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Photograph: Liz Sunshine

The best things to do in Sydney this January

Summer is in full bloom, adventures are lined up and Sydney is ripe for the taking

Maxim Boon
Written by
Maxim Boon
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The first month of the year kicks off with the return of the inimitable Sydney Festival, the all-immersive glowy wonders of Van Gogh Alive and the opening of the awe-inspiring and all-round astounding Sydney Modern project at the Art Gallery of NSW. These huge celebrations of culture are starting the year as we mean to go on, with the city bursting at the seams with music, art, theatre, dance and lectures. It's all looking up.

It's also a great time of year to get out and about, so be sure to check out the best walks in Sydney, marvel at the city skyline from these fab spots, or check out one of Sydney's best beaches. Can't decide which to visit? We've ranked the 50 best sandy stretches in the city.

Want more festive, summery fun? Check out our guide to the coolest things to do in Sydney this weekend. 

The best things to do in January

  • Things to do
  • Alexandria

If you’re a great big Disney fanatic, or you know one (of any age), you’ll want to chase the white rabbit all the way to the Grounds of Alexandria for its latest themed takeover. A sparkling, neon-lit installation has taken over the picturesque venue’s gardens and laneways to celebrate the Walt Disney Company’s 100-year anniversary.  From the classic cartoon Princess crew, to the curious creatures Alice met down in Wonderland, to Mickey and Minnie Mouse themselves – you’ll stumble across illuminations of tonnes of characters from the Disney universe. You can also take it to the next level, with Disney-themed cocktails and a pretty pastel cake making their way onto the menu. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Time Out Sydney (@timeoutsydney) You’ll need to pay a visit to one of the Grounds’ on-site eateries if you want to explore this nostalgia-heavy activation. During the day, the Grounds’ Cafe is open for brekkie, brunch or lunch (walk-ins are always welcome, but you can skip the queues by booking your table online). In the evenings, you can see the gardens sparkle when you book a table in the Potting Shed restaurant or attend an event at the Grounds.  Hot tip: We reckon the decorations look their best at dusk and after dark. Disney at the Grounds is open now until April 2023 (yes, that means the Disney magic will be in full force for Valentine’s Day!).  Want more pretty things? These are the best art exhibitions in Sydney.

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Bondi Beach

Update February 2023: An exciting new look and feel of Casa Aperol Bondi Promenade is coming soon. In the meantime, it is temporarily closed but it won’t be long before it’s pumping again. Visit the www.casaaperol.com.au for updates as to the re-opening dates”  Picture this: you’re sitting on the golden sand of one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. The sun is shining, the beautiful people are sunning themselves and surfers are gliding over the swell. You get up and run towards the big blue sea and dive right in, the refreshing ocean cool on your skin. You come out, and walk up to Bondi Pavilion and there on the promenade you find a refreshing Aperol Spritz to sip on, a delicious coastal menu to feast on and live music that will get those summer vibes going. It’s a Mediterranean oasis right in the heart of Bondi. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well lucky for us, it’s happening this summer. And you’re invited. Casa Aperol at Promenade Bondi Beach, a collaboration between Aperol and House Made Hospitality (founders of Hinchcliff House) is the summertime pop-up of your dreams. Held on the Bondi promenade at Bondi Beach, right in front of the newly restored Bondi Pavilion, Casa Aperol is open now and will be happening seven days a week throughout summer, from 11.30am to 10pm. Food and drinks at Casa Aperol are designed to offer you a taste of summer. As well as Aperol Spritz, you’ll find other thirst-quenching cocktails like a Mango Margarita Slushy; Grapefruit and Coconut F

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  • Art
  • Digital and interactive
  • Moore Park

