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December events in Sydney

The sun is shining and the water's fine: dive into these superb activities and events around Sydney this month

People at festival at the Public House Petersham car park.
Photograph: Supplied/Oliver Minnett

As we race towards a whole new decade, it’s time to get on top of all the Christmas action in the city and plan for the best New Year’s Eve parties possible. Kids will be using all that sugar strength from advent calendars to gear up for the summer school holidays, but luckily there are plenty of sunny activities like outdoor movie screenings and massive open air Christmas markets that’ll keep the whole family entertained in Sydney this month. Don't miss classic festive events like Paul Kelly's recurring Chrissy concert and this live show dedicated to Love, Actually.

It’s also perfect weather to lounge on the sand of Sydney’s best beaches or do a few laps of our favourite ocean pools.

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December's best events

Cornelia Parker Museum of Contemporary Art 2019
Photograph: Hugo Glendinning

Cornelia Parker

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

Cornelia Parker is considered one of England's biggest and most influential art stars from the last few decades and was made a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. At the centre of the MCA's exhibition is her breakthrough work which features a garden shed she had the British Army blow up with explosives.

Romeo and Juliet Sport for Jove 2019 supplied
Photograph: Patrick Boland
Theatre, Drama

Romeo and Juliet

Old Government House, Parramatta

From #eggboy to Greta Thunberg, 2019 is the year young people spoke up and refused to be overlooked. So why should they be overlooked in literature too? The greatest love story ever told gets a rethink this summer, with teenagers where they should be – at the heart of the story.

Linear exhibition
Art, Installation


Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo

Explore Indigenous connection to cultural legacy and the physical, cultural and spiritual lines that link First Nations practices and narratives across Australia. Linear is curated by the award-winning head of design at Bangarra Dance Theatre, Murri man Jacob Nash, and features ten Indigeous practitioners from across the country working in diverse mediums.

Takashi Murakami - Japan Supernatural
Photograph: Daniel Boud

Japan Supernatural

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

For the last two years, the Art Gallery of NSW has focussed on Europe in its big summer exhibitions, but this summer is all about Japan with an epic exhibition of more than 200 artworks. It features work from the country's most influential artist, Katsushika Hokusai and contemporary star, Takashi Murakami.

People sitting at tables on Cockatoo Island with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.
Photograph: Supplied / Harbour Trust

Sunset Sessions at Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island, Sydney

Jump on the ferry to Cockatoo Island for a night of chilled acoustic performances with a banging city backdrop. Sunset Sessions – previously known as Campfire Sessions – will share intimate songs and stories from up-and-coming artists on the island lawn on Saturday evenings throughout December. 

Liverpool Sculpture Walk 2019 supplied
Photograph: Charlotte Curd
Art, Sculpture and installations

Liverpool Sculpture Walk

Casula Parklands Playground, Casula

For two weeks every spring, hordes of Sydneysiders head to the beach for the annual Sculpture by the Sea. But for nine months, Casula Parklands is playing host to a new sculpture walk, featuring eight works from Sculpture by the Sea along the banks of the Georges River.

Primavera MCA 2019 supplied
Zoe M. Robertson, 'Various Protest Banners', 2018
Art, Galleries


Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

Each year, the MCA invites an artist or curator to take the reins of Primavera, an exhibition for emerging artists under 35. This year, it's curated by Archibald Prize-winning painter Mitch Cairns, who has brought together seven artists who all incorporate language forms and poetic expression in their practice.

Quilty AGNSW 2019 supplied
Image courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of NSW
Art, Paintings


Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

Ben Quilty's work is known across the country for its vivid, luscious and tormented quality, all realised in oils. This exhibition is Quilty's first major survey in more than a decade and covers 15 years of his work, ranging from his portraits through to more abstract pieces and reflections on the Australian landscape. 

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives
Photograph: Supplied
Film, Fantasy

Dark Arts film series

Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney

This newest season of free movies from the archives of world cinema delivers supernatural stories from seven different nations. The Art Gallery of NSW presents these films as an adjunct to its magisterial Japan Supernatural exhibition, and it ranges from a legendary Italian horror film to neglected Australian classics of the uncanny.

Floating Sydney
Photograph: Supplied
Film, Outdoor cinema

Floating Cinema

Sydney Harbour, Sydney

We've already got movies in the park, movies by the beach, outdoor movies in bed, and movies by Sydney Harbour, but now Sydney's mania for alfresco screenings has taken that extra leap to deliver movies on a boat. This month the theme will be appropriately Christmassy, with screenings of ElfDie Hard and Home Alone.

A wide shot of the crowd sitting down in front of the large scre
Photograph: Moonlight Cinema
Film, Outdoor cinema

Moonlight Cinema

Centennial Parklands, Centennial Park

Pack your picnic baskets, because Sydney’s favourite outdoor cinema experience is returning to Centennial Park. Moonlight Cinema promises an eclectic program of current films and classic favourites for filmgoers to enjoy right through to March.

It's the biggest party of the year

Aerial shot of Sydney Harbour as the fireworks go off on New Year's Eve
Photograph: Destination NSW
Things to do, Fireworks

New Year's Eve in Sydney

Sydney's NYE celebrations are world famous, and for good reason. But no one likes crowds. Here's how to have a good time, including knowing where to pee and when to kick-on, on December 31.

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