Vivid Sydney - 'Gumscape with Road and Creatures' by Reg Mombassa
Photograph: Canon/Wil Calabio | 'Gumscape with Road and Creatures' by Reg Mombassa

The best things to see during Vivid Sydney in 2024

Here's our editor's picks of the best illuminations to see during Vivid Sydney

Alannah Le Cross

When the temperature goes down in Sydneytown, it means one thing: the lights are about to turn up for Vivid SydneyWith an ever-growing amount of illuminations to ogle, it can be tricky to figure out where to get started. Don't fret though, we’re here to help with our Arts & Culture Editor’s picks of stand-out things to see. Most of these are totally *free* to lay your eyes on, and we'll also let you know which ticketed experiences are worth the cash. 

If you have limited time on your hands, our top tip is to head straight to Circular Quay – this is where you'll find the most spectacular stuff (that also won't cost you a cent to have a gander at, interact with, and snap selfies with).

The Vivid Fire Kitchen taking over The Goods Line in the CBD is great for charred food truck feasts – but if the main motivation for your outing is to see eye-popping illuminations, you won't find it there.

Likewise, Tumbalong Nights boasts an admirable line-up of free live music with open air concerts and DJs every night in Darling Harbour, but the light installations down there aren't the main attraction – there are some cool glowy things though, especially Hika Rakuyo, a holographic light and laser show that projects native flowers onto a misty fountain emerging from the harbour.

Ready to get lit? The 2024 edition of Vivid Sydney is lighting up the city every night until June 15; lights on is at 6pm.

Want more? Check out our ultimate guide to Vivid Sydney.

The best Vivid lights to see in Sydney

Lighting of the Sails: ‘Echo’

Where is it? The Sydney Opera House, Circular Quay

What is it? Witnessing the exterior sails of Sydney’s most iconic building come to life with dazzling illuminations is always one of the highlights (ahem) of Vivid. This year, the Opera House has taken things in an unexpected direction with the texturally rich work of local artist Julia Gutman – one of Time Out Sydney's Future Shapers for 2024, and the winner of the 2023 Archibald Prize. Gutman’s specialty is creating large-scale textile ‘patchworks’ from rescued and ‘gifted’ clothing and materials, and the multidisciplinary artist has worked with technologists Pleasant Company to reimagine her signature patchwork style as an animated fantasia of fabric that dances across the sails. Scored by Australian composer and sound designer Angus Mills, Echo digitises centuries-old fabric making techniques, transforming humble textiles donated by the artist’s community into a transdisciplinary epic that reaches deep into literature and art history. Gutman’s instantly-recognisable aesthetic merges the old with the new, and there’s a subtly punk, crafty edge to it. Her work has already been protesting the conventions of fine art and beauty standards, and now she’s redefining our expectations of Vivid’s most major installation. Nice. 

How much is it? Free

‘Gumscape With Road and Creatures’

Where is it? Customs House, Circular Quay

What is it? Artist and musician Reg Mombassa is something of a national icon. This multi-talented man is a founding member of legendary new wave rockers Mental As Anything – along with his current band, Dog Trumpet – and his instantly-recognisable, Australiana-infused surrealist art style is synonymous with Mambo and the fashion brand’s bright, cartoonish shirts, which are favoured by dads everywhere. So really, it’s about damn time that Mombassa’s rebellious imagination was let loose all over a building’s facade for Vivid Sydney. Created in collaboration with Spinifex Group, Mombassa’s contribution to the festival lights sees retro-futuristic robots, one-eyed koalas and other strange creatures take over Customs House. The classic Aussie road trip is turned on its head, and we are left to question our collective identity and what it means to be human.

How much is it? Free


‘Global Rainbow’

Where is it? Sydney Tower; and it’s visible across a 40-kilometre stretch of the CBD

What is it? Everybody say love! This year, the city is basking in the glow of an enormous rainbow throughout the whole duration of Vivid. You’ll be able to catch a glimpse of Global Rainbow from almost anywhere in the city (if you catch it from the right angle). This 40-kilometre stretch of multicoloured lasers emanates from Sydney Tower every night, uniting all of us under the universal symbol of hope. Created by US artist Yvette Mattern, this work has previously lit up city skies across the globe, including London, Berlin, Toronto, and Northern Ireland. While nobody seems to have strictly said that Global Rainbow is a symbol of LGBTQIA+ support, Vivid does overlap with international Pride Month in June. So, we’re calling it: this giant rainbow is totally gay, and we love to see it. 

How much is it? Free

Dark Spectrum

Where is it? Beneath Wynyard Station, Sydney CBD. You enter the experience through a set of stairs within Wynyard Station. 

What is it? After launching last year as a new element of the Vivid program, this immersive experience housed in a stretch of abandoned tunnels below the city is back. Dark Spectrum has upped the ante for 2024, with new installations and a curated soundtrack of throbbing techno that will transport you to another realm. Yes, this is one of the ticketed events. But if you’ve got a little cash to spare for a genuinely immersive, reality-altering experience – and you’re down to enter a one-way, high-volume audio-visual experience with limited exits – we reckon you should head underground for this. 

Another cool thing about Dark Spectrum is that you can also visit during daylight hours, because it’s happening where the sun don’t shine. If you want to avoid huge crowds, weekdays before 2pm are the time to book. Children aged 6-12 are allowed to enter under adult supervision; so if you prefer to avoid small children when you’re getting your rave on, aim for one of the late sessions. Efforts have been made to make the tunnels wheelchair accessible, however people with limited mobility may require assistance during some of the trickier terrain. 

How much is it? Tickets are $35 per person; a family pass is $98 for a family of four; and groups of 21 or more are eligible for a discount of 10 per cent. Book tickets over here.



Where is it? The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Sydney CBD. (The entrance is located at the Queen Elizabeth II Gates, which are right next to the Sydney Opera House forecourt.)

What is it? Originally created by a group of artists more than a decade ago, Lightscape has transformed spaces around the world into sell-out immersive experiences, and it is once again turning Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden into an illuminated wonderland. With all-new lightworks and installations by local and international artists, Lightscape leads visitors on a self-guided, 1.8-kilometre sparkling trail through the lush harbourside garden – under colourful canopies, through glowing tunnels, and alongside technicolour trees stretching up from the undergrowth. 

Last year, many Sydneysiders were understandably up in arms about having to pay to access the Botanic Garden (generally a free-to-access public space) during the season. But we will say, Lightscape is a pretty lovely experience, and it is worth forking out for if you’re so inclined. It’s also great for kids, and the paved paths make it fairly accessible for wheelchairs and people with limited mobility. That said, if you went last year and got your fill, it’s probably not a must-do for you in 2024. 

How much is it? Tickets start at $30 for adults; and $18 for kids aged 3-12. Find out more and book tickets here.

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