Where to Eat, Play and Stay during Vivid Sydney

Submitted by Vivid Sydney

30 Apr 2024
A person in the pool viewing Vivid Sydney

Every year the harbour city is transformed into a vibrant hub of creativity, innovation and community connection for Vivid Sydney.

Our Light, Music, Ideas and Food programs present dazzling installations and projections, bold new flavours, world-class music, and perspective-expanding ideas and experiences, all exploring this year’s festival theme of ‘Humanity’.

There’s something for everyone across the 23 nights, so start planning your adventure now with our insider's guide of where to eat, stay and play during the festival.

Feed your curiosity: Where to eat

Sydney’s dining and bar scene is as vibrant as the festival's lights. Get inspired with these local favourites or check out our Ultimate Vivid Sydney Dining and Entertainment Guide

Barangaroo

For top-notch sustainable and local seafood, look no further than Love.Fish, with its excellent Australian wine list and outdoor seating along the wharf. Or for Sydney’s best fried chicken, there’s none other than Belles Hot Chicken. While there, be sure to wash down your crispy, succulent Nashville-style chicken with a whisky and plum kombucha slushie.  

Sydney is known its sheer diversity of available cuisines – Ume Burger is a delicious example of something a little different. Try Japanese-style burgers here, where they stuff their fluffy, Hokkaido-style milk buns with golden katsu or umami-boosted beef and all the trimmings. Or sample some of the city’s best street-style Thai food at Muum Maam, where herbs, spices, citrus and aromatics are in perfect balance across their menu. 

If you’re keen for a more up-market experience head to Nobu at Crown Sydney. Here you can sample Japanese fine dining with a Peruvian twist by one of the world’s most iconic chefs, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. Or try Oncore, a sky-high fine-dining restaurant with stunning Vivid Sydney views by three-Michelin-star-chef Clare Smyth. 

If you’re in the neighbourhood during the day look no further than two Surry Hills transplants and now Sydney-wide icons: Bourke Street Bakery and Devon Café 

Darling Harbour and Darling Quarter

Din Tai Fung is a great family-friendly option offering incredible dumplings and noodles. If you're after a date-night option, Atelier by Sofitel is an elegant space with an expansive wine list, beautiful local seafood and with an incredible view of the Light Walk. Darling Square is a buzzing precinct known for its range of Asian cuisines including dumplings, noodles, bubble tea and desserts.  

The Goods Line

The Vivid Fire Kitchen is a night market like no other. Centred around the power and universal appeal of fire, there’ll be food trucks, markets stalls and barbecue stands serving flame-cooked cuisine from around the world. Plus, there’ll be fire pits, flame throwers, fire sculptures and a very special, nostalgic gelato pop-up, Messina Milk Bar.   

Once you’ve savoured and sampled all Vivid Fire Kitchen has to offer, it’s time to explore the incredible options within walking distance.  

XOPP, a contemporary spin on iconic Sydney restaurant Golden Century, serves excellent Cantonese food. Five minutes’ walk from the Goods Line, their name is an ode to their signature XO pippies, a must-order when visiting. You can also grab a late afternoon, pre-Light Walk yum cha there daily between 3-5pm.  

If you’re on the hunt for an authentic, late-night Japanese izakaya, Nakano Darling serves great drinks and even better food. Think: high balls and succulent karaage served until the wee hours (they’re open until 2am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday).  

If you’re out late and feeling particularly peckish, local Malaysian cult-favourite Ho Jiak serve an all-you-can-eat feast between 10pm and 12am, Monday to Saturday. They also serve their Penang-style street food a la carte, for both lunch and dinner.

After a great coffee experience during the day? Edition Roasters deftly combine elements of Japanese and Scandinavian cultures, serving delicious single origin coffees and beautifully considered plates of food.  

Circular Quay

VividPlace Food Trail is a THE place to start a culinary adventure in Circular Quay – it's a vibrant food-trail, spread across Sydney Place and Bulletin Place laneways, with more than 20 stallholders offering a broad selection of global cuisines. 

Mary's Underground, the festival locale for Vivid Sydney Supper Club, offers its famous burgers as well as diner fare late into the night, perfect for a post-Light Walk feast. There's also newly opened tequila bar Centro 86, for anyone after an agave-based tipple, pre, during or post-Light Walk. Their shaved-to-order ice-based cocktails are a must try.  

The Rocks

Le Foote is a standout place for a premium but fuss-free meal in the historic centre of Sydney. Located in a heritage-listed venue, it’s part-Parisian wine bar, part-Mediterranean grill and all class. Bring your kids to Pancakes on The Rocks for an Americana take on the classic pancake, it’s also open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays for the night owls. Or for something truly special, Quay is home to some of the best Vivid Sydney views and is led by celebrated chef Peter Gilmore. If you didn’t manage to snag tickets to his Our Shared Humanity dinner, then this is your chance to sample his brilliant cuisine. There’s also Bay Nine, a Japanese omakase restaurant, with a daily changing menu of 11 courses served by an acclaimed chef. 

