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Sydney Festival highlights 2017January 7 - 29

With 150 events across 46 venues over 23 days, the Sydney Festival will have the city buzzing next January. The 2017 festival will also shine a light on one of the world's oldest cultures. 

By Katrina Lobley

In January each year Sydney lights up with the Sydney Festival: three weeks of art, music, theatre, dance, circus, talks, workshops and other events. It has been running since 1977, with the general aim of celebrating everything that Sydney has to offer. Each year the festival has a theme but the programming schedule is always diverse, and may include anything from Russian ballet and circus performances to Detroit rap. The best news of all? Almost half of the calendar's 150 events will cost you nothing.   

Fast Facts:

Where: Sydney
When: 7 Jan- 29 Jan
Price: $$ Free and ticketed events

See Sydney's most artistic sights


Visit a beach with a difference
As part of its program each year the Sydney Festival stages many free events. One of the most enjoyable in 2017 may well be The Beach – an ocean of 1.1 million white balls that will be installed at the Barangaroo precinct, right in the city centre, next to Sydney Harbour. Pop down to the installation to take a swim with a difference among the balls, or relax on the sidelines in a beach chair. The Beach is free between 10am and 5pm daily, with access restricted to ticket holders at the all-ages 9am sessions and the adults-only Friday and Saturday night sessions.

Experience culture for free
If you'd like to hear Tchaikovsky’s rousing 1812 Overture, along with works from Mozart, Adams and Elgar, for free, put Symphony Under the Stars on your to-do list. This much-loved annual event will take place in two places in 2017 – at The Domain (next to the city centre) on 14 January and at Parramatta Park (a 25 minute train ride from Sydney's Central station) on 28 January. Alternatively, head to The Domain on 21 January to hear famous arias trilled under the night sky during an evening of opera. Arrive early with a picnic to make a night of it. 

Head to party central
Hyde Park, a beautiful expanse of green in Sydney's city centre, is transformed into a collection of temporary venues during the three weeks of the Sydney Festival. The Meriton Festival Village hosts ticketed music, comedy and cabaret shows at its Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, along with free entertainment on the Village Stage. Rollerskaters can glide around the park to live DJs at the free four hour Roller Jam at a temporary skate circle on Saturday afternoons. The free Soul of Sydney sessions, which take place every Sunday during the festival at the Meriton Festival Village, are known as Sydney's friendliest dance floors.  

Learn about Australia's indigenous cultures
With Aboriginal director Wesley Enoch directing the 2017 Sydney Festival, there will be a strong emphasis on celebrating Australia's indigenous cultures at this year's event. A signature event is Bayala – Language Classes at the State Library of NSW, where attendees can learn the basics of local Aboriginal languages. People are also invited to learn a song in local language, which will be performed en masse at Barangaroo at 8am on 26 January.


Head to the Tix For Next To Nix booth at the Meriton Festival Village box office in the city's Hyde Park to see what bargain tickets are available for shows the next day. The AUD$26 tickets are limited and available to those who queue first when the booth opens at 5.30pm.


All venues in the city centre and suburban areas are accessible by public transport (bus and train). Go to the festival's Getting Around page for further information.