You will strategically travel to Sydney during late May – early June to see the city transformed into a spectacular canvas of light. You will explore the city and take in the best museums & galleries Sydney has to offer while discovering the historic side of the city and taking in some of the most photographed landmarks in the world. You will discover the city on foot and enjoy local markets, local street art, surrounding parkland, and travel to the best lookouts around the city for breathtaking harbour views.
Sydney in Vivid Colour
The best introduction to Sydney is a walking tour of the city’s main attractions. Start in Circular Quay. Circular Quay is the hub of Sydney Harbour, and the best spot to start a walking tour of the city. It is the main hub for reaching all major attractions around the harbor including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
It hosts street performers, vendors and live music and is an exciting place to be. Ferries depart every few minutes to different parts of the harbour, including Manly, Watsons Bay, Mosman and Taronga Park Zoo.
Walk down to the eastern end of the Quay. You will reach the steps of the famed Sydney Opera House. The backstage tour is expensive and will put you back $165 each but it’s the only tour which grants you unprecedented VIP access to the Opera House. Unless you’re a huge theatre fan, better to marvel at the Opera House from the steps. Sitting on the Opera House steps in the sun and taking in the harbor and the bridge is a great way to spend half an hour.
If you are there during Vivid Live there are nightly one hour tours of the Opera House at 6pm & 6.30pm for $37.
Keep following the water’s edge until you hit the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a relaxing, scenic walk, and a great way to experience Sydney for free. Great photo opportunities of the harbor, and you can discover Government House. A historical site and Government building, Government House is still in use today – the free 45 minute tours offer a great insight into early Australian history.
Head back to Circular Quay and walk across to Hyde Park Barracks.Historically significant landmark, this is where convicts were housed and was a place of punishment between 1819 and 1848. Find your way back to Circular Quay and make your way to the opposite end, walking towards the Harbor Bridge.
You will come to a part of Sydney called The Rocks. Stop for lunch here at one of the many gourmet restaurants. “Fish at the Rocks” has an amazing seafood menu; “Baroque Bistro” serves excellent modern Australian and French cuisine.
Tour the Rocks during the afternoon. Explore the historic buildings and stroll down the various cobblestoned alleyways at your own leisure. The Rocks is the site of the first European settlement in Australia, and Sydney’s most important historical site. The Museum of Sydney is a 10 minute walk. It’s a small museum but offers amazing history on the city. You can take an audio walking tour of the Rocks; for $10 you get a map and collection of audio tracks downloaded onto your iPod or MP3.
Potter around the Rocks and make your way back to Circular Quay to the Harbour Bridge. Walk up onto the bride and cross it on foot, enjoying the spectacular views of the Harbour. Less than halfway across the bridge you will reach Pylon Lookout. A highly underrated attraction, spend $13 and climb to the observation area 87 meters above sea level. Here you will find the best views of Sydney. Great, cheaper alternative to the Harbour Bridge Climb.
Spend the evening at Circular Quay enjoying the free outdoor exhibits of VividLive! Grab dinner from a street vendor, hit up a cafe or pub in the Rocks District, or head to the Opera House Bar for a small bite and a drink.
Din Tai Fung (???) The best dumplings ever and the lychee mint drink is amazing!
Quay Australian Seafood Restaurant: Rated the best restaurant in Sydney and one of the top 30 in the world.
“Holiday Inn Old Sydney” is in a fabulous location. Gorgeous rooftop pool and hot tub which looks over the Harbour.
“1888 Hotel” is a fabulous and trendy boutique hotel within easy walk to Darling Harbour. Rooms are a little more pricey averaging $220 per night.
Sydney Street Art
Start your morning in Newtown – a suburb in Sydney’s inner west, and the best place to find impressive street art from internationally acclaimed artists. Take a historic walking tourand keep your eye out for vivid murals and graffiti.
