Since it debuted in 2008, the light, music and ideas festival 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.

This year, Vivid’s displays, performances and talks will span Sydney – From 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, and farther out, Chatswood and Eveleigh will both be fully-fledged festival hubs. Carriageworks will once again host some of Vivid Music's biggest acts, including performances by FKA Twigs, and Australian three-piece Rüfüs Du Sol.

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

The Sydney Opera House is the centre of Vivid every year. The biggest and best projections play out across the building's iconic white sails. There's no better screen in Sydney. Dining and drinking at Bennelong will put you right in the thick of it. Although most tables are booked out by now, it's worth going to have a drink and a bite at the bar, which is walk-in only.

Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
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Mary's Circular Quay

Mary's Circular Quay opened last month and its refined downstairs counterpart, Mary's Underground, opened last week just in time for Vivid. For eating you won't find a better burger this close to Circular Quay (and the whole menu can be done vegan). For drinking, you can barely find anywhere in the city with $10 glasses of natural wine, let alone this deep into the CBD.

7 Macquarie Place, Circular Quay, Sydney

Maybe Sammy

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

Chiswick at the Gallery

Chiswick at the Art Gallery of NSW is close to all of 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.

Art Gallery Road, The Domain
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Bistecca

Your phone gets 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 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

Kittyhawk

One of the best options for Vivid dining and drinking. The rum-focused cocktail bar has great drinks, but consider having dinner here, too. Service is fast, and the tight French menu has plenty of crowd-pleasers. The highlights are the roast chicken and the steak frites. Kittyhawk is also just near the Botanic Gardens, which has more installations than ever this year.

16 Phillip Lane, Sydney
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Henry Deane

Because it's in Miller's Point, this cocktail bar 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 views of Vivid.

35 Bettington Street, Millers Point

Bopp and Tone

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
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The Morrison Bar and Oyster Room

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

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
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The Doss House

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

77-79 George Street, The Rocks
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Bar Patrón by Rockpool

A bar with an emphasis on having fun, serving no-fuss Mexican food and great cocktails right across the road from the Royal Botanic Gardens and Sydney Opera House.

2 Phillip Street, Circular Quay
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Kid Kyoto

Kid Kyoto is right in the thick of things. There's easy access to Circular Quay or Barangaroo and Darling Harbour. So start your night here with some Japanese seafood and cocktails named after '90s grunge hits.

17/19 Bridge Street, Sydney
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Golden Century

This late-night Chinese restaurant is the place to head if you're a dinner-and-a-show, then-a-second-dinner kind of person.

393-399 Sussex Street, Sydney
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Palmer & Co

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

Pony Lounge & Dining – The Rocks

An Argentinian-style grill in The Rocks using local and sustainable produce.

Kendall Lane and Argyle Street, The Rocks
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Barrio Cellar

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

58 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

Frankie's Pizza

This pizza saloon in the middle of the city is open until three in the morning, making it the perfect place to end your night.

50 Hunter Street, Sydney
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Bulletin Place

World-class cocktails in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge.

First floor 10-14 Bulletin Place, Sydney

Hotel Palisade

The rooftop here has a panoramic view stretching from Darling Harbour to the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks.

35 Bettington Street, Millers Point

Endeavour Tap Rooms

A heritage building putting an Australian pub spin on American barbeque with an on-site 600-litre brewhouse that keeps the four rotating taps at the bar full.

39-53 Argyle Street, The Rocks

Sweethearts Rooftop

A rooftop bar close to three of the festival's biggest attractions in Kings Cross.

33-37 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
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The Frisco Hotel

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

The Australian Heritage Hotel

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
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Saké Restaurant and Bar

This restaurant virtually underneath the Harbour Bridge serves both modern and traditional Japanese food and has more than 40 varieties of sake.

12 Argyle Street, The Rocks
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The Glenmore Hotel

A refurbished traditional pub with an amazing view of Circular Quay.

96 Cumberland Street, The Rocks
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The Push

Conveniently located on George Street with a fun cocktail list.

143 George Street, The Rocks
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Ash St. Cellar

Spanish food a stone's throw from the installations in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

1 Ash Street, Sydney

Wild Ginger

A Thai restaurant with a view of the harbour. Not to mention it only uses local Australian ingredients.

106 George Street, The Rocks
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Bea

A fine-dining restaurant inside Barangaroo House, where you can watch the promenade light up as the sun sets.

Level 1 35 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo

Lotus Barangaroo

It sits right on the harbour and serves food that uses indigenous Australian ingredients in Chinese recipes. A great option if you've just come from the Darling Harbour section and are making your way towards Circular Quay.

Shop 8/9 Wulugul Walk , Barangaroo
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The Port

A French bar and restaurant overlooking Darling Harbour ideal for watching Vivid's marine-themed lighting installations.

2-10 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour

love.fish Barangaroo

A waterside restaurant that prides itself on using ethically sourced seafood.

7 23 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
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Barangaroo House

Right on the water, this building houses three venues, House Bar, Smoke and Bea, all of which provide great spots to relax and take in Vivid's water-based light installations.

Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo

Belles Hot Chicken Barangaroo

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

Shop 5 33 Barangaroo Avenue, Wulugul Walk, Barangaroo

Busby

A whisky and wine bar just near Kings Cross and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

55 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo

Chachi’s

Grab a drink at this Woolloomooloo spot before you head into the Botanic Gardens.

218 William Street, Woolloomooloo

House Bar

An indoor-outdoor venue that spills out onto a landscaped terrace overlooking Sydney Harbour.

35 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo

Bentley Restaurant & Bar

A classic bar and restaurant with a menu full of premium Australian produce and wine – right in the thick of the action.

27 O'Connell Street, Sydney
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The Smoking Panda

One to check out if you're planning a trip to Kings Cross or Barangaroo; it has more than 250 spirits and your favourite Chinese takeaway dishes reimagined.

Level 1 5-7 Park Street, Sydney

Chula

A seafood-focused Mexican restaurant right down the road from the famous Coke sign.

Shop 7 33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

Molo at Manta

Grab an aperitivo or two on Wolloomooloo Wharf, with a side of oysters and antipasto.

Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

China Doll

A longstanding Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian restaurant with a seasonal cocktail menu and outdoor seating on the Woolloomooloo Wharf.

6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo

Mr Stonepot

A hidden gem in Chatswood mall serving Westernised Chinese cuisine and dumplings. A great option if you're checking out the Vivid attractions north of the Bridge.

427-441 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood

The Buena

Our pick for dining if you're heading to the attractions at Taronga Zoo.

76 Middle Head Road, Mosman
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Khao Pla

Bangkok-inspired plates matched with 90s hip-hop.

Shop 7 7 Anderson Street, Chatswood
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