The Spectacular Vivid Sydney Festival 2024

Vivid Sydney, the iconic festival of light, music and ideas will run from Friday 24th May to Saturday 15th June 2024 when artworks will light up buildings and historic laneways, turning the town into a magical wonderland. Stroll the light works, see the show from a harbour cruise and check out some of the music, food and ideas events. This is a festival you don’t want to miss.

The Vivid Sydney Festival will run from Friday 24th May to Saturday 15th June 2024

The Light Walk is back, this time showcasing the works of 100+ light collaborators and 26 international light artists from 13 countries, featuring street installations, projections, and immersive experiences that will transform the urban landscape. So lace up your walking shoes and get exploring.

After more than a decade of attending the Vivid Festival, I have put together my tips for surviving the crowds and getting the best views of the amazing light installations of one of the most popular festivals in Australia. 

Check out our guide to the best Vivid eats and cocktails

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Free things to see at Vivid

The festival is a spectacle of light, music, and ideas that has quickly become one of Sydney’s most popular events second only to the city’s NYE celebrations. It’s easy to see why, with something for everyone from families to art lovers and creators of all types.

While the festival is best known for its spectacular light show, it is worth checking out some of the program’s talks, films, and performances.

Where are the best spots to see the Vivid Light show?

This year the Vivid Light walk kicks it up a notch with an 8km path leading from the Sydney Opera House to Central Station.

Vivid Light is the largest festival of light in the Southern Hemisphere, and while it’s hard to go past the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge with their breathtaking installations this year, the action will spread south and some of the best installations will be found in Barangaroo, Darling Harbour and at Central Station.

Centra Station Clock Credit Destination NSW

The key installation areas in 2023 were:

  • The Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Circular Quay and Customs House
  • The MCA and Cadman’s Cottage
  • The Rocks
  • Walsh Bay
  • Barangaroo and the Cutaway
  • King Street Wharf
  • Darling Harbour
  • Central Station
Barangaroo Credit: Destination NSW

and outside the CBD

  • Carriageworks
  • Taronga Zoo

Vivid 2023 Maritime Museum
A render of Harbour Life at the Australian Maritime Museum in 2023

Tips for Enjoying Vivid Sydney

Vivid Kids Customs House
Customs House
  • Try to visit on one of the first few days. The last weekend is pure hell.
  • If you have to go on the weekend, go later in the night and choose Saturday or Sunday over Friday.
  • If you can eat dinner and hit the lights at about 9 pm when most families have headed home, the lights stay on until 11 pm this year.
  • Don’t forget the areas outside the harbour – as the crowds grew, so did the locations, and there are now several areas outside the Quay to explore.
  • Don’t try to see too much in one night – you have three weeks, so a few visits are entirely feasible for locals. If time is limited, check the festival website for highlights and pick a few areas.
  • If you are attending with kids, consider heading to the Taronga Zoo sessions instead of the city.
  • If you hate crowds, consider a cruise – we have covered the ones we think are best below.
  • Do not bring your car to the harbour zone of Vivid. Road closures and crowds make it less than enjoyable. If you do, check out Gateway at Circular Quay, who offers great parking prices during the festival.

Choosing a Vivid Sydney Cruise

If crowds aren’t your thing or you have mobility challenges, then a Vivid cruise is a great way to see many of the lights in comfort. There are so many packages on offer, it’s hard to know which one to choose. Over the last decade, I have tried quite a few, and I think there are two key differences, the quality of the food and the route the boat travels.

I have added both types of cruises below so you can see all your options and decide what works best for you. Prices for Vivid Harbour cruises range from $25-$130+. Private charters are also available.

Our Top Vivid Sydney Cruises

Major companies offer the benefit of a known product and a reputation that they will not want to risk by providing a substandard experience. I have booked both premium and discount cruises in the past, and while the discount boats can be great, it is a bit hit and miss, so if you are on a one time visit to Sydney, I think it is worth paying a little more for one of the well-known products. 

Captain Cook Vivid Cruises – Best Dinner Cruise option

Captain Cook is the best-known and best quality cruise operator in Sydney. They will offer a variety of Vivid Cruises.

Captain Cook Cruise
The Captain Cook boats look great with their Vivid Lighting.

Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Gold Vivid Dinner Cruise offers a 6-course degustation dinner, along with Penfolds private bin and vintage wines. It will be an experience to remember because of the gold class personalized service, live music, and access to an outdoor open deck which lets you see a 360-degree Vivid Lights view.

Location: King St. Wharf No. 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Book and Get the cruise’s full details here.

Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise

The Starlight Vivid Dinner Cruise includes a premium upper-deck seating with up to 3 hours of relaxed cruising, along with a 4-course premium menu, which is perfect while enjoying the 360-degree harbour views and the full canvas of Vivid Lights from the water.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Captain Cook’s MV Sydney 2000 Credit: Destination NSW

Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise

Offering amazing value-for-money, Vivid Sydney Dinner Cruise will let you enjoy the one-of-a-kind backdrop of Vivid Sydney lights while savoring a quality contemporary Australian 3-course dining and live entertainment.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: 27 May to 18 June 2022, Sat-Sun, 7pm
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

5pm Vivid Special Dinner

Experience 1.5 hours of relaxed cruising perfectly timed sunset while dining on a 2-course menu on this 5pm Vivid Special Dinner. Complete the experience by immersing yourself in Vivid’s new ‘Sydney Infinity’– the largest liquid and light show ever seen in Australian history.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: Thu-Sun & Mon 13 Jun 2022
Get the cruise’s full details or book here.

Sydney Vivid Tallship Cruise – Most unique option

If you have never boarded one of the two Sydney Harbour tall ships now is the perfect time. These ships are not just for tourists. I have been on several cruises and it’s a fun experience.

Vivid is even more special from the deck of a tall ship.

Your cruise includes:

  • 1.5-hour Sydney Harbour Tall Ship cruise past the Vivid sites
  • A tasty meal served on board
  • Drinks included (excluding premium beers)

Departure Location: Campbells Cove The Rocks
Date: Every day between 27 May to 18 June – 3 departures per night 6pm, 7:45pm and 9.30pm
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Journey Beyond – 3 Course Fine Dining Vivid Dinner Cruise

Cruise the harbour during Sydney’s Vivid Lights Festival watching the sunset with its stunning pink glow over Sydney Harbour while indulging in a luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise.

Your dining experience is a regionally focussed menu highlighting the multicultural influences that make Sydney cuisine so special by using an array of fresh and high quality NSW ingredients.

Your cruise includes:

  • Free cocktail on arrival
  • Luxurious and intimate 3-course dinner cruise
  • A selection of beers, wines, soft drinks and tea or coffee hand selected by sommeliers from some of the finest wine regions in NSW
Fine dining on Journey Beyond

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Budget Vivid Cruises

Captain Cook Vivid Lights Cruises

Captain Cook Cruises has released an exciting program of family-friendly Vivid Light cruises taking in the key precincts of Barangaroo, Luna Park, The Rocks and Circular Quay, including Sydney Harbour Bridge and the sails of the Sydney Opera House.

Location: Darling Harbour King St Wharf 1
Date: Thu-Sun & Mon 13 Jun 2022, starting from 5:45pm
Get the cruise’s full details and book here.

Sea Sydney Harbour – Catamaran Cruise with Canapes and Drink

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See the spectacular sights and enjoy the picturesque views of Sydney’s cityscape and landmarks from an intimate catamaran with roaming canapes.

Your cruise includes:

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deckhand/host
  • A selection of canapes
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice) and the option to purchase more drinks onboard

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details and book here.

Sea Sydney Harbour – Vivid Sydney Small Group Catamaran Cruise

Experience the Vivid Sydney Festival from a prime location on a boat cruising Sydney Harbour. See Sydney and the harbour’s famous landmarks lit up with colour from a luxury motor catamaran, with maximum passenger numbers of 20. Indoor and outdoor viewing areas on a small vessel.

  • A 1.5 hour cruise with an experienced skipper and deckhand/host
  • Light refreshments, including an Italian inspired antipasto spread with bread rolls
  • One complimentary beverage per person (beer, wine, soft drink, or juice)

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the cruise’s full details here.

Choose a Unique Vivid Sydney Experience

Vivid Lights Secret Bar Crawl

Visit 3 of Sydney’s best secret & small bars while exploring the Vivid Lights artworks! This 3 hour tour is a great option for solo travellers. Your guide will showcase some of the best light installations, while weaving in stories of the area and insider knowledge of Sydney’s nightlife.

Over 3 hours, you’ll visit 3 bars including some well-hidden ones, with one drink included.

This is a great way to have a fun & unique night out during Vivid while discovering some amazing hidden bars.

On Tuesday nights during Vivid, the route will cover the Central and Darling Square area, while on Thursday nights you’ll explore Circular Quay and the Rocks.

Sydney Expert readers can get a 10% discount by using the code “SydneyExpert” at the checkout.

Vivid Photography Tour

A professional photographer leads this 3-hour walking tour from the National College of Photography, leading you to the best spots to shoot the Vivid installations. You will also get lots of tips to help you create the best photos in night conditions.

Vivid Sydney
One of my favourite Vivid shots from my Canon Vivid class

The tour is designed to visit the spots at the best times, so you can navigate the crowds and get amazing photos to take home. I did this tour two years ago and learned so much!

Departure Location: Towns Place Wharf, Millers Point
Date: 29 & 31 May & 1, 3, 5, 7-8, 10, & 14-15 Jun
Get the full details here.

