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Must-see Sydney festivals

Vivid Sydney 2019CREDIT: Destination NSW

See Sydney light up during the wintertime Vivid Sydney festival.

#ilovesydney #vividsydney

Must-see Sydney
festivals

Vivid Sydney 2019 CREDIT: Destination NSW

See Sydney light up during the wintertime Vivid Sydney festival.

#ilovesydney #vividsydney

Hashtags #ilovesydney #vividsydney

Sydney is home to some of the world’s most vibrant festivals, which attract large local audiences and visitors from around the globe. To get your fill of art, culture, music and delicious food, put these unmissable events on your calendar. 

Get your culture fix 

Whether you like your art hanging on the walls of an internationally acclaimed gallery, spray-painted on the streets of inner-city suburbs or projected onto iconic harbourside buildings, Sydney’s arts festivals have got you covered. 

Sydney Festival kick-starts the new year with a three-week celebration of the arts. Held across various city and suburban venues, from inner-city Chippendale to Parramatta in western Sydney, the festival brings theatre, circus, music, dance and film to the masses, attracting high-calibre homegrown and international performers.  

Celebrating the storytelling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and international First Nations peoples, Yellamundie Festival is a biennial event presented by Moogahlin Performing Arts Inc in association with Sydney Festival and Carriageworks, a multi-arts centre in Eveleigh, a 15-minute drive from the city centre in the Inner West. The word ‘yellamundie’ means ‘storyteller’ in the local Dharug language, and this important boutique event provides a platform for new and distinct voices in the Australian performing arts. Held over two weeks in January, the festival offers development opportunities for playwrights, composers and choreographers. 

Avid readers or budding novelists take note: Sydney’s premier literary festival, the Sydney Writers’ Festival, is the place to be to rub shoulders with acclaimed authors, take part in writing workshops or listen to writers reading their latest work. Described as a festival for “readers, writers and thinkers”, the festival, usually held in the inner city in April or May, also hosts satellite events in the Blue Mountains

Australia’s greatest light show, Vivid Sydney, takes place over two weeks during the winter months and transforms the harbourside architecture and open spaces of The Rocks, Circular Quay, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Darling Harbour and Luna Park with mesmerising light installations and 3D projections. Flicking the switch nightly from 6pm, this illuminating mid-winter festival also includes talks, workshops and immersive events. 

Celebrate the city’s diversity 

A range of colourful festivals celebrating Sydney’s vibrant multicultural and socially inclusive society will have you dancing in the streets. Welcome in the Lunar New Year (which tends to fall between late January and late February) with Sydney’s Chinese community. Each year, signs of the Chinese zodiac are celebrated with traditional music, dance, fireworks, dragon boat races, market stalls and much more.  

The main Lunar New Year festivities centre around Haymarket and nearby Darling Harbour in the city, but you’ll find lantern parades, dragon dancing and fine food throughout Greater Sydney, including the suburbs of Cabramatta to the southwest, Hurstville to the south, and Chatswood to the north. 

Born out of protest but now celebrated as one of Sydney’s premier attractions, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras attracts thousands of international and interstate visitors each year. Held in February and March, Mardi Gras is a fortnight-long carnival of pride enjoyed by the LGBTQI community. Comedy, art and fringe-theatre events usually culminate in a flamboyant parade along Oxford Street in Sydney’s inner east filled with love, laughter and lots of sequins. 

Parramasala rejoices in the culture of over 40 nationalities that call Sydney home. This joyous fusion festival, held each March over three days in Sydney’s second city of Parramatta, features traditional dance, food, art and music, as well as a modern mash-up of cross-cultural entertainment. Bollywood dancers, African drumming and amazing food from around the globe make this vibrant event a must. 

Co-founded in 2009 by The Ethics Centre and the Sydney Opera House, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas features a collection of the finest Australian and international speakers, thinkers, writers, scientists and social provocateurs as they tackle the hard subjects: class, gender, race, politics, economics and the environment. Guaranteed to get you thinking, this highly entertaining intellectual festival is not to be missed. 

The edgy cousin of Sydney Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival is the largest independent arts festival in NSW and takes place every September across numerous venues and outdoor spaces in Greater Sydney. Supporting and encouraging experimental and culturally diverse performers across all genres, this exciting event provides a platform for Sydney’s many voices, with a range of artists sharing their stories. 

Lunar New Year, Sydney CREDIT: Destination NSW

Clown performing in Chinatown, Sydney during Chinese New Year.

#ilovesydney

Lunar New Year, Sydney CREDIT: Destination NSW

Clown performing in Chinatown, Sydney during Chinese New Year.

#ilovesydney

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade CREDIT: Destination NSW

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

#ilovesydney

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade CREDIT: Destination NSW

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

#ilovesydney

Savour a taste of Sydney 

Gourmands are well catered for with a number of long-running Sydney festivals. The Sydney Good Food & Wine Show showcases innovative winemakers, chefs and producers from around the country. Held at various venues in June, this comprehensive festival allows you to enjoy tastings, workshops and celebrity chef appearances.

On a lighter note, you can also sample Australia and the world’s finest tea collections at the bespoke Sydney Tea Festival. Brewing since 2014 and held at Carriageworks in August, this delightful festival features market stalls, blending workshops, tastings, talks and even tea cocktails.

If you’re proud of your Italian heritage or just love a good Italian feed, head to the Inner West suburb of Leichhardt, known as Sydney’s Little Italy, on the last Sunday in October for the annual Norton Street Italian Festa. Established in 1986 by local priests who wanted to emulate the religious festivals of Italy, this food and cultural street party celebrates authentic flavours and serves up all the pasta, pizza and gelato you can eat. 

Parramasala Festival, Parramatta, 2013. CREDIT: Destination NSW

Parramasala features well-known international and Australian artists all inspired by the cultural influences and artistic traditions of Asia.

#ilovesydney

Parramasala Festival, Parramatta, 2013. CREDIT: Destination NSW

Parramasala features well-known international and Australian artists all inspired by the cultural influences and artistic traditions of Asia.

#ilovesydney

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