is Cafe Del Mar. It's the ideal place to view the Vivid light installation 'Vivid Laser Fountain Water Theatre', complete with lasers, light effects and flames. Yes, FLAMES. Polish the night off with one of its special Vivid offers: a $35 meal deal (1 course + glass of Chandon or Peroni) on the terrace.

For more info: Visit the Cafe Del Mar website

The Deep Purple Pool Hall

Probably our favourite event on the bill this year, especially for Vivid LIVE the Opera House will play host to a pop-up bar brought to you by the Tio's boys (Jeremy Blackmore and Alex Dowd, to be precise). The name of the bar will be the Deep Purple Pool Hall and the name of the game will be all kinds of 'Vivid'. The drinks menu is 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's free pool.

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

Vivid LIVE

Artists from around the world are joining the Vivid LIVE line-up this year, which sees award-winning acts perform at the Sydney Opera House during the festival. Some of this year's acts include:

  • New Order
  • Bon Iver
  • Anohni
  • Esperanza Spalding
  • Max Richter
  • Haitus Kaiyote
  • Tiny Ruins
  • Deafheaven
  • Oneohtrix Point Never


Vivid Music

Expanding even more this year, Vivid Sydney is taking the city by storm. Alongside events at venues like Newtown Social Club, Oxford Art Factory, the MCA and the Argule, the main event will be held at Eveleigh's Carriageworks. The vast space will play host to BJORK DIGITAL, a virtual reality project developed by the team of the musician, filmmakers and programmers.

Vivid Ideas

Hear ideas from influences from all walks of life, including  filmmakers and artists, as they discuss ideas with other industry leaders. Some of the speakers include House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, and Orange is the New Black writer Jenji Kohan.

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

Park Hyatt Sydney Hotels
Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotels
Pier One Sydney Harbour Hotels
Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour Hotels
Four Seasons Sydney Hotels
InterContinental Sydney Hotels

Vivid dresswear

Need something to wear to Vivid tonight? You could pull out whatever you have floating around in your wardrobe. Or, you could partake in the theme and wear one of these stunners from online fashion brand, The Iconic. They also offer three hour delivery, so you have no excuse to flaunt your neon in one of their wares. Just sayin’...

Regent Green Shirt
Lantern Skirt
Ruched Bodycon Dress

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 27 May until 18 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.

Night Photography Course from

View details

Stephanie Yip

Stephanie is a journalist, avid traveller and all-round bargain hunter. If there's an online coupon code, deal or cheap flight available, she'll know about it. And she'll let you know about it, too.

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8 Responses to The ultimate guide to Vivid Sydney 2016

  1. Default Gravatar
    Bec | May 28, 2016

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

    • Staff
      Stephanie | May 30, 2016

      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,


  2. Default Gravatar
    Mian | May 24, 2016

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

    • Staff
      Stephanie | May 25, 2016

      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,


  3. Default Gravatar
    mick | May 23, 2016

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

    • Staff
      Stephanie | May 24, 2016

      Hi Mick,

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



  4. Default Gravatar
    Gwen | May 30, 2015

    What services are available for handicapped people?

    • Staff
      Stephanie | June 1, 2015

      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!



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