Getting the Best Photos at Vivid Sydney

  • Go on Sunday – Monday and be prepared to stay all night.
  • Get up above the lights if you can – Cahill Walk, The Observation Deck at the Overseas Passenger’s terminal, are good choices. I have heard they may close this area to the public for security concerns, but I see lots of photos taken from this spot, so perhaps ask when you arrive. The footpath on the Harbour Bridge offers excellent vantage points.
  • If you are a keen photographer or someone who wants to learn more, look out for some of the photos walks – they usually have the best locations sorted and will give you useful tips. I did one with Canon a few years ago that was excellent.
  • Take a tripod and a manual camera.
  • Share your photos using the official hashtag #vividsydney
  • There are some significant technical tips here
West side Sydney Harbour Bridge Vivid
The Bridge from the western side at Vivid 2017

Vivid Helicopter Flight over Sydney Harbour

If you’re looking to experience Vivid in style, why not choose this 25-minute scenic flight over Sydney Harbour at night for views of Vivid at every angle? For a unique experience, see Sydney after dark from above and be dazzled by the illuminated skyline aboard the exclusive twin engine Euro copter EC135 helicopter.

Vivid Chopper Flight
Vivid Chopper Flight Credit: Klook

This flight includes a photo opportunity with the pilot and aircraft, plus commentary with BOSE voice-activated headsets for the best experience possible.

Departure Location: 472 Ross Smith Ave, Mascot
Date: 27 May to 18 Jun, Mon to Sun
Get the full details here.

Vivid Bridge Climb

Bridgeclimb Vivid Sydney
I can only imagine how much the city must resemble fairyland from up here during Vivid

If you want a memorable way to see the lights, then check out the Vivid Bridgeclimb. Last year the climb included a flashing disco floor. I can’t imagine a better way to see the harbour at night than during Vivid.

These climbs sell out so book early to be sure you don’t miss your chance.

Vivid Music

Get ready for a musical extravaganza because Vivid Sydney is back in 2023 with a bang! This time around, the festival is giving a spotlight to First Nations artists who will be performing all around Sydney.

One of the must-see events is A Bend in the River: A Tribute to Archie Roach AC, which is all about paying homage to the legacy of Archie Roach AC. With 10 studio albums under his belt, Archie was known for his powerful truth-telling and activism. And boy, did he leave a mark! Some of his closest friends and contemporaries, including Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, and Dan Sultan, will come together to celebrate Archie’s life at Sydney Town Hall.

If you’re looking for free and eclectic music, Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour is the place to be! There’s a 12-night line-up featuring artists from all over the world, including Yothu Yindi, Ziggy Ramo, and Esa’s Afro Synth Band. Even triple j’s Unearthed High competition winners will perform there.

Don’t forget to check out the late-night lounge, where the one and only Trevor Ashley will host the Vivid Sydney Supper Club. You can catch some fantastic live performances by headliners like Christine Anu, Rhys Nicholson, and David Campbell.

Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Park free shows from Wednesday to Saturday night, right in the heart of the Light Walk. Music will start at 8pm each Wednesday and 7pm each Thursday to Saturday, with Saturday kids shows at 5pm.. Check the line up here.

Vivid Accommodation

If you plan to visit Sydney for the Vivid Festival and want to book accommodation, it’s good to get in early if you can. A lot of the budget hotels are booked out by large tour groups. We have a list of our favourite budget hotels that we would be happy to stay at, so check there if you are having trouble.

Hotels with a view of the Harbour are a good option if you want to view the lights from above.

If it’s your first visit to the city, you might like to read our article on choosing the best part of town to stay in depending on your travel style.

If you are bringing the kids, we have also listed our favourite hotels for families.

Feature image: John Olsen’s Five Bells Credit: Destination NSW

Check out these awesome music festivals across NSW for more great entertainment.

12 thoughts on “The Spectacular Vivid Sydney Festival 2024”

  1. Wow! What a wonderful way to make a fabulous place even more interesting! Would love to see this festival! Sydney is high on the bucket list.

  2. These cities always look amazing when they light up great building with their colorful lights. Sydney is no exception and looks fantastic with its iconic major sites looking all pretty

  3. I’ve never been to Vivid, but it looks like an amazing event! I attended NYE in Sydney a couple of years ago and really did not enjoy the crowds – so your tips for avoiding them would come in really handy at this festival. But most of all, I think the 75-minute cruise would be perfect for me – limited people and great views – what more could you want?!

  4. This looks like such a fun festival. I love that the zoo is getting involved. I’m not great with large crowds so would definitely consider the cruise 🙂

  5. I think if you were trying to stay away from the crowds the Zoo would be a good option. Because it’s ticketed it will most definitely attract fewer people.

  6. This looks so nice. I have been to Sydney twice (though my last visit has been a while) but never heard of the festival before. Hope, to see it on my next trip (though I hope I visit OZ in summer)

  7. Vivid Sydney is one of our most favourite times of the year! Not only because it’s such an amazing time to get out and fall in love with the city all over again, but we also get to host amazing events for our clients at this time of year to the backdrop of the incredible light installations. Roll on Vivid 2019!

  8. Anybody into photography and wants to explore Vivid Sydney, 2020? Lets set dates and I’ll be there.

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