Where to Eat, Play and Stay during Vivid Sydney
Where to Eat, Play and Stay during Vivid Sydney11 May 2022
As Vivid Sydney illuminates the soul of the city for 23 nights, colour your explorations by day with the harbour city’s stellar line-up of events and a wish list of wonders. From fresh flavours at Sydney’s dining stars to front-row seats at award-winning shows — here’s our guide to seeing the best of Sydney during Vivid.
Step from the colourful streets of Vivid Sydney into iconic theatres and galleries for an extra culture hit. Watch the award-winning new musical Mary Poppins at the Sydney Lyric Theatre — seen by more than 12 million people globally – or An American in Paris, a heart-warming musical about love in the world’s most romantic city. Art and nature lovers, don’t miss the 23rd Biennale of Sydney with exhibitions at various inner-city locations — in 2022, this international festival of contemporary art grtitled rīvus, curated by José Roca, delves into salt and freshwater ecosystems. For a night of belly laughs, grab a ticket to comedy season at Sydney Opera House with Let’s Laugh, featuring some of Australia’s brightest comedians.
On the harbour
Watch the morning sun illuminate the skyline on a Sydney Harbour Sunriser kayak safari with Sydney Harbour Kayaks or see the colours of the city blur as you speed across the harbour in a cutting-edge red shark boat with Oz Jet Boating.
Slow things down with a pedal past secret coves and over the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge with Sydney Harbour Bike Tours or rise up for a bird’s-eye view of beautiful Sydney on a flight with Sydney Seaplanes. To learn the fascinating convict tales of the city, catch a ferry across to Cockatoo Island – it operated as a penal establishment from 1839-1869 – and take one of their memorable tours. For more insight into Sydney’s colonial past and a taste of local beers in some of The Rocks historic pubs, head off on one of Dave’s Pub Tours. The Rocks Aboriginal Dreaming Tour, by Southern X, will show you another side of Sydney’s history – of the Gadigal people, and how their culture originated from the land.
As the sun sets, be mesmerised by Vivid Sydney’s lights reflecting across the water with a 60-minute evening cruise of the harbour with Fantasea or see brilliance from above as you scale to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in time to watch Lights On, when Vivid Sydney bursts into life at 6pm. The Vivid Climb runs from Thursday to Monday during the festival. On the ground, learn how to capture the beautiful Vivid Sydney lights with a Vivid Photography Walking Tour with Picture Me Sydney.
Cheer on your team at some thrilling sporting events in Sydney. See history in the making as FC Barcelona travels to Sydney for the first time, to play the A-League All Stars team in a friendly on 25 May. Spend the day on the race track for Round three of Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships on 27–29 May at Sydney Motorsport Park. And watch all the action at the always nail-biting State of Origin – Game One is on 8 June at Accor Stadium – go the Blues!
Feed your soul
Sydney’s dining and bar scene is as vibrant as the festival’s lights. Get inspired with these local favourites near (or inside) each Vivid Sydney location.
Bel & Brio has a little bit of everything: coffee, picnic-friendly takeaway, wine and produce. At Lotus Dining, try the delightful dumplings at this modern Chinese eatery. This waterfront restaurant has a seafood focused menu and is an excellent option for big groups. If you’re dining with kids, head straight to Zushi, which has an extensive kid’s menu, including a bento box from which they can pick and choose.
Sydney chef Kylie Kwong has redefined what modern Australian food is; Lucky Kwong, her casual Cantonese eatery at nearby South Eveleigh, offers local produce and native ingredients served in unexpected ways. Nearby is Re, a revolutionary no-waste bar solving food waste with innovative cocktails.
Central Station and The Goods Line
The Rover is a sophisticated cocktail bar with an upmarket British tavern feel and a focus on oysters and whisky, as well as organic and biodynamic wine. For something a little different, Butter offers quirky combo of fried chicken, Champagne and hip-hop. For a quick, inexpensive plate of noodles (or try the famous braised eggplant), Chinese Noodle House in nearby Haymarket is a winner.
If you end the night in Circular Quay, Gateway Sydney is a good place to start, a vibrant precinct with more than 30 casual eateries covering all types of cuisine. Or Hinchcliff House serves upper-crust comfort food inside a heritage wool store. Mary’s Underground offers lobster and steak frites and is also the unofficial Vivid Sydney festival supper club – with a variety of late-night shows on Fridays and Saturdays during the festival. For dinner under the Sydney Opera House sails, it’s hard to imagine a more iconic spot than Opera Bar.
Step back in time for a G&T inside Frank Mac’s, with 1840s sandstone walls and charming table service. Take your kids to Pancakes on The Rocks for an Americana take on the classic pancake, which is open 24 hours. For something special, Bay Nine is an omakase Japanese restaurant, with a daily changing menu of 11 courses served by an acclaimed chef.
Darling Harbour and Darling Quarter
Fratelli Fresh offers fresh, fast, family-friendly pizza and pasta – what's not to love? If you are after a date-night option, Atelier by Sofitel is an elegant space serving fresh seafood from NSW and Champagne from France. Darling Square is a buzzing precinct for Asian deliciousness: dumplings, noodles, bubble tea and dessert.
Offering four venues in one, Shell House brings Art Deco decadence and a luxe place to celebrate your Vivid Sydney night out – finish your evening with a drink at their rooftop bar. South-East Asian flavours come to party at MuMu, the latest restaurant to grace the always-pumping Ivy precinct. For a smorgasbord of affordable eating, choose from Vietnamese, Egyptian, sushi, dumplings and more at the Westfield Sydney food court.
Vivid Dreams: Where to Stay
A comfortable place to put up your feet after a night exploring is essential during Vivid Sydney, and the city has a room for everyone. Here are a few ideas:
Sydney does luxury well, with a slew of new hotels opening in the last few months. Located in the heart of the CBD, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth has reopened its doors after a stunning refurbishment, to offer five-star luxury in the city, while the new Kimpton Margot Sydney fuses Art Deco ambience with modern luxe, with a glamorous rooftop bar and pool. Crown Sydney is a prime spot to access the Light Walk in Barangaroo and Darling Harbour, and for twinkling harbour panoramas and full views of the Vivid Sydney lights, waterfront Park Hyatt or Shangri-La at The Rocks can’t be beat.
There’s plenty of accommodation options that have what you need if travelling with little ones. The Novotel Sydney Darling Harbour makes the perfect base to explore the lights along the waterfront, as well as being conveniently located to many family-friendly food options. Rydges Sydney Central is sleek, modern and right near Central Station. Head across the bridge and settle in for a slumber party with the animals at Taronga Zoo – their wildlife safari tents look out on the illuminated Sydney Harbour.
After you’ve sparked your creativity exploring the festival, rest your inspired head at one of Sydney’s many designer-driven boutique hotels: Ace Hotel Sydney brings the Palm Springs brand’s artistic flair to the harbour city; Paramount House Hotel offers 29 unique rooms; or take a dip in The Old Clare Hotel’s luxurious rooftop pool. If waterfront is what you seek, check into one of Hotel Palisade’s eight guestrooms (some featuring Bridge views) or get even closer to the icon at Pier One Sydney.