Friday, 31 March 2017

Vivid Sydney: A festival of light you shouldn't miss!

Vivid Sydney
I love festivals. Even so, it took me a while to get into Vivid. 'Lights shining on buildings' - how exciting could that be? As it turns out - really exciting, especially when one of those buildings is the spectacular Sydney Opera House! Vivid Sydney is in its ninth year. For the first five or so of those years I couldn't be bothered making the effort to drag myself into town to see it. It is only a twenty minute train trip from where I live, but Vivid is on in late autumn. It is cold and dark! I am not a great fan of either. A few years ago a family event forced me into the city purely by chance during the Vivid festival. Since I was there anyway I dragged David into town too, organised dinner in the city with number one son, dug my overcoat and winter boots out of the back of the wardrobe and set off to find out what all the Vivid fuss was about.

This is what I discovered. Forget fireworks on New Years Eve (too crowded), forget Lunar Lanterns at Chinese New Year (this year it rained), forget the Gay Mardi Gras (rain again - why do they hold this in March when it always rains), forget Sculpture by the Sea (although that one is pretty good) -  just drop everything and come to Vivid. It is without a doubt the best event Sydney puts on. So much more than 'lights shining on buildings', Vivid Sydney bills itself as a festival of 'Light, Music and Ideas'. I am not sure about the ideas but the lights and the music are stunning. Just to give you a taste of what you might expect I have dug out some old photos of Vivid in years gone by.

I am putting this post up now because THE CLOCK IS TICKING - but don't panic. It doesn't matter where you are in the world you still have time to jump on a plane, train, automobile or camel and make it to Sydney in time for VIVID!


Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney
Photo courtesy of Lindsay at Frugal Frolicker

Vivid Sydney Customs House


Vivid Sydney - Sydney Harbour Bridge
Photo courtesy of Lindsay at Frugal Frolicker

Vivid Sydney


Vivid Sydney


Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney
Photo courtesy of Lindsay at Frugal Frolicker

Vivid Sydney
Photo courtesy of Lindsay at Frugal Frolicker


When and Where is Vivid Sydney: -


  • Where - Sydney Australia.  Vivid is not confined to the CBD. In 2017 the festival will also be on as far afield as Chatswood, in Sydney's north.  For where to see Vivid go to Vivid Sydney: Precincts.
  • When - 26 May to 17 June 2017.
  • Cost - There are paid events, (none of which I have ever been to) but seeing the lights is absolutely free.

My tips: -

  • The best place so see the Vivid lights on the Opera House is from the opposite side of Circular Quay, between Hickson Road Reserve and the Overseas Passenger Terminal. There are a couple of harbourside restaurants here with great views. 
  • There are boat tours which do Vivid Cruises and I am sure they are fantastic for seeing the Harbour Bride, the Opera House and all the buildings around Circular Quay, but don't just rely on a cruise because many of the best displays are not visible from the harbour. There is no substitute for arming yourself with a map and just walking around.
  • If you want to see Vivid from the harbour but don't want to do a tour, catch an inner harbour ferry. The F4 and F5 ferries to Darling Harbour and Neutral Bay go past the Opera House. You can get off at Kirribilli or Milsons Point and walk or take a train back across the Harbour Bridge. Darling Harbour is also one of the Vivid Precincts. It is a short walk back to town and you can plan your route to take in the Vivid Sights at Barangaroo
  • Don't just stick to the city centre. Go to Precincts on the Vivid website to see all the locations. The display at Chatswood sounds especially fun - a kind of Blade Runner comes to Hong Kong.  Chatswood is on the North Shore train line about 20 minutes from the city.
  • Wear a warm coat, and comfortable shoes. May/June in Sydney can be a bit chilly at night and you will do a fair bit of walking if you want to see everything.
  • Vivid can get very crowded so avoid weekends if you can.

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62 comments:

  1. Every year I think about this way too late. I would love to see Vivid. The photos here and others I have seen are just so energetic. That first one looks like it is out of the the future. Our 20th wedding anniversary is in May, maybe vivid is the perfect option.

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    1. Let me know if you decide to come over and I'll change our table booking to four!

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  2. In Amsterdam we also have a light festival, not so far from home but I haven't managed to visit it yet :(

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    1. If it is anything like Vivid Sydney it will be well worth the effort.

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  3. Wow this is amazing! It's so pretty! Vivid looks like such an awesome festival!

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    1. It is without a doubt my favourite Sydney festival.

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  4. Love Vivid, and am always amazed at the talent we have in Australia. It is uplifting to visit Sydney for this event

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    1. It is amazing how many people come from quite far afield to see it.

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  5. Wow what a fun festival! I love it! I've only see a light show once on the Strasbourg Cathedral and that was pretty cool! #wkendtravelinspiration (www.caliglobetrotter.wordpress.com)

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    1. I have seen light shows in Egypt and Hong Kong but never anything to compare with Vivid Sydney.

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  6. This looks beyond amazing! I will put it on the list!

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    1. It is well worth seeing. If you ever visit Sydney, let me know.

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  7. Replies
    1. How can it not be everyone's favourite!

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  8. We were super pleased a few years back to have sailed into Sydney at the end of a NZ cruise and stay for a week. What a bonus when we realised our last night there was actually the first night of Vivid so we were familiar enough with the area to make our way around to a few vantage points. It was the finale to a very memorable trip.

