Where to Eat and Drink for Vivid

Updated 6 months ago


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.

Now in its 13th year, the festival’s geographic reach continues to expand, with light displays, performances and talks taking place at locations across the city – including Taronga Zoo, Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour and Carriageworks in Eveleigh. This year also marks the first instalment of Vivid Food, a brand new pillar involving chef residencies and collaborations.

Vivid lasts for 23 days and nights (May 26 to June 17), 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 Restaurants in Circular Quay
Best Bars in Sydney's CBD
Our Picks for 2023’s Vivid Ideas Offerings

  • Opera Bar’s annual Vivid menu takes inspiration from the harbour and the Royal Botanic Gardens this year. To complement dishes such as scallop crudo and Sydney rock oysters with finger lime; there’ll be colourful cocktail specials and live music every night. Don’t leave your visit to chance – book ahead for those sparkling harbour views.

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  • The best seats at Vivid without the eye-watering price tag. Enjoy winter-warmer cocktail specials including Hot Toddies, mulled cider and Brandy Alexanders on the iconic rooftop or in the upstairs lounge area, both with views of the harbour. This one can also be booked in advance.

  • Set within the Opera House sails, Peter Gilmore’s iconic harbourside diner will put you right in the thick of the action. You’d have to be pretty lucky to squeeze in at this time of year though, so here’s our tip: pull up at the bar for snacks and drinks. It’s a more affordable way to experience one of the best venues in the city, and walk-ins are welcome from 5.30pm.

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  • There’s plenty going on at Mary’s during this year’s festival, including a late-night cabaret club and a whopping food and drink festival curated by P&V’s Mike Bennie, Chat Thai founder Palisa Anderson and the Mary’s crew. Outside of those events, you won't find a better burger this close to Circular Quay.

  • Bar Patron is serving up a special four-course Mexican feast for the duration of Vivid, which includes guacamole, tacos, tostadas and dessert for $49 per person. It’s also mixing up some of the best Margaritas in town for just $12 between 4pm–5pm. Plus, you’ll be in prime position right near the Opera House.

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  • One of Sydney’s hottest new venues has opened opposite the MCA just in time for Vivid. While you might be jostling for a table at the Med-inspired restaurant, there are plenty of nooks and alfresco areas within the heritage 1800s space that are perfect for the walk-in crowd. Come for a wine – there are around 300 to choose from.

  • This chic Japanese restaurant, which sits practically underneath the Harbour Bridge, is opening the doors earlier than usual with a special Vivid bar snack menu. Think salmon tacos and karaage chicken ($13 each) alongside an extensive list of Japanese booze. Walk-ins only.

  • Right on Darling Harbour, Barangaroo House will burst to life with projections inspired by nature from 6pm. Is also home to three outstanding venues: hit the ground floor bar for casual drinks, DJs and cracking sunsets; Rekodo on the first floor for elegant Japanese snacks and vinyl; and Smoke rooftop bar for elevated cocktails and premium Vivid views.

  • This fun rooftop bar in Barangaroo is doing two hours of bottomless cocktails (including signature candy-studded frosé) every day during the festival. Also, $36 Mojito jugs to brighten up your evening.

  • This New York-inspired brasserie is right on George Street, close to all the CBD's main Vivid hubs. Take full advantage of the daily happy hour featuring $10 Negronis and Aperol spritzes; and $7 house beers, wines and spirits. Oysters are half price on Wednesdays from 6pm–7pm.

  • When you get off the train at Wynyard you'll be moments away from this handsome CBD diner. The $8 happy hour drinks (bottled beer, tap wine and prosecco) are a great way to make a running start to the evening. Monday to Friday from 4pm–6pm.

  • Lotus’ harbourside dumpling joint is bringing back a couple of Vivid specials this year. Pair an XO prawn dumpling platter ($19) with an electric-looking cocktail mixing Grey Goose vodka, butterfly tea, ginger liqueur, citrus, lavender and rosemary foam ($25).

  • Vivid is the perfect excuse to get across the theatrical new cocktail program at Maybe Sammy, one of the world’s best bars. Titled Mirage, it’s inspired by the idea of illusion and features 14 new drinks unlike anything else in Sydney (aromatic bubbles and shards of meringue, included). It’s a short walk to the harbour from here.

  • 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.

  • Allibi is popping up at the Cutaway in Barangaroo – with plant-based street eats designed by none other than Smith & Daughters’ Shannon Martinez. It’s a great snapshot of what you can expect at the restaurant proper – which is the perfect spot for a pre-Vivid dinner or drink away from the crowds.

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  • Otto’s Vivid cruise is an excellent way to eat well and soak up the sights all at once. Over 90-minutes, you’ll cruise the harbour spotting the best Vivid lights while enjoying Italian canapes and free-flowing drinks. There’s also an option to add a two-course dinner at the restaurant proper afterward.

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Your phone might get confiscated and put away in a locker for the length of your dinner at Bistecca, which is good news for your phone's battery: it will need all the rest it can get before you use it to snap and post everything you see at Vivid. Come here for some of Sydney’s best steaks.

  • Across the road from the Harbour Bridge, this Edwardian-style pub is one of the city’s best craft beer venues. It’s got you covered with Australiana-themed pizzas, a breezy rooftop, and live music if your Vivid excursion falls on a weekend.

  • Get a group together and head over to Merivale's Cantonese comfort-food king. Barbequed duck and dim sum are the perfect protein and carb fuel for heading out to battle the Vivid crowds.

  • 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.

  • If you’re catching a gig at Carriageworks, you need to stop in at RE. It’s one of the country’s best bars, and cocktails are made using rescued ingredients otherwise destined for landfill. The sharp menu of bar snacks and plates is powered by the same sustainability ethos.

  • 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, make a pitstop at neighbourhood gem along the way. One of Sydney’s best burgers awaits.

  • If you're checking out the installations around the Goods Line near the University of Technology, you’d do well to grab a cocktail at one of the city’s best gin bars while you’re in the area. Sip on a prestige TV-inspired cocktail or G&T from the extensive menu of booze.

  • 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.

  • Along Wulugul Walk, Belles Hot Chicken is your go-to for Nashville-style spicy chicken, craft beers and natural wines from local producers. There’s also a brand new Belles location right near Circular Quay if you’re hankering for a southern-fried feed in that direction.