Gumscape with Road and Creatures, a light installation by artist Reg Mombassa. Image: courtesy of Vivid

IT WOULD BE remiss to think Vivid Sydney is just a lights show. Though it has its origins as a small light festival that started in 2009, Vivid has since grown into a multidisciplinary festival that spans art, food, music, conversations and plenty more – last year’s Vivid festival recorded 3.48 million visitors. And with this year’s itinerary boasting its most extensive mix of domestic and international talent yet, and, of course, setting the bar even higher for its lights show, it’s three weeks of cultural events that promises something for everyone, no matter your creative niche.

Scroll on for everything you need to know about Vivid Sydney 2024, including when and where it will be happening, and Esquire’s guide to the best programs, eats, and stays around town. 

When is Vivid Sydney 2024?

The annual festival will start from Friday May 24 to Saturday June 15, going for 23 nights. 

And most daily programs – ranging from music gigs to conversations – kick off from 6pm every night just as the famed lights turn on.

How much does Vivid Sydney 2024 cost?

The Vivid Sydney Light Walk is free, which will take you from Circular Quay to the Rocks, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and Darling Harbour, which are just some of the enviable spots for prime light show viewing happening every night.

There’s also a wide range of cultural events – from films, musical performances, to conversations – with tickets varying in price depending on the event.

What are the best free events at Vivid Sydney 2024?

Last year’s Love is in the Air drone light show – you had to see it to believe it. Photography: courtesy of Vivid

Love is in the Air drone show

A drone light show will be returning above Circular Quay again this year. Titled Love is in the Air, the show is directed by Gill Minervini that is sure to create other-worldly tableaux in the sky, accompanied with music composed by Peewee Ferris. And if you plan to end the night with this show, plan accordingly as this is not a daily program, set to only be staged on June 8, 9 and 15 (of course, weather permitting).

Artist: Gill Minervini and Peewee Ferris

Where: Circular Quay

When: June 8, 9 and 15 from 9:10pm

Tumbalong Nights

Tumbalong Park will be transformed into a multi-sensory space as the go-to event showcasing Australian and international musical talent, all for free. With a mix of DJs and musicians, highlight performances in the three week lineup include Mallarat and Tiffi kicking things off on May 24, grentperez (June 8), and Budjerah closing things off on June 15.

Learn more about the full lineup here.

Vivid Light

It seems every year the light displays at Vivid are getting more spectacular and more innovative. Free to peruse from Circular Quay, the Rocks, the Botanical Gardens, and beyond, there will be light displays by Australian and international artists, so many that you’re sure to stumble upon one that stops you in your tracks.

Learn about every light show here.

Window Dressing

‘Humanity’ is the overarching theme for all artists showcasing at Vivid this year. At the Frank Gehry-designed UTS ‘paper bag’ building in Ultimo, creative Liesel Badorrek will transform the building’s facade with illuminated windows that appear as if you’re looking into somebody’s home, revealing a whole other life.

Learn more about the installation here.

The best lights to see at Vivid Sydney 2024

Gumscape with Road and Creatures, a light installation by artist Reg Mombassa. Image: courtesy of Vivid

Gumscape with Road and Creatures

Customs House in front of Circular Quay station is always one of the marquee light canvases in the lineup. Artist Reg Mombassa will reconfigure the sandstone Georgian facade with surreal visual journey in the Australiana retro-futurist style he’s known for. 

Artist: Reg Mombassa

Where: Customs House, 31 Alfred Street

Sea, Sand and Stars 

At the heart of Sydney’s contemporary art scene, globally celebrated Chinese Australian artist Guan Wei projects transforming maps that take you from deep space to the ocean and Bondi Beach in a journey questioning what it means to be human.

Artist: Guan Wei

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art


One of the highlight immersive light works at this year’s Vivid is New Zealand artist Angus Muir’s LED rope canopy. An interactive display, you can walk in and out of the threads like a sea anemone, creating a forest of luminescence that reacts to the slightest touch.

