See Sydney in a sparkling new light during the annual Vivid Sydney. Each winter, the world’s best designers and artists transform the city. See stunning images projected onto Sydney Opera House, control the lights on the Harbour Bridge, play with interactive light sculptures throughout the city centre, experience great music and hear inspiring talks.
Reasons to attend
1. What started out as a little idea to boost winter business in central Sydney is now one of the city’s biggest success stories. Vivid started in 2009 with four elements but has since been streamlined into three simple concepts – light, music and ideas – that unfold over 18 days. The event is now so popular that it attracts nearly 1.5 million attendees each year.
2. Grab a camera and experience Sydney in a whole other light. Australia’s harbour city is gorgeous by day but, with help from the world’s most cutting-edge artists and designers, it is transformed into something magical with light-art sculptures, grand-scale projections and installations in unexpected places.
3. Regular festival-goers look forward to Vivid’s centrepiece event: the lighting of the Opera House sails. Previously, the iconic sails have become a canvas for projections that included snakeskin, butterfly wings and space-inspired patterns, and included imagery from musicians Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson.
4. While much of the after-dark sparkle is concentrated in Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, Vivid Sydney has expanded to five new precincts, all close to the CBD: Martin Place, Sydney Harbour, Carriageworks in Eveleigh, the University of Sydney at Camperdown and The Star at Pyrmont.
5. Many light installations are interactive, which adds up to hours of fun. In 2014 the 56 installations – created by 140 artists from 15 countries – included a work that allowed festival-goers to project a 3D image of their face onto a giant head.
6. Sydney’s harbour watercraft also join in the Vivid fun. Ferries, cruise boats and water taxis are adorned with bright lights during the festival.
7. Darling Harbour showcases “dancing” water jets, sculptural fountains, full-colour lasers, video projections and marine fireworks during Vivid. 250,000 people watch the shows unfold hourly from 6pm until 11pm, with an extra show on Saturdays.
8. Vivid’s cutting-edge music program covers everything from indie, pop and rock concerts through to classical orchestras – previous big names include The Pixies, Pet Shop Boys and Lauryn Hill. The gigs take place in venues ranging from intimate subterranean spaces through to the grand Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.
9. Vivid Ideas is the Asia Pacific’s annual celebration of the creative industries. The expert talks cover fashion, design, film, animation, architecture, games, digital media, business and more.
10. North Sydney will once again be part of Vivid Sydney, lighting up the North Sydney business district as well as giving an amazing view of the city.
What to look out for
The Sydney Harbour Bridge can be climbed all year but it’s particularly spectacular during Vivid. Climb the bridge at night for a bird’s-eye view of the projections on the Opera House sails and the lighting of other city landmarks. For the past few years, climbers have worn flashing vests to become part of the light show. In 2014, BridgeClimb went a step further – adding a star-shaped light installation at the top of the bridge that pulsed in time with a climber’s heartbeat.
How to get there
Don a pair of comfortable walking shoes. The best way to see Vivid is on foot so start in Circular Quay, head to Martin Place and on to Darling Harbour. Buses regularly service The Star casino and the University of Sydney; take a short taxi ride to Carriageworks.
For more details