Our Vivid Sydney 2022 guide to Sydney’s luminous festival covers everything you need to know from what to see and do at Vivid Sydney to where to stay in Sydney for the best views of Vivid’s dazzling projections and lighting installations and proximity to Vivid events – because you will need a few days to properly experience Vivid Sydney.
If you haven’t been to Sydney’s spellbinding festival of light, music and ideas before, make Vivid Sydney 2022 the event that you get to! Australia’s brightest and boldest festival, the luminous winter festival sets Sydney ablaze with light and colour for three weeks from 27 May to 18 June 2022, and it offers something for everyone.
Vivid Sydney is inspiring, invigorating and illuminating and I’m not just talking about the breathtaking projections and spellbinding installations. The lights may be the stars of this after-dark festival and reason enough to get to Vivid Sydney 2022, but there’s so much more to see and do at this festival of the arts, creativity and innovation.
Vivid Sydney is essentially three festivals in one: the lighting projections and installations come under the umbrella of Vivid Light, live music performances and collaborations form Vivid Music and Vivid Live, and Vivid Ideas offers a schedule of thought-provoking talks and conversations between lighting artists, creatives, authors, and thinkers to ignite stimulating conversations.
So while you’ll want to make it a priority to see the 50+ lighting installations and larger-than-life projections on Sydney’s most iconic buildings and structures, there are over 200 events to entertain, inspire and enlighten you, so don’t think this is a one-day event. You might find yourself returning multiple times – or even checking into a hotel to make a staycation of it.
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Vivid Sydney 2022 Guide – What to See and Do and Where to Stay for Sydney’s Dazzling Winter Festival
When Vivid Sydney 2022 Takes Place
The Vivid festival runs from 27 May until 18 June 2022 with Vivid Lights going on from 6pm and finishing at 11pm every night, rain, hail or shine. While most events are scheduled after dark, some start earlier.
How to Get to Vivid Sydney
Leave the car at home and take public transport because there are lots of road closures throughout the city centre to create pedestrian-only spaces and plenty of clearways for special events. That means extremely limited parking, parking restrictions, and traffic congestion.
Additional trains and buses will be operating to and from all Vivid Sydney precincts where there are lighting installations and events. Make sure to top up your Opal card or buy a ticket covering all public transport. Transport info here: 131500.com.au
Where to See Vivid Sydney 2022 Lights and Events
As usual, some of the most stunning lighting projections and installations are at Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay, The Rocks, and Walsh Bay, but there’s also plenty to see and do elsewhere in the Sydney CBD and surrounds, at Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Darling Quarter, Darling Square, Central Station and The Goods Line, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Carriageworks, and across the harbour at Luna Park and Taronga Zoo.
How Much Time to Allocate to Vivid Sydney 2022
We recommend an absolute minimum of 3-4 nights, but you could easily spend so much more time at the festival if you’re seeing loads of events. The first night you visit, watch the lights go from The Rocks or Circular Quay so you have views of both Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, then explore that precinct on foot, taking in the star attractions, and book a restaurant for a late dinner somewhere like Bennelong, so you can rest your weary feet, and still soak up the colour and lights.
Start the Light Walk another evening, from either Circular Quay or Central Station, keeping in mind it’s 8kms long and there are plenty of installations, light shows, projections, and art and sculpture to see along the way, as well as lots of rest stops and good eating and sipping spots, so you may want to spread that over two nights.
A memorable way to finish your Vivid marathon is on a leisurely cruise with cocktails in hand, either on Sydney Harbour or Darling Harbour, or a scenic flight across the whole city. You could also kick off your Vivid Sydney experience with a flight or cruise, but I like the idea of doing it at the end, as you’ll be able to recognise lighting installations and projections that most inspired you and firmly imprint them in your memory.
Where to Stay During Vivid Sydney 2022
The first thing you’ll realise after an evening at Vivid Sydney is how much there is to see and do – you will definitely want to return multiple times – and that so much of it is free, so why not spend the money you save on a couple of nights’ accommodation and have a staycation in the city for Vivid Sydney 2022? Depending on your budget, you’ll either want to check into a Sydney hotel for views of the illuminated city or for its proximity to Vivid events.
If it’s views you’re looking for then your best bets at the top end is the Park Hyatt, right at the heart of the action by the Sydney Harbour Bridge overlooking the Opera House; the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, on George Street, Circular Quay, with breath-taking harbour views; and the nearby Shangri-La Hotel Sydney has spectacular views to rival that of the Four Seasons Sydney. At Miller’s Point, the beautiful boutique rooms at Hotel Palisade have gob-smacking views of the Bridge and Luna Park.
For location, The Langham Sydney near The Observatory is handy to Circular Quay and Barangaroo, as is nearby Rydges Sydney Harbour, which has Opera House and Harbour views from its rooftop pool (and a great last-minute offer on Luxury Escapes right now). Boutique hotel the Little National is super-central, right by Wynyard Station, while The Tank Stream is a few blocks away.
Of the boutique hotels, Pier One Sydney Harbour on Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, is about as close to Sydney Harbour Bridge as you can get; the Ovolo Woolloomooloo is handy if you’re doing a harbour cruise (info below) and is a pleasant stroll through the Botanic Gardens to the Sydney Opera House and all the action; The Darling at The Star overlooks Darling Harbour and Barangaroo is not far away; while The Old Clare Hotel is fantastic for events at UTS, Central Station and Carriageworks.
At the budget end, it’s hard to beat Sydney Harbour YHA in The Rocks, with sweeping rooftop vistas from the Quay to the Sydney Opera House and over to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while the Wynyard Hotel, near Wynyard Station, must be one of the best value hotels in the city with clean renovated rooms in an 1880s pub, but no facilities.
