Everything You Need to See, Do, Eat and Explore at Vivid Sydney 2023

vivid sydney things to do

Vivid Sydney just announced the full program for 2023, and it’s full of surprises, delights, and wonders. Celebrating creativity, innovation and technology, Australia’s largest festival dazzles audiences for 23 days and nights across four pillars this year — Vivid Light, Vivid Music, Vivid Ideas and the brand-new Vivid Food.

There’s a lot to digest, so let’s dive into the details.

When is Vivid Opening Night?

Vivid kicks off May 26 and ends June 17, with lights switched on at 6 pm, and switched off by 11 pm every night.

Vivid Sydney Destination NSW
Image: Vivid Sydney

What Can I Expect This Year at Vivid?

“This year’s creative direction, ‘Vivid Sydney, Naturally,’ has been inspired by our connection to the natural environment and will be brought to life via a kaleidoscope of colourful light projections and activations, plus free and ticketed events.”

The Vivid Sydney Light Walk will return with more than 49 light installations and 3D projections along the 8.5km illuminated walk. The internationally-acclaimed, multi-sensory experience of light, colour and sounds, Lightscape, will transform The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney for the first time at Vivid Sydney.

First Nations artist Maree Clarke’s Barerarerungar will be projected on the Museum of Contemporary Art, while Internationally renowned Jen Lewin’s The Last Ocean will enthral audiences following its 2022 debut at Burning Man.

Brand new festival pillar Vivid Food will activate across venues in Sydney’s CBD, showcasing a variety of creativity, innovation and culinary experiences, from pop-up restaurants to haute cuisine celebrating the city’s vibrant and diverse food culture.

Vivid Sydney 2023 will illuminate and energise various locations throughout the city, including Circular Quay, The Rocks, Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, The Goods Line, Central Station and Sydney icons such as the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Museum of Contemporary Art and more.

Check out the full program below.

vivid sydney things to do

Where Can I Eat During Vivid?

Vivid Food is all about celebrating those who make the Sydney food scene so special, with a line-up of events all nodding to the natural world. 

With that said the inaugural Vivid Sydney Dinner will return to The Ivy Ballroom this year, in partnership with hospitality group Merivale, for a fully immersive and unforgettable night fusing light, music, ideas and cuisine into a special feast for the senses featuring esteemed Sydney chefs Ben Greeno and Danielle Alvarez. 

The Cutaway at Barangaroo will host The Vivid Fire Kitchen, Sydney’s hottest dining concepts, curated drinks, and entertainment for three weeks of flame-fuelled festivities. Expect mouthwatering menus by legendary pitmasters and BBQ heroes.

House of Naturalia will take over all floors of Barangaroo House and feature a custom menu by head chef Tara Chua, while day-to-night party HERE NOW will take over basement bar Mary’s Underground and Macquarie Place, mixing masterclasses in food and wine with music and art. 

Carriageworks Night Market will return for a one-night event, showcasing over 50 leading restaurants, bars, and producers. Luke Mangan’s new restaurant, Pylon, will offer a cheese board and red wine pairing for guests who want a birds-eye view of the lights at Light Up Your Senses at the Pylon.

Vivid Chef Series is an exciting new culinary experience pairing cutting-edge global chefs with iconic Sydney restaurants and renowned local chefs for a series of unique collaborative meals exploring their shared passions and creativity. 

vivid sydney things to do

What Lights Should I See at Vivid This Year?

After a beautiful and poignant debut at Vivid Sydney 2022, First Light will return for Vivid Sydney 2023. Curated by Vivid Sydney’s First Nations Advisor Rhoda Roberts AO, First Light will open the festival on Friday, 26 May, with a Welcome to Country and performances including musical trailblazers Yothu Yindi.

Revealing the various artistic interpretations of the creative vision of ‘natural brilliance’, the spectacular Light Walk will host the works of over 100 light collaborators and 26 international light artists from 13 countries, with street installations, re-shaping old sights, surprising projection sites and large-scale immersive experiences that will paint the urban landscape. 

At the Sydney Opera House, Lighting of the Sails will see the vibrant works of one of Australia’s most famed artists, John Olsen, brought to life as a spectacular tribute to his illustrious artistic career of more than 60 years. 

Other mesmerising works on Sydney’s world-famous landmarks include Eggpicnic’s striking, idiosyncratic illustrations of endangered native Australian birds high up on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylons in Between You and Me.

For the first time this year, The Vivid Sydney 2023 drone show Written in the Stars will feature more than 1,000 drones over six shows for what will be the biggest drone show in the Southern Hemisphere to date. 

Following the success of the youngest-ever Vivid Sydney artist at Vivid Sydney 2022, this year the festival is introducing Vivid Kids. The new projection will see a group of young artists aged 7–14 working closely with content studio Spinifex to animate, bring to life and project their works onto one of Sydney’s oldest buildings. 

vivid sydney things to do

Are Vivid Talks On This Year?

The Vivid Ideas program gathers some of the world’s brightest minds and fearless storytellers, with 60 intriguing talks and workshops, exploring community, authenticity, respect, love and lessons learnt from the natural world. 

Renowned for her queer seminal debut Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and landmark novels such as The Passion, Sexing the Cherry and Written on the Body, British author, Jeanette Winterson’s LIFE AND MARS: The Future of Human will prod, provoke and challenge your ideas of nature, all while making you laugh as you fall in love with her unique and fascinating way of seeing the world. 

NOCTURNE, from Melbourne-based artists one step at a time like this, takes audiences on a one-of-a-kind-experience with an immersive, sonic journey through the hidden streets and laneways of The Rocks, while Coming to our Senses is a multi-sensory mindfulness workshop in the heart of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. 

The Up Late program also returns in 2023 with free, interactive and immersive sessions at the Powerhouse Museum and Australian Museum at night during the festival. 

vivid sydney things to do

Is Vivid Music On This Year?

This year, Vivid Music is spotlighting First Nations artists.

A Bend in the River: A Celebration of the Life & Music of Archie Roach will celebrate the legacy of the late Archie Roach AC. With 10 studio albums, Archie cemented his legacy as one of Australia’s most potent and powerful truth-tellers, songmen and activists, before passing in 2022, at the age of 66.

A Bend in the River will transform Sydney Town Hall in a night of tribute performances featuring long-time friends, collaborators and his contemporaries, including Paul Kelly, Emma Donovan, Dan Sultan, Kutcha Edwards, Sally Dastey, Becca Hatch, Dobby, Deline Briscoe, Radical Son, Tenzin Choegyal and Tamala Shelton, with appearances from members of Archie’s family. 

On Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights of the festival, Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour will become the Vivid Sydney go-to for free and eclectic contemporary music right in the heart of the Light Walk. The 12-night line-up features artists from Africa to Arnhem Land, including Yothu Yindi, Ziggy Ramo, Dan Sultan, Esa’s Afro Synth Band with Kamazu and Mim Suleiman, Emma Donovan, cult Japanese musician Cornelius and more, plus DJs and kids programming on Saturday nights all free of charge. 

Vivid Sydney’s late-night lounge will also return in 2023, with drag extraordinaire and beloved star of stage and screen Trevor Ashley set to transform Mary’s Underground into an intimate cabaret lounge for the Vivid Sydney Supper Club. 

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