Vivid Sydney, the annual festival of lights, transforms Sydney into a dazzling wonderland of colours and creativity from May 26 until June 17. The event is a highlight on the city’s calendar, and in turn, tends to attract throngs of people. If you’re interested in enjoying the lights while still maintaining some personal space, or just need a quick breather before diving back into the crowds here are some great spots to consider.
1. Icons Cafe
Located in Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, a recently renovated arts and culture hub in a historic location on the edge of Sydney Harbour, Icons Cafe offers a prime vantage point to witness the Vivid Festival’s light extravaganza. Nestled within the Steve McCurry Icons exhibition, this cafe combines art and culinary delights. Sip on a perfectly brewed coffee or indulge in a glass of wine as you look out onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. While you’re here, make sure to check out the namesake exhibition, a 40-year retrospective of the work of one of the world’s foremost photojournalists.
2. Cafe Sydney
Perched above Circular Quay, Cafe Sydney offers an unbeatable location with breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. During Vivid Sydney, this popular restaurant transforms into a haven for light enthusiasts. Savour delicious cocktails such as their legendary Cafe Sydney Espresso, a mix of house-made spiced fig syrup, Casamigos reposado tequila, Tuaca, dark crème de cacao and espresso.
Escape the crowds and venture to Oborozuki, a hidden gem in Circular Quay. This cozy izakaya not only serves up refined takes on classic Japanese plates but also provides a rooftop setting where you can enjoy the Vivid lights in a tranquil atmosphere. Sip on sake or Japanese-inspired cocktails as you marvel at the mesmerising light projections dancing across the city.
For a classic Aussie pub experience, head to The Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks. Located just a stone’s throw away from the Vivid festivities, this historic venue offers a rooftop bar boasting panoramic views of the Sydney Harbour and the city’s iconic landmarks. Raise your glass to the stunning light installations while relishing the vibrant atmosphere and lively vibes of this local favourite.
If you prefer a less crowded alternative to the popular Opera Bar, make your way to Portside Sydney Opera House. Situated just steps away from the iconic Sydney Opera House, this waterfront venue provides an intimate setting to enjoy Vivid Sydney. With an extensive selection of beverages, Portside offers front-row al-fresco seats to the awe-inspiring light displays.
Share a delectable grazing board among friends, or indulge in one of their seafood mains, with a menu that offers a modern take on Australian cuisine. Treat yourself to a cocktail or a glass of bubbles, and enjoy the lights!
MCA Rooftop Cafe is a must-visit. Located atop the Museum of Contemporary Art, this chic cafe offers uninterrupted views of the Sydney Harbour and the city skyline.
But it’s not just the view from the top that’s impressive – every night throughout Vivid Sydney, the art deco building’s façade will be transformed with a light projection by MCA Collection artist Maree Clarke that depicts river reeds, a symbol representing safe travels and friendship.
Inspired by the eclectic influences of the South Aegean islands, Ploós is a great recluse during Vivid and provides uninterrupted views of the Opera House from a spectacular setting in The Rocks.
Aside from regular dining, as part Vivid Sydney, Ploós will also be celebrating the life of the late Australian artist John Olsen with an incredible dinner on 31 May. The dinner will be a celebration of Olsen’s iconic art being beamed over the Sydney Opera House as the hero of Vivid Sydney 2023. His children Tim and Louise Olsen will be the hosts for the evening, dedicated to their father’s formidable legacy. Tickets for the one-night-only event are available through the Ploós website.
6HEAD is known for being the best steak and dining experience in town, and its award winning chef uses cutting-edge culinary techniques to live up to its reputation. The wine list offers over 250 wines and patrons can expect a dining experience that exudes elegance and professionalism.
For the duration of the festival, 6HEAD is offering an immersive multi-sensory dining experience presented by 6HEAD and Vivid Sydney. The chefs have worked to create a select number of dishes, especially for the Vivid Sydney dinner. These are limited-time-only dishes and showcase not just the world-class skill in the kitchen, but also the multi-sensory experience in the dining area. This elegant establishment also boasts breathtaking views of the Sydney Harbour and you will be able to enjoy the Vivid lights while tucking in to the Vivid Menu.