Since it debuted in 2008, Vivid has cemented its position on the country’s cultural calendar – awakening Sydney’s winter night-time economy in many vibrant ways. In 2017 more than 2.3 million people attended, but it’s not just attendance that swells with each year. The festival’s geographic reach continues to expand, too.

After two years away, Vivid’s light displays, performances and talks will return to the city – spanning Darling Harbour to The Rocks and Circular Quay via Barangaroo, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Opera House. Across the bridge, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo will have their own dedicated events. Farther out, Carriageworks will once again host some of Vivid Music's biggest acts, including performances by Perfume Genius and energetic Japanese four-piece Chai.

These precincts present the perfect chance to see different parts of the city in (literally) a new light.

Vivid lasts for 23 days this year, which allows for plenty of time to see as much as possible at your own pace. It’s best not to leave your plans for food and drinks up to chance, though; it’s usually impossible to find somewhere that isn’t packed. This guide should help get your planning started.

Related pages:
Best Late-Night Eats in Sydney
Best Date Places in Sydney
Best Cocktail Bars in Sydney
Best Wine Bars in Sydney
Sydney Institutions

Bennelong

Restaurant

The Sydney Opera House is the centre of Vivid every year, with elaborate projections splashed across the building's iconic white sails every night. Dining and drinking at Bennelong will put you right in the thick of it – and although most tables in the restaurant are booked out by now, it's worth going for a drink and a bite at the bar, which is walk-in only.

Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point

Mary's Circular Quay

Restaurant

Mary’s Underground will transform into late-night Supper Club during Vivid, with a line-up of jazz, cabaret and comedy kicking off from 10pm every Friday and Saturday. You won't find a better burger this close to Circular Quay, plus the whole menu can be made vegan if you’re that way inclined.

7 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay, Sydney

Opera Bar

Bar

We’d be remiss if we didn’t include this one. If you’re lucky, you might be able to book a table in advance, and it’s worth trying to snag one on Sunday March 29 for the largest ever drone light show in the southern hemisphere. The bar is also luminescent Vivid-inspired cocktails and free live music every night to really light things up.

Lower Concourse, Sydney Opera House Macquarie Street, Sydney
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Aria

Restaurant

Matt Moran’s harbourside fine-diner has teamed up with floral artist Claire Mueller to create a multi-sensory experience inspired by “the movement of the water that surrounds Aria”. Admire Mueller’s floral sculptures as you sip on limited-edition Belvedere cocktails, and dine on a special Vivid menu by head chef Tom Gorringe in full view of the Vivid lights.

1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay

Spice Temple

Restaurant

Dine on two special pre-festival banquet menus from 5pm–6.30pm every night of the festival. The bar banquet for walk-ins ($59) includes vegetable dumplings and lamb pancakes; the restaurant menu for bookings ($89) comes with pork chops with soy, Hangzhou-style flathead and more.

10 Bligh Street, Sydney

Lotus Barangaroo

Restaurant

Lotus is rolling out an $18 Singapore crab xiao long bao special and a Vivid-inspired cocktail made with vodka, butterfly pea, lychee and strawberry for the festival. It’s a solid option between Darling Harbour and Circular Quay.

Shop 8/9 Wulugul Walk , Barangaroo

The Glenmore Hotel

Bar

The best seats in the harbour without the eye-watering price tag. Hot toddy specials are running just in time for the chilly nights ahead, along with $15 Margaritas in the lounge from 4pm–6.30pm on weekdays.

96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Henry Deane

Bar

Because it's in Miller's Point, this cocktail bar atop the Hotel Palisade isn't the sort of place you can go to in the middle of a Vivid excursion. Instead, it's a before or after spot. Grab a cocktail at a window seat – the view of the Harbour Bridge from Henry Deane is one of the best you'll find.

35 Bettington Street, Millers Point

Kittyhawk

Bar

This rum-focused cocktail bar has great drinks, but consider having dinner here, too. Service is fast, and the tight French-leaning menu has plenty of crowd-pleasers including lobster rolls, charcuterie and frites. Kittyhawk is also just near the Botanic Gardens, which is packed with installations.

16 Phillip Lane, Sydney

Kid Kyoto

Restaurant

Whether you’re headed to Circular Quay, Barangaroo or Darling Harbour, this slick Japanese-inspired spot is conveniently placed to access all three. So start your night here with some Izakaya-style snacks and cocktails named after '90s grunge hits.

17/19 Bridge Street, Sydney

Bar Patron

Restaurant

If you haven’t checked out the new-look Bar Patron yet, Vivid is the perfect excuse to do so. It’s serving contemporary Mexican food backed by one of the largest Tequila and Mezcal selections in town, right across the road from the Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Opera House.

2 Phillip Street, Circular Quay
Book a Table

Crafted By Matt Moran

Restaurant

Matt Moran's eatery inside the AGNSW is close to all the action but still feels removed from it. Book a table here if you love the collective, bustling experience of viewing outdoor art without the added pressure of finding somewhere to eat in the middle of a packed city.

The Domain Art Gallery Road, Sydney

Bistecca

Restaurant

Your phone might get confiscated and put away in a locker for the length of your dinner at here, which is good news for your phone's battery: it will need all the rest it can get before you spend the night using it to snap and post everything you see at Vivid. Steak is the one and only main on the menu. One style in particular: T-bone cooked over coals and served rare.

3 Dalley Street, Sydney

Frankie’s Pizza

Bar

Even without Vivid in the mix, this rowdy rock‘n’roll bar in the heart of town would still be open till 3.30am every night. Cap off your festivities with a New York-inspired slice and a few craft beers here.

