This year’s Vivid is shining brighter than ever before, blanketing the city in colour until 17 June.
The Sydney CBD will be twinkling during Vivid 2023, staged over 23 nights and themed as Vivid Sydney, Naturally. Sydney’s favourite glow-up will fuse art, innovation and technology in collaboration with some of the most boundary-pushing artists, thinkers, musicians and culinary experts of our time.
This year’s festival is firmly plugged into the zeitgeist, connecting the NSW state capital with light artists, music makers, deep thinkers and creatives. This year’s program is jam-packed with excitement, with a particular spotlight on Light, Music, Ideas and Food. From Sydney restaurants and bars hosting neon nights to the coolest and craziest installations, here is our guide to the best of Vivid 2023.
1. Join Mike White and Jennifer Coolidge in Conversation
Where: Aware Super Theatre (ICC Sydney), 14 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000
White Lotus creator, director and producer Mike White and the iconic Jennifer Coolidge, who stars in the show, will be joining forces this year for Mike White & Jennifer Coolidge in Conversation.
White Lotus creator, director and producer Mike White is coming to Vivid. (Image: Jason Yokobosky)
The two global megastars and long-term friends will be discussing everything from their career highs and lows to hilarious anecdotes from their decades of experience in Hollywood. This unmissable chat is an exclusive Vivid Sydney event and will be moderated by Aussie writer and broadcaster, Benjamin Law. Tickets are on sale now and range from $60 to $120.
Mike White & Jennifer Coolidge in Conversation. is an event not to be missed. (Image: Amy Sussman)
2. Explore Vivid House
Where: The Cutaway, 1 Merriman St, Barangaroo NSW 2000
Discover four awe-inspiring artworks through an immersive 360-degree experience at Vivid House this year. Hosted at The Cutaway in Barangaroo, Vivid House offers visitors a hyper-real journey amongst Ama, Australian Oceans, Infinity and Invincible Corals.
Embark on a seven-minute meditative journey across Sydney’s hidden coves with Ama, set to local producer Phondupe’s debut album Onykia. Or dive deep underwater with award-winning photographer Craig Parry with his remarkable Australian Oceans.
Infinity invites you to escape Sydney’s winter in on a 360-degree adventure across a hyper-real world inspired by Australia’s many natural wonders. Finally, Invincible Corals is inspired by a dive through the famed shipwreck USAT Liberty, in which the artist has created digital corals that can self-generate and grow upon any surface they’re projected onto; in this case, Vivid House.
Vivid House is illuminated with immersive artwork. (Image: Destination NSW)
3. Have a boogie at Tumbalong Nights
Where: Tumbalong Park, 11 Harbour St, Sydney NSW 2000
Hosted in Darling Harbour’s Tumbalong Park, the aptly named Tumbalong Nights is the place to be for free and eclectic contemporary music. Unfolding across 12 nights, artists from Africa to Arnhem Land as well as Sydney’s finest acts will take to the stage for your entertainment. There will also be DJs from Sunday to Wednesday, with beloved Australian children’s acts every Saturday.
The line-up is brimming with talent. Beloved Melbourne DJ and producer Sunshine is set to wow crowds with her 12-piece Disco Faith Choir. Triple J will also be there, celebrating 15 years of their Unearthed High competition with many of its previous winners and finalists. Other stellar acts include Nice Biscuit, Carla Wehbe, Kaiit and Pink Matter.
Enjoy free contemporary music over 12 nights.
4. Embark on a Vivid Light Cruise
Where: Circular Quay, Sydney NSW 2000
One of the best ways to admire the canvas of the city during Vivid is on a family-friendly Vivid Light on Sydney Harbour cruise. Check out the key Vivid precincts of Barangaroo, The Rocks, Luna Park and Circular Quay from the water with one of many participating operators.
On board a Captain Cook Vivid cruise, guests can book a range of dinners, including the Vivid Gold Penfolds Dinner, Vivid Special Dinner, Vivid Starlight Dinner and Vivid Sunset Dinner. Each option is unique in its own right, from a six-course degustation to a two-course, two-hour cruise.
There’s also the option to reserve lounge seating on the Ocean Deck of Vivid Sydney’s Premium Cocktail Cruise. Experience the lights from a new angle whilst enjoying your choice of cocktail, shared Charcuterie Board, house beverage and live music. Guests can choose between a 5 pm and 7 pm departure.
Check out Vivid from a new angle on a cruise. (Image: Destination NSW)
5. Indulge in a Vivid Sydney Dinner
Where: Ivy Ballroom, 320 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
Treat yourself to a Vivid Sydney Dinner, where light, music, ideas and cuisine come together into a very special feast for the senses. Leading the culinary experience will be renowned Merivale Executive Chef Ben Greeno, accompanied by powerhouse chef and author Danielle Alvarez.
This year, the menu celebrates a shared love of NSW’s fresh seasonal produce, paired with premium wines. In true Vivid fashion, the Ivy Ballroom will be decked out in world-class immersive lighting inspired by nature. Enjoy your feast with host Eddie Perfect, who will be joined by alt-pop singer Montaigne, African fusion artist Julian Belbachir and many more.
