Know Before You Go: A Complete Guide to Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney, 2024

Vivid Sydney has rapidly evolved since its first outing in 2009 as an open-air gallery of light installations. It’s now the Southern Hemisphere’s leading multi-artform festival. While dazzling light displays remain at the heart of this annual celebration, the 23-night program now includes genre-spanning music performances, diverse culinary delights and a forum to explore ideas through discussions, performances and other thought-provoking experiences. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of your visit to Vivid Sydney this year. 

What is this year’s theme?

Vivid Sydney, 2024

The artistic direction of 2024’s Vivid Sydney falls under the umbrella of one word: humanity. It’s a concept festival director Gill Minervini believes is integral to exploring and understanding our way forward. “We need each other more than ever before,” Minervini explains. “Humanity is the key to our future … to re-imagining a world without boundaries, discrimination or inequality – a world full of people who work together with kindness, empathy and creativity.”

When is the best time to go?

In 2024, Vivid Sydney will run from Friday, 24 May to Saturday, 15 June. The light installations will be switched on from 6pm to 11pm each evening, while Vivid Music, Ideas and Food events happen across the city every night of the festival. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights typically attract the biggest crowds, so consider visiting mid-week when things are (a little) quieter.

Where is Vivid Sydney?

Vivid Sydney, 2024

City landmarks around Circular Quay, The Rocks, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and The Goods Line are among the sites illuminated annually. Known as the Vivid Sydney Light Walk, this eight kilometre trail across the city boasts more than 30 glowing displays and immersive installations. The nightly Lighting of the Sails, which illuminates the Sydney Opera House, is an enchanting highlight. This year’s iteration, Echo by 2023 Archibald Prize winner Julia Gutman, depicts the Roman myth of Narcissus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in stunning animation. 

The festival itself is spread across multiple inner-city precincts, spanning music performances at Tumbalong Park, the Sydney Opera House, Machine Hall Precinct, Mary’s Underground and Carriageworks to immersive theatre at the State Library of New South Wales, debates at Parliament House and more. Take a stroll to the VividPlace Food Trail, a fully pedestrianised stretch across Bulletin Place and Sydney Place precinct behind Circular Quay, and sample street eats and delicacies from all over the world. For families, the much-loved Lightscape at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is a must-see, transforming the grounds into a magical arena of art, light and vibrant creativity.

Make your Vivid visit even more memorable by booking your stay with Qantas Hotels to enjoy a bunch of exclusive extras. Plan your stay now.

Where to stay

Whether you’re visiting from out of town or want to use Vivid Sydney as an excuse to plan a staycation, we’ve found two stand-out hotels to book that are within easy reach of the festival’s highlights. The best part? They’re offering a bunch of extras for Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Swissôtel Sydney

Swissotel, Sydney

Located opposite the State Theatre and adjacent to Pitt Street Mall, Swissôtel Sydney is in the heart of the CBD’s shopping and entertainment district, just a 10-minute stroll to Darling Harbour. Swim laps in the heated rooftop pool, do a workout in the 24-hour gym, or indulge in a Pürovel Mountain Meadow Massage at the onsite spa before the sun sets. There are 369 modern rooms and suites – our pick is a spacious Swiss Executive Room, which comes with skyline views, modern furnishings and luxurious Frette linens. You’ll also get exclusive access to the Executive Club Lounge with complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails. 

Little National Hotel Sydney

Little National Hotel

For a welcome haven during the Vivid Sydney festivities, check in to Little National Hotel. With curved edges, soft finishes and warm lighting, the décor across the 230 rooms is minimalist yet cosy – each room has a super king bed, Appelles Apothecary & Lab toiletries and a Nespresso machine. The boutique hotel is a seven-minute walk to Barangaroo, where you’ll find mesmerising light installations every night of the festival. After an evening of exploration, retreat to the hotel’s exclusive rooftop bar for cocktails.

How to get around

Exploring on foot will enable you to appreciate the light displays up-close – and, in some cases, interact with them – so rug up, slip on your comfortable shoes and soak up this winter wonderland’s otherworldly glow. Another hot tip? Jump on a ferry from Circular Quay to Pyrmont Bay to admire the sights from a different perspective as you chug around the harbour.

Trains, buses, light rail and ferries all run, with additional services available, throughout the festival period. You can tap on with an Opal card, credit or debit card, or mobile wallet. Check the Transport NSW website before travelling for the latest updates and timetables. Road closures will be in place around the city throughout the festival period, with additional areas cordoned off on weekends. 

What are the program highlights?