King Street is full of famed street art, and where you will see many murals including the “Herald”, and the famous “I Have A Dream”. Street art locations within the greater Newtown area include Gladstone Street near the Newton Railway Station, the pedestrian tunnel which links Bella St and Bedford Street and Camperdown Memorial Rest Park. Head also in the direction of Erskineville Road, Enmore Road, and a little further out, Trafalgar St.
Take a city art walking tour in the afternoon, stopping at one of the suggested tapas bars for lunch. Tapavino has excellent food and large portions with great Spanish wine.
Highly recommend a Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb in the evening. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and while the views are spectacular during the day, seeing the city skyline lit, especially during VividLive, is truly spectacular.
RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS: Surry Hills has some amazing restaurants here are two of my faves.
El Loco Mexican Restaurant, Bar, and Cocktail Bar in Surry Hills: A really cool space, try the fish taco, jalapeno margarita and chorizo quesadilla.
Trinity Bar, Pub and Wine Bar at 505 Crown St: Awesome pub food & eclectic beers on tap
Shopping, Nature & Culture
Walking today to see the rest of Sydney! Start at Town Hall (you can catch the underground railway to the station of the same name). Venture over to Queen Victoria Building and lose yourself in the three stories of unique shops.
Follow Druit street until you reach Sussex Street and turn right. Market Street is one block down, and the old Piermont Bridge will be on your left. This is now connected to Darling Harbour. Spend the rest of the morning exploring Darling Harbour and grab lunch at one of the many, many waterfront restaurants.
Darling Harbour attractions include the Chinese Gardens, National Maritime Museum (which is worth a visit if interested in Australian naval history; you get to board actual wartime vessels and speak with those who previously crewed them), Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussades and Sydney’s IMAX Theatre. There is also a restaurant complex and a small Shopping mall.
A great option for lunch is South Steyne, once a harbor ferry now a floating restaurant. You won’t miss it on the harbor. An amazing dining experience with great views of the harbor and great food.
Walk from Darling Harbor to Circular Quay and take a 40 minute ferry ride toManly. For times see the Sydney Ferries website. Manly is a phenomenal choice for a day or afternoon trip from Sydney CBD. It is “seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care”.
Because it’s winter you may not choose to relax on one of the beautiful beaches, however there are many hidden coves and inlets to explore, and many scenic walkways which offer fabulous views and historic interests.
Another option for the afternoon is the Bondi – Bronte Walking Tour. Once again, being winter you probably won’t wish to go into the water, however this 2.5km walk (6km return) passes through some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Sydney. The walk starts at Bondi Beach – download a mapbefore you leave.
Catch a bus (333, 380, 381) from the city to reach Bondi, or a train to Bondi Junction and then a bus to Bondi.
In the evening, head to the Capitol Theatre and catch a showing of The Lion King. This is the musical theatre event of the year and will make your trip. Book tickets ASAP – they’re selling out.
RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS: Bondi options
Hurricane’s Grill & Bar: Steakhouse which funnily enough has good steaks. Try the Monkey Gland sauce. It’s just a name, and it’s very delicious.
Bondi Trattoria Italian Restaurant: One of Bondi’s most stunning views, the angel hair tuna pasta is incredible.
Panama House Wine Bar: Love the styling, food tasty and staff friendly. Feels slightly ‘Oz does NYC’.
When to Go Travel to Sydney during May 23 – June 9 to catch the Vivid Live Festival. Vivid Sydney is an annual event of light, music and ideas. The festival is a free public exhibition of outdoor lighting sculptures and amazing illuminations of Sydney’s iconic landmarks. “Vivid Sydney is where art, technology and commerce intersect. It is a summit, forum and playground for the world’s creative industries”. Vivid Live is truly a spectacle not to miss – the whole city is filled with light, joy and entertainment.
Book ASAP Book your trip as soon as possible. Hotel accommodation throughout Sydney is booking up fast and prices will begin to increase as hotels book out.
Sydney Fireworks Darling Harbour generally holds a fireworks display each Saturday evening at 9pm. This is not guaranteed, but happens most weekends.