Vivid Sydney 2020: The ultimate guide | Finder

The Ultimate Guide to Vivid Sydney 2021

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

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Vivid 2021 update

Vivid will be going ahead this year from 6 - 28 August 2021. We'll update this page with more information as it becomes available.

What to do at Vivid Sydney

Latest news about Vivid Sydney

What to expect from Vivid Sydney

Here's what we saw at Vivid last year.

Vivid displays

This year's displays have yet to be announced. However to give you an idea of what to expect last year Vivid placed a massive focus on quality over quantity delivering larger than life installations including a custom one-off projection of Pixar's flicks at the Argyle Cut.

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. As is the projection on Customs House outside Circular Quay station.

Here are some of the highlights from 2019:

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.

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

Under the Harbour @ Customs House

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Firefly Field @ The Royal Botanic Gardens

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

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KA3323 @ The Royal Botanic Gardens

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Robot SPACELand @ Barangaroo

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Dancing Grass @ The Royal Botanic Gardens

Vivid Sydney Maps

While 2020's Vivid Sydney installations are yet to be confirmed, here's where you'll typically find the displays.

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.

In 2019 the line up at the Sydney Opera House included The Cure, Maggie Rogers, Underworld and Herbie Hancock.

Stay tuned for 2020's line-up.

Image: Vivid Sydney

Vivid Ideas

Influences from all walks of life, including filmmakers and artists, discuss ideas with other industry leaders. Big names that have come and gone include Spike Lee, 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.

Here were our top picks from the 2019 event:

Opera Bar for Vivid 2019 Image: Supplied

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 a trio of colourful cocktails, live music and good vibes overall.

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 fourth 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 Lounge

The Royal Botanic Gardens

On a date? Looking to romance it up? The place to be is The Royal Botanic Gardens. Enclosed from the big city by the gardens and surrounded by the lights of Vivid's finest installations, it's a setting that's sure to make your date swoon.

For more info: Vivid Sydney


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.

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

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.

More guides on Finder

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26 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    ChristineMarch 26, 2019

    best parking for Darling Harbour view?

      Default Gravatar
      NikkiMarch 27, 2019

      Hi Christine,

      Thanks for getting in touch! As of this time, our page doesn’t show parking spaces for the Darling Harbour view. You can definitely find information on this by searching “parking spaces for Darling Harbor view” on your preferred search engines.

      Hope this clarifies.


    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?

      Avatarfinder 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!


    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.

      Avatarfinder 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!


    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?

      Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JhezJuly 31, 2018Staff

      Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for your comment.

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


    Default Gravatar
    leoneMay 26, 2018

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

      Avatarfinder 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!


    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,

      Avatarfinder 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.


    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

      Avatarfinder 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.


    Default Gravatar
    HaydenMay 26, 2017

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

      Avatarfinder 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!


    Default Gravatar
    kellyMay 21, 2017

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

      Avatarfinder 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 various Sydney destinations for more options.

      I hope this information has helped.


    Default Gravatar
    BecMay 28, 2016

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

      Avatarfinder 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,


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