Merivale Executive Chef Ben Greeno and chef and author Danielle Alvarez team up.
6. Head underground to the Vivid Sydney Supper Club
Where: Mary’s Underground, 7 Macquarie Place, Sydney NSW 2000
One of the trademarks of Vivid is its program of bright ideas. The event invites guests to delve deeper into discussions on Human Nature, Nourishing Health and Ethical Travel. While that’s all well and good, Vivid is also about letting loose.
Enter the Vivid Sydney Supper Club, a late-night costume change for Mary’s Underground in Circular Quay. Drag extraordinaire and beloved star of stage and screen Trevor Ashley will transform the space into an intimate cabaret lounge every Friday and Saturday night.
Expect appearances from David Campbell, Paulini, Tim Draxl and Beccy Cole among others. Each show is unique in its own right, jumping from jazz and soul to acoustic alt-rock, ultra-glam drag, burlesque and comedy.
Drag extraordinaire Trevor Ashley will host and perform.
7. Stroll the Light Walk
Where: throughout the CBD
If you’ve only got a night, one of the best ways to squeeze in the most light and art installations is the Light Walk. This year, Vivid will feature its longest continuous Light Walk, stretching eight kilometres from The Sydney Opera House to Central Station. Along the way, 11 locations will be illuminated by a mesmerising kaleidoscope of light artworks.
The Light Walk will encompass 26 incredible installations from a variety of talented artists. It’ll take you around the Opera House, which will be lit up in its own right; through the many artworks in Circular Quay and The Rocks; across the Harbour Bridge and back to Wharf One. You’ll also traverse Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, Darling Quarter and The Goods Line.
Spot some of the best installations along the Light Walk. (Image: Destination NSW)
8. Dine at the Vivid Fire Kitchen
Where: The Cutaway, 1 Merriman St, Barangaroo NSW 2000
Across three weeks, the Vivid Fire Kitchen will serve up a selection of Sydney’s hottest dining concepts, curated drinks and entertainment. Think street food, acclaimed restaurants and innovative dining concepts. Each are very different but all have one thing in common – they’re absolutely delicious.
Celebrate the natural diversity and insatiable spirit of Sydney through an array of flavours and ingredients. Join the world’s best pitmasters and Sydney’s favourite chefs for a mouth-watering feast. Grab a spot by the fire and watch pitmasters take to the coals. Get your hands on exclusive dishes or head to a live fire demo to discover tips and tricks of the trade.
Join Sydney’s favourite chefs for a mouth-watering feast. (Image: Destination NSW)
9. Learn from The Last Ocean
Where: Stargazer Lawn, 27 Hickson Rd, Barangaroo NSW 2000
Skillfully crafted out of reclaimed ocean plastic, The Last Ocean light installation was created by American artist Jen Lewin. The huge tessellating ‘ice sheet’ takes its name from photographer John Weller’s organisation. The Last Ocean works to protect one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth, Antarctica’s Ross Sea.
The installation allows the public to step onto the continent’s icy wonderland without harming it. During the day, the artwork rotates between blue and white. At night, movements cause it to splash up and shift the ice’s shape and colour under foot. The Last Ocean is an ode to what we risk losing if we don’t limit our impact on this Earth.
The Last Ocean was created by American artist Jen Lewin.
10. Delve deeper with Queeries
Where: Vivid Ideas Exchange, 400 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Immerse yourself in a night of literature, stand-up comedy and performance from eight exciting LGBTQIA+ writers, comedians and artists at Queeries. Guests can enjoy a mixture of memoirs, fiction, poetry and more, hosted by art critic Jared Richards. The line-up includes Montaigne, Michael Sun, Bastian Fox Phelan, Freya Daly-Sadgrove, Fiona Kelly McGregor, Gen Fricker and Vonne Patiag.
First held in 2021, Queeries offers up a safe space for LGBTIQ+ writers and readers to meet and share work, bypassing the need to explain who they are. It’s also a rare opportunity to see leading creatives try something new. Tickets for this event are on sale now.
Novelist Fiona Kelly McGregor will be at Queeries.
11. Wander Carriageworks Night Market
Where: Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh NSW 2015
A long-time favourite amongst Vivid-goers, the Carriageworks Night Market is back for another year. Held on 16 June for one night only, the marketspace will host over 50 leading restaurants, bars and producers from Sydney. There will also be performances, music and live demonstrations to match the vibe.
This year, the Night Market will be curated by arguably one of Australia’s leading sustainability chefs, Matt Stone. Now the Co-Executive Chef of Oakridge Estate with his partner Jo, he embraces the philosophy of preparing fresh, sustainable and locally sourced wholefoods. Subsequently, the Market will focus on nature, native ingredients and locally sourced produce.
The Night Market will be held for one night only.
