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Vivid Sydney: The festival illuminating Australia’s harbour city

Explore Sydney during the iconic city lights festival and see a different side to the city after dark.

 By Triona McBride

The majestic port city of Sydney has welcomed travelers to Australia for more than 200 years. Today it forms an international hub of leisure, business, and culture nestled within a skyline so packed with iconic landmarks that to visit feels like stepping into a living postcard.

Sydney is a destination famed for its long hot summers, a major city that is also a seafront resort. World-leading, literally, New Year celebrations are the pinnacle of every summer season; a true bucket list occasion as each year turns into the next.

The Old Town of Sydney also represents one of the most historic urban locations on the Australian continent. Original colonial buildings have been adapted to house a warren of boutique restaurants, independent shops, and characterful pubs. For lovers of the paranormal, nightly ghost tours highlight a different side of the historic streets around The Rocks.

But have you visited as winter begins? When May fades into June and the nights creep earlier on each day’s clock. This is when the hidden gem of Sydney’s event calendar can be found – Vivid Sydney, the city festival which bursts into life at sunset.

Introduced in 2009, Vivid Sydney is a festival of music, light, and culture in which the city becomes immersed from late May to mid-June each year. Vivid turns Sydney into a four-dimensionally gallery with sound and light installations transforming every square of the CBD.

The iconic Sydney Opera House becomes a canvas for mesmerising projections and synchronised soundtracks which can be viewed from all sides of the famous harbour. Crowds gather nightly, clutching hot chocolates and munching waffles bought from quayside stalls, as the displays unfold before them.

Pausing beside the luxury Park Hyatt Sydney hotel, an observer can turn their gaze 360° to take in dancing lights on the side of each towering building of the harbour skyline, a cascading facade on the Museum of Contemporary Art, and, of course, the engineering marvel of Sydney Harbour Bridge as it stands protectively over the whole cavalcade.

The Royal Botanical Gardens are transformed into a sparkling wonderland of magical installations. The already bright lights of Darling Harbour are enhanced at every corner. Interactive displays and mystical playgrounds seem to appear wherever you wander.

For the best views of Vivid’s captivating displays, take a short cruise that meanders around each bay of Sydney’s harbour to offer twinkling panoramas for every voyager. On disembarkation, jump onto dry land and immerse yourself in the pieces you have spotted along the shore.

Taronga Zoo brings Vivid to animal lovers with specially constructed displays bringing a new dimension to the wildlife park at night. With admission numbers controlled, this is a great place to skip the crowds and see the delight on children’s faces as they move from illuminated installations to fascinating enclosures. Whatever you do, don’t forget to turn around, the views back to the city from the hillside attraction are something quite special.

Wander through the cool evening arm-in-arm with your lover, fuel the imagination of little ones, or take an inspirational solo stroll through a city that is, quite literally, enlightening. 


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Published 03.02.22