What to See and Do During Vivid Sydney 2022
Lighting of the Sails and First Light
Every evening Vivid Light kicks off with the illumination of the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons from 5.40pm with a towering projection of photography and animated graphics called Sharing the Same Life Essence. By artist Wayne Quilliam, in collaboration with Yakkazoo, Rhoda Roberts and Ignatious Jones, the work celebrates the Gadigal people and creation of our lands by the Rainbow Serpent and reveals how everything was created to connect.
It kicks off Vivid Sydney’s First Light ceremony to acknowledge our First Nations culture – incidentally there are 25 events involving First Nations artists and thinkers at Vivid Sydney 2022. Then at 6pm the lights go on with the Lighting of the Sails when the large-scale projections go on at Sydney Opera House.
Spectacular Sydney Scenic Flight
One of the first things do at Vivid Sydney 2022 is to get a birds-eye-view of Sydney magically illuminated by light and colour, which you can do on an unforgettable one-of-a-kind 45-Minute Scenic Harbour Flight (A$239 per person on Luxury Escapes). As you approach one of the world’s most gob-smacking city skyline’s, you’ll get to see Sydney transform into a kaleidoscopic wonderland.
You’ll then fly over some of Sydney’s most iconic structures, including Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, both of which will serve as canvases for breathtaking projections, along with some of Vivid’s star attractions, such as the spectacular 8-km Light Walk from Sydney Opera House all the way to Central Station.
Darling Harbour Cruise
The next best thing to do at Vivid Sydney 2022 is to soak up the sights and sounds from the sparkling harbour with a drink in hand. Sip cocktails and nibble on Australian cheese and charcuterie on the Darling Harbour Cocktail Cruise with Tasting Plate and Welcome Drink (A$65 per person on Luxury Escapes) as you glide by brilliant displays of digital art. The 5pm departure is 90-minutes duration and the 7pm departure a leisurely 3-hour cruise. These are selling fast, with limited dates, so book soon.
VIP Sydney Harbour Cruise
For something even more special, you can enjoy unlimited cocktails, beer, wine and canapés and get the VIP treatment on a 1.5-hour Small-Group Harbour Cruise (max. 12 passengers; A$185 per person on Luxury Escapes). You’ll board the beautiful polished teak boat, the Suellen, at Woolloomooloo, from where you’ll cruise by Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House to Fort Denison, Garden Island and Cockatoo Island, to take in the jaw-dropping projections. The handcrafted cocktails include everything from espresso martinis to margaritas and negronis, while the gourmet canapés are by Sydney providore and kitchen Three Blind Mice.
The Light Walk
Swap the heels for comfy shoes as you’ll need to hit the streets to take in one of Vivid Sydney 2022’s highlights, the Light Walk. The longest continuous Light Walk in Vivid’s 12-year history, this year, the illuminated path stretches for 8km from Sydney Opera House to Central Station, with installations and artworks along the entire route.
Don’t think you have to do it in one go. There are break-away spaces along the way for you to stop and sit and soak up the atmosphere, and plenty of watering holes and eating spots for you to refuel while you rest your feet. We’ll cover where to eat and drink at Vivid Sydney 2022 in a separate post.
Landmark Lighting Installations
One of the real highlights of the festival for many Vivid regulars are the stupendous lighting installations on some of Sydney’s landmark buildings, and Vivid Sydney 2022 is no exception with stunning works by Ken Done called For Sydney with Love, projected onto the Customs House façade, which tells the story of Done’s love affair with Sydney, his muse, and how the city has informed his joyful style of art.
Other highlights include Ninget Universe, at Circular Quay and The Rocks by the artist Luca, an environmentalist and animal lover inspired by the shapes of Sydney and the creatures he imagines that live among us;,and Resonance, at Darling Harbour, a dynamic sensory experience created by the artists of Studio John Fish, who have suspended a geometric array of convex mirrors beneath the freeway overpass with a soundtrack that reverberates within the space, inviting you to reflect upon new perspectives.
Tips to Experiencing Vivid Sydney 2022
Try to Visit Vivid Sydney Mid-Week
Weekends are busiest, as you’d expect, so if you’re not a fan of crowds – and who is these days – try to avoid weekends and discover Vivid Sydney mid-week when it’s quieter.
Don’t Miss Lesser Visited Spots and New Areas
Most people make a beeline for Circular Quay, Sydney Opera House and The Rocks, where you’ll find the star attractions – massive projections on iconic buildings and monuments, and mind-blowing interactive installations.
You won’t want to miss those, but perhaps see them mid-week and then on the busier weekends head to some of the lesser-visited installations at Luna Park and Taronga Zoo and newer areas such as Central Station and the Goods Line.
Buy Tickets for Vivid Events ASAP
While there’s so much to see at Vivid Sydney 2022 that is free, there are also loads of live music performances and stimulating talks that are ticketed and sell out fast, so purchase those on the Vivid Sydney 2022 website as soon as you decide what to see. You’ll find a full schedule there.
Book Restaurants Now
Once you decide when you’re going to Vivid or have purchased tickets to events, also book restaurants. Lingering over a meal with a view of the luminous city is a must, but the restaurants with the best views book up fast. We’ll post a guide to where to eat and drink during Vivid tomorrow.
Pack a Picnic Basket
And if you can’t get a restaurant booking, definitely pack a picnic basket or backpack with nibbles, rug up and take a picnic blanket, and make a beeline to the gardens or a park with Vivid views at least one night.
Please do let us know if you get to Vivid Sydney 2022 and share any tips you have. We’re wishing we were there and would love to hear from you.