50 Hunter Street, Sydney

Saké Restaurant and Bar

Restaurant

This chic Japanese restaurant sits practically underneath the Harbour Bridge, and serves contemporary dishes along with an encyclopaedic list of imported Japanese booze.

12 Argyle Street, The Rocks

Maybe Sammy

Bar

This Rat Pack-themed cocktail bar in The Rocks is a great spot for a few mid-Vivid Martinis. There's also a tight but tasty selection of small plates to keep you going.

115 Harrington Street, The Rocks

The Australian Heritage Hotel

Bar

Just across the road from the Harbour Bridge, this Edwardian-style pub is known for its Australian-themed "heritage" pizzas such as the half-kangaroo, half-emu Coat of Arms, and the Saltwater Crocodile.

100 Cumberland Street, The Rocks

Bopp and Tone

Restaurant

When you get off the train at Wynyard you'll be moments away from this steak-and-cocktail-focused restaurant. It's the best way to make a running start to the evening.

60 Carrington Street, Sydney

The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room

Restaurant

This New York-style brasserie is right on George Street, close to all of the CBD's main Vivid hubs.

225 George Street, Sydney

Mr Wong

Restaurant

Get a group together and head over to this Cantonese comfort-food diner. Barbeque duck and dim sum are the perfect protein and carb fuel for heading out to battle the Vivid crowds.

3 Bridge Lane, Sydney

The Doss House

Bar

It's starting to get really cold (well, for Sydney). This whisky bar in The Rocks is the place to go to if you need a few warming nips of the brown stuff mid-walk.

77-79 George Street, The Rocks

Palmer & Co

Bar

Right in the middle of the action, perfectly situated to access attractions in Barangaroo, Circular Quay, The Rocks or the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Abercrombie Lane, Sydney

Barrio Cellar

Restaurant

A Mexican basement bar with tacos, burgers and DJs. This one's a great option for late-night dining: on Fridays Barrio closes at 3am, which means you can eat and drink long after the (Vivid) lights have gone out.

58 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

Endeavour Tap Rooms

Bar

Set inside an 1800s heritage building, this spacious brewpub puts an Aussie pub spin on down-home American food. The 600-litre on-site microbrewery keeps the good stuff flowing till late.

39-53 Argyle Street, The Rocks

The Frisco Hotel

Restaurant

A cocktail bar with a nautical-themed cocktail list and views of Sydney's CBD from the second-storey balcony. You can get snacks here, too.

46 Dowling St, Woolloomooloo

Barangaroo House

Restaurant

Right on the water, this building houses three venues: House Bar, Smoke and Bea. All of them provide great spots to relax and take in Barangaroo’s water-based light installations.

Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo

House Bar

Bar

Sip cocktails beneath a mesmerising light installation by Sydney-based designer Vincent Buret at the handsome second-level venue inside Barangaroo House. The drinks menu has also received a glow-up, including four Vivid specials involving Bombay Sapphire gin.

35 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo

Untied

Bar

This fun rooftop bar in Barangaroo is doing two hours of bottomless cocktails (including signature candy-studded frosé) every day during the festival. Also, $13 “Spritz Bombs” and $35 Mojito jugs to light up your evening.

4 400 Barangaroo Avenue, Sydney

Belles Hot Chicken Barangaroo

Restaurant

On Wulugul Walk, serving Nashville-style spicy chicken, craft beers and natural wines from local producers.

Shop 5 33 Barangaroo Avenue, Wulugul Walk, Barangaroo

The Buena

Restaurant

Our pick for dining if you're heading to the attractions at Taronga Zoo. This three-in-one venue has you covered with a smart public bar, a French brasserie and a lush cocktail lounge upstairs.

76 Middle Head Road, Mosman

Alibi

Restaurant

Along with some of the city’s best vegan food, the Ovolo’s in-house diner is serving a secret drinks menu – which can only be seen under blue light. There are also DJs spinning from Thursday to Saturday, and if you’re staying at the hotel upstairs, you can hop on a Vivid-viewing harbour cruise that sails twice nightly.

Ground Floor, Ovolo Hotel, 6 Cowper Street Wharfway, Woolloomooloo

Re–

Bar

If you’re catching a gig at Carriageworks, you may as well visit one of the country’s best bars while you’re at it. Cocktails are made using rescued ingredients otherwise destined for landfill, and the sharp menu of bar snacks is made with the same sustainable ethos.

2 Locomotive Street, Eveleigh

Backyard at The Alex

Bar

This good-times backyard right near Carriageworks is our pick for a casual pre-show dinner. It’ll sort you out with a few drinks after the gig, too.

35 Henderson Road, Alexandria

Pub Life Kitchen

Restaurant

Unless you live around Ultimo, The Lord Wolseley Hotel isn’t the most convenient spot to visit. But if you’re en route to Darling Harbour from Central, this neighbourhood gem and its bistro, PLK, is a stop along the way. One of Sydney’s best pub feeds awaits.

Lord Wolseley Hotel 265 Bulwara Road, Ultimo

Gin Lane

Bar

This year, the Vivid Sydney Light Walk extends to the Goods Line near the University of Technology. If you’re keen to check out the university’s incredible “Paper Bag” building all lit up, you’d do well to grab a cocktail at one the city’s best gin bars while you’re in the area.

16 Kensington Street, Chippendale

Ho Jiak

Restaurant

The Haymarket branch of this Malaysian favourite has you covered with Penang-style street food dishes, comforting curries and more. This is ultimate cold-weather fare, right near the Central Station end of the Vivid Light Walk.

92 Hay Street, Haymarket
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