Artist: Angus Muir

Where: Hickson Road Reserve, Circular Quay

The best music to see at Vivid Live 2024

Musician Devonté Hynes is a Vivid Live headline. Photography: courtesy of the Sydney Opera House


Set to make her Australian debut, Venezuelan-born, Barcelona-based artist Arca will be performing at the Opera House. Having worked with the likes of Björk, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, the avant-garde pop musician will be playing for an exclusive one night only. 

Where: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

When: Friday, May 24 at 8pm

Buy tickets here; ranging from $79-$139.

Devonté Hynes: selected classical works with Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Matthew Lynch

Returning to Australia after more than a decade, musician Dev Hynes will make an exclusive comeback for Vivid Live. The sonic architect behind Blood Orange will perform in the Opera House’s Concert Hall with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with British/German conductor Matthew Lynch.

Recently, we caught up with the musician to learn more about his foray into classical music. You can read the interview here.

Where: Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

When: Wednesday, May 29, 7:30pm

Buy tickets here; ranging from $89-$119.

Sky Ferreira

Musician, actor, model, former MySpace celebrity and all-round enigma Sky Ferreira returns to perform at the Sydney Opera House a decade after her last Australian shows. With a second album rumoured to be nearing release, there’s a high chance the American pop star will be playing new material, so whether you’re a diehard fan or new to Ferreira, this is a show you won’t want to miss.

Where: Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

When: Sunday June 2 at 7:30pm

Buy tickets here; from $39

Vv Pete

Known for performing with her commanding flow, Western Sydney-based Sudanese rapper Vv Pete is making her Vivid Live debut. Performing in the Utzon Room, Vv Pete will bring her eclectic musical palette and club-rattling beats to the Opera House.

Where: The Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House

When: Sunday, June 2 at 7pm

Buy tickets here; $29.

The best films to see at Vivid Sydney


After making its world premiere at the Sundance film festival earlier this year, Australian DEVOtees will get a chance to watch the Chris Smith directed documentary about the Dadaist band. A 90-minute run, the doco explores the ups, downs, and surrealist performances spanning the band’s 50-year career.

Director: Chris Smith

Where: Sydney Opera House

When: Friday 31 May at 6pm

Buy tickets here; $30.

The Virgin Suicides

Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides will be screening at the Sydney Opera House. Photography: courtesy of the Sydney Opera House

Now is one of the rare opportunities to see Sofia Coppola’s directorial debut. Released back in 1999, The Virgin Suicides, starring Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, explores the melancholia of 70s Midwestern suburbia. The coming-of-age has since become a cult classic, so to see this on the big screen would be special indeed.

Director: Sofia Coppola

Where: Sydney Opera House

When: Saturday June 1 at 12pm

Buy tickets here; $30.

We’re From Outer Space: Short Films from the Asian Diaspora

Sydney-based Malaysian Australian filmmaker Jonathan Lim brings a collection of short films, music videos, and documentaries that explore stories of Asian youth diaspora. Of the curation, Lim’s We’re From Outer Space follows Australia’s first ever K-Rap group 1300 as they prepare for a sold-out show at the Sydney Opera House (a full circle moment, really).

Artist: A series of short films curated by Jonathan Lim

Where: The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House

When: Sunday, June 2 at 8pm

Learn more about the full program and buy tickets here; $30.

Golden Age of Humanity Film Festival

Surry Hills’ iconic Golden Age cinema will be having its own little film festival over the course of Vivid Sydney. With a program of nine films including Bend it like Beckham (2002) and Beau Travail (1999), each film will be introduced by a special guest speaker who curated the film festival. 

Artist: A curated film program with guest speakers

Where: The Golden Age Cinema, Surry Hills

When: Film program plays on selected nights from May 25 to June 15

Learn more about the full program and buy tickets here; from $24.

The best conversations and talks to attend at Vivid Sydney 2024

Matilda’s goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold will appear in coversation with coach Tony Gustavsson. Photography: Getty Images

Champions of Change

Nothing united Australia quite like watching the Matildas compete in the FIFA Women’s World Cup last year. At Vivid Ideas, Matildas’ head coach Tony Gustavsson and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold will give an insightful discussion on what the last few years have been like, moderated by Matildas alumni and now journalist Grace Gill.