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    1. I love it when these sorts of events crop up on the itinerary without you realising how perfect the timing is.

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  9. The lights festival looks amazing. Thanks for sharing #wkndtravelinspiration

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  10. How pretty. I love the projected colours on the Opera House. It would be a fabulous event to attend in Sydney.

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    1. The Opera House is just stunning during Vivid but there are also lots of other buildings lit up to look spectacular.

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  11. Looks so cool. Adding this to my bucket list.

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    1. I think if I was going to recommend one Sydney festival to a potential visitor this would be it.

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  12. That's incredible. Never knew about this festival - thanks!

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    1. You'll have to come home one day and see it for yourself.

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  13. Wow, what a spectacle! It must have been quite an experience to be in Sydney during this festival. I haven't seen anything like it before. From what you are describing Vivid is quite unique and I would love to experience it.

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    1. I don't know if it is unique but it is stunning and I know it draws visitors from all over the world.

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  14. I've never been to Vivid but the photos I've seen (including yours) are always so great and make me wish I was in Sydney when it was on. Thanks for sharing :) #wkndtravelinspiration

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    1. Sydney is a great place to visit with or without Vivid. The only problem with visiting during Vivid Sydney is that it can be a bit cold.

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  15. I saw a lot of photos of last year's festivals and have to say the illumination that are part of the festival are incredible (and so well thought and executed). I am glad you got to experience the festival even thought the weather is a bit chilling. #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. I try to go every year but some years we are travelling in May/June.

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  16. Very cool! No wonder it is called Vivid. I would love to see this and like that it's spread all around town. I've not heard of other cities doing this annually and on such a large scale. I guess it's another aspect of why Sydney is so unique.

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  17. It is great that this is a fun free event that anyone can attend. We have light shows here in Edinburgh sometimes and we have them in Ohio around the holidays and we always enjoy them, but they are not on this large of a scale! Laurence would definitely enjoy the night photo opportunities!

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    1. It took me a while to get the hang of taking night photos, but I get a bit better each year.

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  18. Fantastic. the only time i see lights like this is at Christmas and I have to stand out in the cold to enjoy them. how nice to have an event like this at a more temperate time of year (I think?) #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. Haha - it isn't nearly as cold in Sydney in late autumn as it would be where you are in winter. We get Christmas lights too - in summer - but they don't compare to Vivid Sydney.

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  19. Oh nooo. We will be in Sydney at the end of march this year :( I would love to see it... These photos are absolutely amazing... Hopefully we will come back to Sydney one day to see this festival ;) #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. If you were in Sydney at the end of March, I hope you got the single sunny day we seem to have had in the last couple of months - lol!

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  20. Glad that you went to see the lights because I had seen a photographer's website a year ago in which he posted numerous photos of Vivid Sydney, it was gorgeous! Wish I could be there, perhaps next time I can schedule my trip to Sydney around the same time as Vivid Sydney display :-) Cheers! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. As usual I wish I was a better photographer. Everyone seems to take better photos of Vivid than i do.

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  21. This is beautiful. We'll be sure and coordinate our visit to Sydney with the Vivid festival. Another great inspiration! #wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. If you are coming to Sydney in the cooler weather it is well worth timing your visit to coincide with Vivid.

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  22. Beautiful post and looks to be an extraordinary show of lights...will cross my fingers that when we finally make to Sydney, Vivid will be on view!

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    1. Vivid is held every year at roughly the same time. It probably isn't the best time of year to visit in terms of sunny days and nice weather but I suspect that is why it is held when it is - to get visitors to come outside the peak period.

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  23. Looking forward to Vivid again this year. Your pictures are great.

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  24. OMG, I love light installations and events, I really want to see something like this, have to time it perfectly to visit Sydney one of these years!

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    1. Vivid goes for quite a few weeks so it wouldn't be too difficult to time your visit.

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  25. Looks like I'm going to miss those Vivid light in Sydney, but thanks to your photos I can see how beautiful they are.

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    1. You'll have to watch out for my post on this year's festival.

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  26. Thanks for the tips. The colours are amazing - like crazy Christmas lights. I love the way they transform our iconic buildings.

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    1. They are way better than Christmas lights.

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  27. I'm very impressed with the light show. Better than than one I saw on Parliament hill in Ottawa (although it was neat). Your tips were really helpful because my first thought was that taking a cruise in the harbour might have been the best way to see the lights. No! I've bookmarked this post for my trip to Sydney...whenever that might be!

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    1. David and I park near North Sydney Wharf and take the ferry from there into the city. That way we get to see the Opera House and the bridge from the water, then we walk around to all the displays you can't see from the harbour.

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  28. Light as an art medium is just fascinating! And boy, it looks like Sydney does a massive festival with it! Definitely something we'll have to consider as we start planning our first Australia trip. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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    1. The only problem with Vivid is that it is often a bit cold in Sydney then, although if the sun is out it is still lovely.

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  29. Wow! Vivid looks amazing. I'd love to take in this festival.

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    1. It is amazing - my absolute favourite.

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  30. This looks like so much fun! You photos are really very good at capturing Vivid! I'd live to see this festival in person.

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    1. I am hoping to get even better photos this year.

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  31. That looks amazing! What a cool exhibit!

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    1. Vivid is more than an exhibit. It is a whole festival.

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