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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 Dates

Vivid Sydney Opera House

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.

Day 1

Sydney Habor Bridge at Sunset

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.

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.

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!

Day 2

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.

Day 3

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.

Accommodation

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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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Photo Credits: Featured by Kevin Wong. Sydney Opera House by Jason Tong. Painting the Eat Art Truck by JAM Project. Reflections of Sydney Harbour Bridge paul bica

    34 Comments

  1. I was there this year just after the festival but since I have so many friends living in Australia I lived it through them vicariously! It looked really cool and certainly a reason to go to Sydney!

    • One of the most amazing spectacles in the Southern Hemisphere – so glad you got to live through it vicariously through friends. Though hope you can get there to experience it firsthand one of these years :)

    • Thanks Erica! So glad you enjoyed the post – let us know if you’re looking for any other tips when you do hit up Aus :)

  2. We ended up skipping Sydney when I did the East Coast trip *hides* We had just spent one week in Winter in Melbourne and I was chasing the sun. I would love to the do the Sydney Bridge climb, great tips.

    • Sounds like the perfect reason to start planning a return trip to AUs :D

  3. I have a tip for anyone who wants to see a bit of the opera house without paying for the backstage tour. There are often inexpensive performances midweek -we saw tickets for a jazz concert go for about $25 each on a Wednesday at noon. You don’t get the full tour but at least you can say you’ve been inside and you can still enjoy a really great performance.

    • Thanks for the tip Vanessa! Fantastic way to go if you want to enjoy a concert and have a bit of a peek inside too :)

  4. What a fantastic overload to the senses! The light show, street art, history, theater, beaches and coastline,and not to mention the bridge climb, combine for such an incredible variety of experiences! Must get to Sydney! Thanks for such great info.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Jackie – Sydney most certainly is one of the most diverse cities on earth, there’s so much to see and do and there really is something to cater to all tastes :) Hope you can travel here soon!

  5. You guys covered a lot of ground in just 3 days! Love your pics of Bondi as well as the one of the harbour bridge. The climb at night must have been amazing.

    • Sydney is one of those cities which never sleeps so you really do get addicted to the atmosphere and make the most out of each day :) Climbing the bridge at night was absolutely spectacular – I really do recommend this over doing the climb during the day :)

  6. As we get closer to our possible move to Sydney next year, I’m stocking up on all these great tips. I love that they light up the Opera House sails. When we get there, we’re definitely using your itinerary!

    • Ooooh you’ll LOVE Sydney – especially the food scene which is amazing once you get into Sydney. It’s a very multicultural city so you’ve got some very diverse cuisine :) Let us know when you do eventually make the move and we’ll try and make some plans to catch up :)

  7. I think it’s great that there are so many walking tours in Sydney. I love when you don’t have to rely so much on public transportation.

    • Sydney is one of the most walkable cities in the world – really fantastic range of options for tours :) I love exploring a new city on foot, it’s so much more enjoyable than getting stuck on public transport etc, and even if you get lost, that’s half the fun!

  8. Great suggestions–thanks! The Sydney Opera House looks so cool lit up like that at night! And, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb would be so cool to do, especially at night!

    • You’re welcome :) The Opera House really is just amazing during VIVID Live – they do a really spectacular job :)

  9. Sounds like such a good guide. It’s ages since I visited Sydney but going during VIVID is definitely something that’s on my list!

    • Hope you can get back for a return visit soon :)

  10. Thanks for taking the time to write such an in-depth guide! Australia is way off in the future for me but this definitely strikes me as an alternative way to visit Sydney without focusing just on the typical tourism sites (and still fitting some of them in)!

    • You’re welcome! Glad you enjoyed the guide :) ANd for sure – Sydney is great in the sense that there are just as many hidden gems in terms of tourist sites as there are the main attractions. Gives you the opportunity to take in a little bit of both worlds :) Hope you manage a trip soon!

  11. I love watching people uncover a whole new part of a city. Sounds like a great itinerary. Will have to save it in case I ever make it out that way. Thanks for sharing.

    • Glad you enjoyed the itinerary Megan – and glad we could take you on a virtual tour :) Hope you can get there in person someday soon!

  12. Oh, that looks fantastic. Maybe we can get it on the books for next Spring. Thanks for the detailed info. This exposes me to new parts of Sydney, so looking forward to return.

    • Absolutely – one of the most spectacular festivals of the year! Hope you can make a trip happen next year Heidi :)

  13. Next Trip i will Cover the Places in Syndney

    • Glad to hear that Priya :) Happy travels!

  14. Looks like lots of fantastic options in Sydney. Thanks for sharing the opportunities to see and experience art throughout the city!

    • You’re welcome Brooke :) Glad you enjoyed the itinerary ideas. Happy travels! Hope you can take in Sydney soon :)

  15. Beautiful photos and great tips, especially to start in Circular Quay and view Sydney from the Pylon Lookout. Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks Mary – Pylon Lookout is a handy little trick that few tourists know of – best way to get the same views as the bridge climb but for much less of an extreme price :)

  16. A very useful article to read. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Fine work. Keep it up.

    • Glad the article was helpful – enjoy your time in Sydney!

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