Who: Mackenzie Arnold, Tony Gustavsson and Grace Gill

Where: Sydney Town Hall, 483 George Street

When: Monday, June 10, 5-6:30pm

Buy tickets here; from $89*.

Art After Hours

Continuing on the theme of ‘humanity’ interwoven throughout this year’s Vivid, the Art Gallery of New South Wales will host a free in-conversation event with Reg Mombassa, Guan Wei, Julia Gutman, and Leila Jeffreys, moderated by writer and journalist Benjamin Law. Each artist will ponder how their art has altered what it means to be human and the role art plays in society. 

Who: Benjamin Law, Reg Mombassa, Guan Wei, Julia Gutman, and Leila Jeffreys

Where: Art Gallery of New South Wales

When: Wednesday, June 12 at 5pm

Learn more about the event here.

AI Will Destroy Humanity: A Future Science Debate

They say comedy is the best medicine for when talking about serious topics. In a conversation on whether AI will be the doom of humanity or its greatest achievement, a group of scientists, comedians, and enthusiasts will debate it out in Sydney’s legislative chamber. 

Who: Ben Rohald, Dr. Zoe Xirocostas, Adam Spencer, David Crisante

Where: Parliament House, 6 Macquarie Street

When: Friday, June 7 at 7pm

Buy tickets here; from $49*.

The best restaurants to eat at during Vivid Sydney 2024

Bennelong. Photography: Getty Images

Aurorae at Bennelong Bar

At the heart of Vivid, in the Sydney Opera House no less, chef Peter Gilmore is at the helm of Bennelong Bar for a sensory and bespoke bar experience. And coupled with the bar’s unrivalled viewpoint for everything going on at Vivid, you can take it all in comfort with Gilmore’s exclusive menu of cocktails and snacks. 

Where: Bennelong Bar, Sydney Opera House

When: May 24 – June 15 (excl. May 29)

Make a reservation here; $55 p.p.

Vivid Fire Kitchen

There is nothing more inviting at a night market than an open flame diffusing the sweet, smokey smell of a barbeque. At this year’s Vivid Fire Kitchen, there will be an assembled cast of barbeque and culinary legends from around Australia and abroad, as well as an international smorgasbord of food market stands selling tandoor, teppanyaki, First Nations food, tender brisket, charred veggies, and aromatic satay (not to get you salivating!)

Where: The Goods Line, Ultimo Pedestrian Network

When: May 24 – June 15, from 6pm – 11pm

Orazio D’Elia: Our Shared Humanity

Known for the cosy Da Orazio restaurant in Bondi, Orazio D’Elia will be hosting a night of Neopolitan warmth and hospitality during Vivid. Serving his distinctive vegetarian options, the night will also reflect on the power of food to bring people on a sensory journey. 

Where: Refettorio OzHarvest, 481 Crown St, Surry Hills

When: Wednesday, May 29 at 7pm

Learn more about the event and buy tickets here; $110*.

Where to stay during Vivid Sydney 2024

Drink in the best views of the Opera House at the Park Hyatt Sydney. Photography: Park Hyatt Sydney

Park Hyatt Sydney

Nestled in the harbour foreshore lines and just across the Sydney Opera House, the Park Hyatt speaks for itself as one of the best locations to stay during Vivid. The hotel is relatively low to the ground compared to a skyscraper, meaning the light show can be enjoyed on a balcony or its rooftop bar and pool.

Location: The Rocks

Make a reservation here.

Four Seasons

If you want an all-encompassing view of the action during Vivid Sydney, the Four Seasons would be the go. Rooms are fitted with wide windows to sit by and watch with a panoramic view as the sun goes down and the city wakes up with the Vivid lights.

Location: Sydney Harbour

Make a reservation here.

Pier One

Sitting right on the harbour and just by the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Pier One makes for a more casual stay, leaning into the nautical theme in its set up. And staying here for Vivid makes the experience feel as if you’re a fisherman on a dock, watching as the city lights up.


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