Sydney CBD

There is a glut of excellent options for diners in the CBD. For authentic, creative and delicious pasta try favourite laneway spot Ragazzi. Or opt for one of their two sister spots, the up-market Palazzo Salato or the super casual Fabbrica Pasta Shop. All three serve some of Sydney’s best pasta, with a drinks list to match.  

For those up for a more adventurous yet elegant meal, there’s several high-end Korean restaurants in the heart of the city. Soul Dining serves truly mind-blowing modern Korean, with signature dishes like their rice bread and ox tongue doughnut pushing the boundaries of the cuisine into delicious new territory. While around the corner, Funda is a more upbeat and colourful take on modern Korean with crowd-pleasers like their soy-cured prawn with burrata.  

Messina
Messina Milk Bar
The Goods Line 
 
Sydney Vivid Food Trail
Vivid Food Trail
Credit Danielle Chloe Photography

Show stoppers: Where to play

Sydney is overflowing with theatres, galleries, museums and performance spaces. From Broadway musicals to historic exhibitions, here’s where to spend the day before the lights turn on.

See the city

Sydney is one of the best cities in the world for coastal walks. A short ferry ride away, Sydney’s lower north shore is a great spot to take a long or short stroll and look back over the harbour at the shimmering skyline of the CBD. Here, you can take in sections of the famous Bondi to Manly walk or check out the other incredible harbour walks available here. Another excellent way to get under the skin of the city is to partake in one of the Sydney Opera House tours. Its architecture tour is an incredible way to learn about the history of the building and why it’s a marvel of modern design. If you’re keen for an unprecedented view of the city, you can also climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge with BridgeClimb.

In the exhibition halls

Visit one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art at Chippendale’s White Rabbit Gallery. While there, you can also enjoy their authentic tearoom for an oolong tea and scones. If you’re keen to take in some First Nations art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales has an extensive collection in their new wing and you can take an insightful, guided tour to get the most out of your visit. Or take in the latest modern art and ideas from Australian and international artists, alongside unrivalled harbour views, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

If your family loves all things prehistoric, visit the Australian Museum. Here you'll explore the giant fossilised skeletons and life-size casts of Australian dinosaurs, as well as the infamous Stegosaurus and T.Rex. Plus, learn about unique native flora and fauna, changing science, and wander through other cultural exhibitions.

Take in the harbour

Watch the morning sun illuminate the skyline on a Sydney Harbour Sunriser kayak safari with Sydney Harbour Kayaks. Slow things down with a pedal past secret coves and over the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge with Sydney Harbour Bike Tours, or rise for a bird's-eye view of beautiful Sydney on a flight with Sydney Seaplanes. May and June also fall within prime whale watching season here`, take a special cruise with Whale Watching Sydney and see these magnificent creatures up close and personal.

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 Dreamtime Southern X, will show you another side of Sydney's history – that 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. On the ground, learn how to capture the beautiful Vivid Sydney light on a Vivid Photography Walking Tour with Picture Me Sydney.

Dreamtime Southern X Tours
Dreamtime Southern X Tour
(Destination NSW)
 
Cyclists on Sydney Harbour Bike Tour
Sydney Harbour Bike Tours
(Destination NSW)

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.

Luxe listings

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 Kimpton Margot Sydney fuses Art Deco ambience with modern luxe, including a glamorous rooftop bar and pool. Crown Sydney is a prime spot to access Vivid Sydney locations Barangaroo and Darling Harbour, and for twinkling harbour panoramas and full views of the Vivid Sydney lights, waterfront Park Hyatt Sydney or Shangri-La Sydney at The Rocks can't be beaten.

Family-friendly

There are plenty of accommodation options that meet all the requirements of travelling with little ones. The waterfront Novotel Sydney Darling Harbour is a great base to explore Vivid Sydney from, as well as being conveniently located to many family-friendly food options. Rydges Sydney Central is sleek, modern and right near Central Station. Alternatively, head across the bridge and settle in for a slumber party with the animals at Taronga Zoo – wildlife safari tents look out on the illuminated Sydney Harbour.

Designer digs

After you've sparked your creativity exploring the festival, rest your inspired head at one of Sydney's many designer boutique hotels. Close to the beginning of the Light Walk at Central Station, Ace Hotel Sydney brings the Palm Springs brand's artistic flair to the harbour city. Paramount House Hotel offers 29 unique Japanese-styled rooms, or take a dip in The Old Clare Hotel's luxurious rooftop pool while staying in this Mid-Century-style hotel. If waterfront is what you seek, check into one of Hotel Palisade's eight guestrooms at Walsh Bay, or get even closer to the water at Pier One Sydney.

Accomodation at Taronga Zoo
Taronga Zoo
(Wildlife Retreat at Taronga)
 
Shangri La Sydney Hotel Room during Vivid Sydney
Shangri-La Sydney
(Destination NSW)

Your guide to Sydney & NSW

Welcome to Sydney! With new experiences around every corner, Sydney.com is the official tourism, destinations and events website and is always on hand to guide you through this surprising city. You can also get all the insider news, tips and inspiration you need to plan your next trip, delivered straight to your inbox by subscribing to Somewhere New.

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