You will strategically travel to Sydney during late May – early June to see the city transformed into a spectacular canvas of light. You will explore the city and take in the best museums & galleries Sydney has to offer while discovering the historic side of the city and taking in some of the most photographed landmarks in the world.
You will discover the city on foot and enjoy local markets, local street art, surrounding parkland, and travel to the best lookouts around the city for breathtaking harbour views.
Travel to Sydney during May 22 – June 9 (check exact dates depending on your year of travel) to catch the Vivid Live Festival. Sydney is a fantastic choice of destination all throughout the year, though art lovers should travel during Australia’s winter for access to the largest party of lights, music and ideas in the Southern Hemisphere; a free public exhibition of outdoor lighting sculptures and amazing illuminations of Sydney’s iconic landmarks.
Usually scheduled for May/early June each year, VIVID features free nightly light shows and incredible art installations, LED-bejeweled boats cruising the harbor, live music, creative conferences, and the sails of the legendary Sydney Opera House illuminated with mesmerizing 3D projections. When is VIVID Sydney.
“Vivid Sydney is where art, technology and commerce intersect. It is a summit, forum and playground for the world’s creative industries”. This is truly a spectacle not to miss. Dates for VIVID Sydney when is VIVID Live.
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The best introduction to Sydney is a walking tour of the city’s main attractions. For art lovers, the architecture throughout Sydney is unique. Start in Circualr Quay. Circular Quay is the hub of Sydney Harbour, and the best spot to start a walking tour of the city. It is the main hub for reaching all major attractions around the harbor including the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.
It hosts street performers, vendors and live music and is an exciting place to be. Ferries depart every few minutes to different parts of the harbour, including Manly, Watsons Bay, Mosman and Taronga Park Zoo.
Walk down to the eastern end of the Quay. You will reach the steps of the famed Sydney Opera House. The backstage tour is expensive and will put you back $165 each but it’s the only tour which grants you unprecedented VIP access to the Opera House. Is a tour of the Sydney Opera House worth it?
Unless you’re a huge theatre fan, better to marvel at the Opera House from the steps. Sitting on the Opera House steps in the sun and taking in the harbor and the bridge is a great way to spend half an hour.
Pro Tip: Book online to save 10% off the full price of $165. During Vivid Live there are generally nightly one hour tours of the Opera House at 6pm & 6.30pm for $37. This may vary from year to year.
Keep following the water’s edge until you hit the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a relaxing, scenic walk, and a great way to experience Sydney for free. Great photo opportunities of the harbor, and you can discover Government House. A historical site and Government building, Government House is still in use today – the free 45 minute tours offer a great insight into early Australian history.
Head back to Circular Quay and walk across to Hyde Park Barracks. Historically significant landmark, this is where convicts were housed and was a place of punishment between 1819 and 1848. Find your way back to Circular Quay and make your way to the opposite end, walking towards the Harbor Bridge. Self guided walking tour of Sydney
You will come to a part of Sydney called The Rocks. Stop for lunch here at one of the many gourmet restaurants. Self guided walking tour of Sydney
Tour the Rocks during the afternoon. Explore the historic buildings and stroll down the various cobblestoned alleyways at your own leisure. The Rocks is the site of the first European settlement in Australia, and Sydney’s most important historical site. The Museum of Sydney is a 10 minute walk. It’s a small museum but offers amazing history on the city. You can take an audio walking tour of the Rocks; for $10 you get a map and collection of audio tracks downloaded onto your iPod or MP3.
Potter around the Rocks and make your way back to Circular Quay to the Harbour Bridge. Walk up onto the bride and cross it on foot, enjoying the spectacular views of the Harbour. Less than halfway across the bridge you will reach Pylon Lookout. A highly underrated attraction, spend $13 and climb to the observation area 87 meters above sea level. Here you will find the best views of Sydney. Great, cheaper alternative to the Harbour Bridge Climb.
Spend the evening at Circular Quay enjoying the outdoor exhibits of VividLive!
