Vivid Sydney

The Ultimate Guide

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

Planning your Vivid Sydney visit? 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 2019 festival is Vivid Sydney's 11th year anniversary and with it comes three weeks of spectacular light displays. It'll run from 24 May - 15 June 2019 and includes displays on icons such as the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Customs House.

Pro tip: Plan to visit early 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 the worst of the crowds, and there's a greater chance you'll 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 start at under $20 per person and usually include a drink or food.

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

Here are some of the cruises that you can book as early as now.

Vivid Cruises on Bundeena

Vivid Cruises on Bundeena from AnyBoat

  • 1-hour cruise
  • Includes one free drink
  • Price per person: $29

View details
Sydney Harbour intimate cruise

Sydney Harbour intimate cruise from Viator

  • 1.5-hour cruise
  • Includes sandwich and wrap platter, one cold non-alcoholic beverage and can BYO drinks
  • Price per person: $34

View details
Vivid cruise

Vivid cruise from Experience Oz

  • 2-hour cruise
  • Includes standing buffet dinner, one beer, wine or soft drink
  • Price per person: $55

View details
Vivid Sydney cruise

Vivid Sydney cruise from Viator

  • 2-hour cruise
  • Includes buffet dinner and welcome drink
  • Price per person: $55

View details
Sydney Harbour Tall Ship Vivid cruise

Sydney Harbour Tall Ship Vivid cruise from Viator

  • 1.5-hour cruise
  • Includes meal and drinks
  • Price per person: $79

View details

Vivid Displays

Last year Luna Park made its Vivid debut and this year the precinct makes a stunning return with its light-laced ferris wheel and unique views of the bridge and its lights.

Of the standard locations, the Sydney Opera House's Lighting of the Sails remains a perennial favourite and is a must-see on any journey through this festival of light. This year it's designed by Chinese-America artist Andrew Thomas Huang and animation design team Bemo.

Here are the 2019 highlights we're especially excited about:

Picture not described: Austral-Floral-Ballet-Andrew-Thomas-Huang-Bemo-300.jpg Image: Getty

Image: Vivid Sydney 2019

Custom House gets a watery makeover Under the Harbour where neon sea creatures swim through botanical wonderlands in a spectacular feast for the eyes.

The Museum of Contemporary Art pays tribute to its artist's (Claudia Nicholson) home country of Colombia. It's gritty, emotional and romantic all at once.

A real highlight this year can be found in The Rocks at the Argyle Cut. A Pixar debut, it's a childhood dream that details the history of the technical evolution of animation and is projected onto the tunnel rooftop. The road will be closed throughout Vivid so you can lie on the floor to see it all.

The Royal Botanic Gardens will tower over the rest with its slew of larger-than-life displays. This includes an engineering feat of 500 fireflies, a satellite that responds to the lights and sounds of space and dancing blades of grass that reach up to 4.5 metres tall and is bound to be an Instagram success according to Vivid Lights curator Lucy Keeler.

If you're bringing the kids, Keeler suggests heading to Darling Harbour to meet Robot SPACELand. It's a five-storey high eco-bot made of found objects that is destined to mesmerise and delight.

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

Picture not described: Vivid-Image-_0012_Image11110-300.jpg Image: Getty

Under the Harbour @ Customs House

Picture not described: vivid-fireflies-field-1900-900-300.jpg Image: Getty

Firefly Field @ The Royal Botanic Gardens

Picture not described: Pixar_Argyle_Cut_1900x900_A-300.jpg Image: Getty

Argyle Cut by Pixar Animation Studios @ The Rocks
Image © Disney/Pixar

Picture not described: KA3233_Night-300.jpg Image: Getty

KA3323 @ The Royal Botanic Gardens

Picture not described: darling-harbour_render-1900x900px-300.jpg Image: Getty

Robot SPACELand @ Barangaroo

Picture not described: dancing-grass-300.jpg Image: Getty

Dancing Grass @ The Royal Botanic Gardens


Vivid Sydney Maps

Images from Vivid Sydney

Vivid LIVE and Vivid Music

Artists from around the world join the Vivid LIVE line-up each and every year with performances being held at the Sydney Opera House, City Recital Hall, Carriageworks and smaller venues around the city and inner city.

Confirmed to be on the 2019 line-up at the Sydney Opera House is The Cure for its 30th anniversary of Disintegration, Maggie Rogers, Underworld and Herbie Hancock.

Carriageworks is set to welcome FKA twigs, Rūfüs Du Sol and Curve Ball while the City Recital Hall will host performances by Kate Miller-Heidke and Paul Kelly.

Tickets are on sale now.

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 last 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. Stay tuned for this year's activities as they are confirmed.


Vivid Ideas

Influences from all walks of life, including filmmakers and artists, discuss ideas with other industry leaders. The big name and talk on everyone's list is with Hollywood's Spike Lee. As part of the Game Changer series, he'll be discussing issues of race in the media, and movie making. Other key speakers are Esther Perel, Sebastian Smee and Jocelyn Brewer.


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.

This year's offerings have yet to be revealed. But to get you salivating, here's what we loved last year.

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

Now in its third year at the festival, American Express holders will again nab a VIP pass to one of the most relaxing spaces in the heart of the action. All you need to do is 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. It is open every night of Vivid from 5.30-10.30pm.

For more info: Visit the American Express Invites Lounge


The Royal Botanic Gardens

On a date? Looking to romance it up? The place to be is The Royal Botanic Gardens. Last year it offered a culinary world inspired by the botanics that surround. That is, plant-based meals, cocktails in lightbulbs and a cupcake ATM awaited hungry stomachs. We're expecting this and so-much more in 2019.

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?

The festival runs 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

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24 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    lrizunJanuary 14, 2019

    Do we have dates yet for 2019 vivid. Any idea if the event is happening or not or when the dates will be out?

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniJanuary 15, 2019Staff

      Hi Irizum,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      The dates for Vivid Sydney 2019 have not been released as of this writing. You may visit Vivid Sydney’s official page and sign up to My Vivid to get more info on this.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  2. Default Gravatar
    MaryJanuary 14, 2019

    Has the date been set for this years vivid event? I am trying to plan a visit to Sydney in May and keen to know the dates so I can book flights from NZ.

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniJanuary 15, 2019Staff

      Hi Mary,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      The dates for Vivid Sydney 2019 have not been released as of this writing. Vivid Sydney was held on 25 May 2018 – 16 Jun 2018 and on 26 May 2017 – 17 June 2017.

      You may visit Vivid Sydney’s official page and sign up to My Vivid to get more info on this.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

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