Vivid Sydney, 2024

The festival has four pillars to explore over 23 days and nights:

Vivid Light is a public exhibition of outdoor light sculptures, installations and 3D projections that visitors can move between on the Vivid Sydney Light Walk, a wheelchair and pram-friendly path that begins in Circular Quay and stretches eight kilometres along the foreshore through Barangaroo to The Goods Line. Wander through New Zealand artist Angus Muir’s technicolour forest of LED ropes, Connection; watch Australian icon and Mambo artist Reg Mombassa’s surreal Australiana animations projected onto Customs House; enjoy a holographic light and laser show inspired by Japanese nature over Cockle Bay; and turn your gaze skyward to spy Global Rainbow, a multicoloured light beaming from Sydney Tower Eye.

Vivid Ideas explores a program of live performances, panel discussions, walking tours, immersive dance pieces and other thought-provoking experiences. Join Ben Rohald, Dr Zoe Xirocostas and comedian Adam Spencer at Parliament House for a debate on the future of AI on 7 June; step into the future at A New Normal in The Harwood Building in Haymarket, a hub showcasing the latest in engineering and design; take part in a meditation workshop at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney; and head to the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct to check out Shifting Perspectives, an immersive maze installation by Matthew Adey featuring mirrored plinths, dancers from Restless Dance Theatre and pulsating sounds.

At Vivid Music, local and international performers take to the stage at venues across the city for free and ticketed shows. The popular and free Tumbalong Nights program will return to Tumbalong Park, featuring the likes of 2023's National Indigenous Music Awards Artist of the Year, Budjerah, plus award-winning singer-songwriter Mallrat and bossa nova performer grentperez. Meanwhile, Sydney Opera House’s Vivid LIVE lineup includes Swedish artist Fever Ray, Gamilaraay woman Thelma Plum and American performer Sky Ferreira. This year, Vivid Sydney takes up residence in a new home at the Machine Hall Precinct on Clarence Street. Explore cutting-edge sounds from around the world from the likes of Deerhoof, Jen Cloher and Ngulmiya.

Vivid Sydney, 2024

Celebrating the best global cuisine, Vivid Food has a line-up of international chef-led pop-ups, night markets and special menus at some of the city’s best locations. In addition to the VividPlace Food Trail, another food market will pop up at The Goods Line – the Vivid Sydney Fire Kitchen will celebrate the art of cooking with fire with an array of flame-grilled treats to sample and live demonstrations from top chefs. For dinner with a side of epic views of the illuminated Sydney Harbour, head up to InterContinental Sydney’s rooftop bar, Aster, for a two-course meal paired with cocktails inspired by the festival theme of humanity. 

What else should I do while I’m there?

In town for Vivid Sydney? When you’re not taking in the lights, attending performances and sampling Vivid Sydney’s innovative dining concepts, Sydney has an array of tempting experiences to keep you busy.

Get out of the CBD and soak up some vitamin D on a stroll along the grassy cliffs of the Eastern Suburbs. The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk showcases glorious views of the capital's most beautiful beaches. Winter means fewer crowds along the six-kilometre journey, giving you more room to take in the scenery. If you’re feeling brave, an ice-cold plunge at Bondi Icebergs outdoor pool will chase away the cobwebs.

By day, join a two-hour Sydney Highlights Kayak Tour with Ozpaddle, which sets off from Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool near The Domain. You’ll glide past Garden Island, the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in a lightweight single or double kayak.

The Caterpillar Club

After a busy day and night of exploring and taking in Vivid Sydney’s sights, hunger pangs may hit at a most inconvenient hour. Wander over in the wee hours to The Caterpillar Club, a late-night underground bar and music venue that opened on Pitt Street in the CBD in late 2023. Here, head chef Isobel Whelan-Little’s menu of small bites and snacks is available until 3am from Sunday to Thursday and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. Order the smoked cheeseburger or a crab and avocado cocktail and let the good times roll. 

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SEE ALSO: 19 Unmissable Things to Do in Sydney

When you book your hotel with Qantas Hotels, you’ll earn 3 Qantas Points for every $1 spent. For more Vivid Sydney inspiration, visit qantas.com/hotels/Vivid24

You must be a Qantas Frequent Flyer member to earn and redeem points. Membership and points are subject to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program terms and conditions.

Little National Hotel Sydney: Valid for stays from 1 April 2024 to 31 August 2024. A 2 night minimum stay applies. Blackout dates apply. Surcharges may apply to other dates. Flights and transfers are not included. This offer may be extended, changed or cancelled without notice. Prices correct as at 1 February 2024. See website for full T&Cs.

Swissotel Sydney: Valid for stays from 7 April 2024 to 13 October 2024. A 2 night minimum stay applies. Blackout dates apply. Surcharges may apply to other dates. Flights and transfers are not included. This offer may be extended, changed or cancelled without notice. Prices correct as at 1 February 2024. See website for full T&Cs.

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