12. Shine a light on Wild Lights at Taronga
Head to Taronga Zoo during this year’s Vivid and discover an all-new line-up of captivating installations and lanterns. The artwork is inspired by Australia’s rare wildlife in line with the theme Vivid Sydney, Naturally. Running for 18 unforgettable nights, Wild Lights at Taronga is inspired by the ancient and present wisdom of the oldest continuing culture on the planet.
With a strong focus on caring for Country, Wild Lights will showcase a variety of captivating light sculptures and lanterns that shine a light on some of Australia’s most iconic species. Think the emu, possum, echidna, dingo, platypus, kangaroo and koala, plus the landscapes they call home. Created by Aboriginal artist Nathan Peckham of YURANA CREATIVE, this is a must for your Vivid itinerary.
The light artworks are inspired by Australia’s rare wildlife.
13. Witness drones light up the sky
Vivid Sydney’s drone shows are currently the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere to date. This year, Written in the Stars unravels an awe-inspiring journey through the natural world above us. It’ll explore our entire solar system, with plenty of surprise stops and visitors along the way.
Written in the Stars will feature more than 1,000 drones over six shows above Circular Quay. The concept for the drone show is the brainchild of Gill Minervini, in collaboration with the Australian Traffic Network. Note that shows are subject to weather conditions.
Witness Sydney come to life at Vivid this year. (Image: Destination NSW)
14. Tunnel through Dark Spectrum
For the first time since its closure, the spooky underground of Wynyard Tunnels will open to the public during Vivid. Dark Spectrum will be hidden beneath the busy streets of Sydney’s CBD, a 900-metre immersive walk through eight rooms featuring perfectly choreographed, world-class technology. Lights will illuminate the space, all set a beautiful and dynamic musical soundtrack.
The journey mirrors human experiences, each room representing a different one with an associated colour. Dark Spectrum has been curated by Mandylights in partnership with Sony Music and Culture Creative and is a ticketed event.
Explore Wynyard’s underground at Dark Spectrum. (Image: Destination NSW)
15. Eat like a king at Chefs on the Harbour
Vivid Food – a new pillar of Vivid that was only introduced this year – is causing mouth-watering chaos among those planning to attend in 2023. One spectacular event you’d be crazy to miss is Chefs on the Harbour. The event sees three of Australia’s best chefs – Nelly Robinson, Khanh Ong and Mark Olive – step on board for a curated, one-night-only dining experience on board $15-million superyacht, The Jackson.
Each chef will host his own 3.5-hour dining experience on the stunning superyacht as it cruises Sydney Harbour; Robinson on 27 May, Ong on 3 June and Olive on 17 June. Set against the glowing backdrop and kaleidoscope of colour that is Vivid Sydney, Chefs on the Harbour will bring together a fusion of inspiring chef creations that are sure to please your tastebuds.
Robinson, Olive and Ong will each cook up a storm on The Jackson. (Image: Nicky Ryan)
16. Snag the best view with a Vivid BridgeClimb
Join BridgeClimb Sydney for the ultimate view of Vivid this year. The Vivid Sydney Climb is an unforgettable experience that offers guests the chance to ascend to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the festival. You’ll see everything from the Sydney Opera House covered in a canvas of colours to The Rocks, the CBD and beyond.
The bridge itself will also be lit up, adorned in vibrant LED lights and providing the best seat in the house. Climbs run nightly throughout the festival. The first climb that departs each afternoon is a real winner, as it’s timed to reach the summit as all the lights and installations are switched on for the evening. Be sure to book soon.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge offers unbelievable views of Vivid. (Image: Destination NSW)
17. Let loose at the Astral People Vivid Party
Astral People presents a night of far-reaching sounds led by some of today’s most daring figures at the Astral People Vivid Party. A full venue takeover as part of Vivid Sydney – they will descend on Carriageworks with abstract genius Flying Lotus bringing his epic live experience for a transcendent musical ceremony. He will be joined by Liv.e, making her highly anticipated Sydney debut.
On the second stage, the crowd is invited to celebrate 15 years of club-culture renegades Night Slugs. Bok Bok and Girl Unit are expected bring the house down with their trademark brand of innovative bass fusion. The line-up also includes Flying Skeleten, Close Counters, Elle Shimada, Club Angel, Crybaby, Crescendoll, Munasib and Isa.
Flying Lotus will headline the party with an immersive DJ set.
18. Light Up Your Senses at The Pylon
Head up to the south-east Pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a night of sensory overload with Light Up Your Senses. Peer out over Vivid Sydney from the Pylon Lookout and learn about the Sydney Harbour Bridge’s history via the Pylon Museum. It features a number of exhibits about the construction of the Bridge, the brave workers who built it and interesting artefacts from the collection of Chief Engineer JJC Bradfield.
All that knowledge is sure to make your hungry. Tuck into a rich shiraz from the Riverina region paired with an epic cheese box from renowned chef Luke Mangan. The Australian chef and restaurateur owns and operates restaurants in Sydney, at sea on P&O cruise ships and is a Coles Supermarket ambassador.