Start your morning in Newtown – a suburb in Sydney’s inner west, and the best place to find impressive street art from internationally acclaimed artists. Take a historic walking tour and keep your eye out for vivid murals and graffiti.
King Street is full of famed street art, and where you will see many murals including the “Herald”, and the famous “I Have A Dream”. Street art locations within the greater Newtown area include Gladstone Street near the Newton Railway Station, the pedestrian tunnel which links Bella St and Bedford Street and Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. Head also in the direction of Erskineville Road, Enmore Road, and a little further out, Trafalgar St.
Take a city art walking tour in the afternoon, stopping at one of many tapas bars you will pass along your way for lunch. Tapavino (6 Bulletin Pl) has excellent food and large portions with great Spanish wine.
Highly recommend a Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb in the evening. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and while the views are spectacular during the day, seeing the city skyline lit, especially during VividLive, is truly spectacular.
Walking today to see the rest of Sydney! Start at Town Hall (you can catch the underground railway to the station of the same name). Venture over to Queen Victoria Building and lose yourself in the three stories of unique shops.
Follow Druit street until you reach Sussex Street and turn right. Market Street is one block down, and the old Piermont Bridge will be on your left. This is now connected to Darling Harbour. Spend the rest of the morning exploring Darling Harbour and grab lunch at one of the many, many waterfront restaurants.
Darling Harbour attractions include the Chinese Gardens, National Maritime Museum (which is worth a visit if interested in Australian naval history; you get to board actual wartime vessels and speak with those who previously crewed them), Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussades and Sydney’s IMAX Theatre. There is also a restaurant complex and a small Shopping mall.
A great option for lunch is South Steyne, once a harbor ferry now a floating restaurant. You won’t miss it on the harbor. An amazing dining experience with great views of the harbor and great food.
Walk from Darling Harbor to Circular Quay and take a 40 minute ferry ride to Manly. Manly is a phenomenal choice for a day or afternoon trip from Sydney CBD. It is “seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care”.
Because it’s winter you may not choose to relax on one of the beautiful beaches, however there are many hidden coves and inlets to explore, and many scenic walkways which offer fabulous views and historic interests.
Another option for the afternoon is the Bondi – Bronte Walking Tour. Once again, being winter you probably won’t wish to go into the water, however this 2.5km walk (6km return) passes through some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Sydney. The walk starts at Bondi Beach – download a map before you leave. Enjoy the art of nature!
Catch a bus from the city to reach Bondi, or a train to Bondi Junction and then a bus to Bondi.
In the evening, head to the Capitol Theatre and catch a showing of Les Misérables. This is the musical theatre event of the year and will make your trip. Book tickets ASAP – they’re selling out. Capitol Theatre also has ‘Lord of the Dance’, ‘Cats’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ coming up, or jump over to their website for information on what’s currently on.
Sydney bursts with accommodation to suit every budget and taste. Some of the more stylish and eclectic boutique hotels in Sydney include Victoria Court (Kings Cross), Kirketon Hotel (Darlinghurst), QT Sydney, (Sydney CBD), Medusa Boutique Hotel (Darlinghurst), Park Hyatt (The Rocks), Charrington (Chatswood), Diamant Hotel (Potts Point), The Darling Hotel (Pyrmont), ADGE Apartment Hotel (Surry Hills), and Blue Sydney (Woolloomooloo).
Though a personal favorite is Holiday Inn Old Sydney – while not an artsy boutique hotel, there’s a gorgeous rooftop pool and hot tub which offers spectacular views out over Sydney Harbour – wish I was back there now! This view is especially amazing during VIVID Live.
Compare prices on Sydney Hotels via HotelPlanner.com – find discounts to brag about.
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Photo Credits: Featured by Kevin Wong. Vivid Sydney Opera House by Sacha Fernandez & Jason James. Painting the Eat Art Truck by JAM Project. Reflections of Sydney Harbour Bridge paul bica. Queen Victoria Building by WANG-HSIN PEI. HMB Endeavour by Andy Mitchell.