One of the of the most wildly loved events to touch down in Sydney in the last two years, Van Gogh Alive enraptured thousands of people with its immersive journey through the artist's life and revered artworks. Now it's back for the summer of 2022-2023 on an even grander scale, offering new rooms and experiences that take visitors on a multi-sensory experience through Van Gogh’s world like never before. Let yourself to be swept up in the soaring beauty of works like ‘Wheatfield with Crows’, ‘Vase with Twelve Sunflowers’ and ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’, all digitally projected at unimaginable scales – and supported by a symphony of light, colour, sound and fragrance. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know. Time Out's top tips for visiting Van Gogh Alive How is this different from last time?  The first time Van Gogh Alive was in Sydney, it was the fresh-out-of-lockdown version. This time the custom-built venue showcases the audio-visual experience on a grander scale, and there’s extra “rooms” (see below). There’s also the lovely themed bar and café space, and add-on experiences like a High Tea package and a Paint Like Vincent sip ’n’ paint sesh.  What are the extra rooms like? The return season features four additional 'immersive spaces', which are highly geared for selfies. You walk inside a recreation of Van Gogh’s bedroom (which looks a lot like the one at Holey Moley); the infinity Sunflower Room, where you can stand in a never-ending field of sunflowers (insider g

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  • Music
  • Sydney

It’s summer and we’re ready to put out some picnic blankets, graze on some antipasto and bask in the good vibes of live music while the sun sets over Sydney Harbour.  Sunset Sessions is a series of family-friendly outdoor gigs on Cockatoo Island running from January 21 to April 1. Performers will be playing on the lawn of the Biloela House, where there will be grazing boxes and refreshments aplenty.  There's a broad range of talents to take in, with artists hailing from all over Australia, and many of them belonging to the First Nations and LGBTQIA+ communities. If you’re ready for a mellow evening, explore the heartfelt ballads of Carla Geneve, Lee Sullivan and Lucy Parle, or the R&B suave of Ashli and Kyoshi. If you’re after a funkier indie atmosphere, you can see Big Wheels, Huck Hastings, June Jones, Punko or Aodhan. For some rocker vibrations, come for Teddie or Ainsley Farrell.  You can catch Sunset Sessions on Saturdays from 5pm to 8pm. Tickets are $35 and children under 12 can attend for free. If you find yourself wanting more of Cockatoo Island’s out of this world views, you can turn your Sunset Session into a sunrise by booking a night at the island’s heritage listed lodgings or the waterfront campground.  Need some more bangin’ tunes? Check our list of the best live music venues in Sydney.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Dawes Point

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a work of theatre that hits all the right notes – that is, a balance of references to both timeless works of literature as well as local goings-on, smattered with shocks of laughter and high drama – is at once more life affirming and delightful than anything you can watch on a screen. Drawing on Jane Austen’s drawing room dramas, this outrageous satire set in the post-plebiscite Harbour City is a knowing and loving lampooning of gay Sydney, suburban Australia and period dramas. But Hubris & Humiliation doesn’t merely lean on the laughs, of which there are many. This brand spankin’ new Australian play props up its tongue-in-cheek humour on a foundation of engaging drama and cultural references. After all, it takes a certain intellectual quality of theatre to get away with lines like “It's just a little prostate tickle, I can live without it!” on the esteemed stage of the Sydney Theatre Company. When his mother Bernice (Celia Ireland of Wentworth fame, in fine form) is left destitute by a dodgy suitor, Elliott (Roman Delo, Bump) a naive wallflower from the Sunshine State, is packed off to Sydney to find a suitably wealthy man to marry. As his estranged uncle Roland (veteran actor Andrew McFarlance, who absolutely eats up the scenery in the role of a wealthy elder gay) attempts to show him the ropes, it could actually be perky young pink-haired workmate Chantel (Henrietta Enyonam Amevor) who has a better grasp of the gay dating scene o

  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • Chatswood

In Chinese culture, 2023 is the year of the rabbit, which symbolises longevity, peace, and prosperity – and don’t we all want more of that in our life next year? To celebrate, Willoughby City Council in Sydney is throwing a big Year of the Rabbit Festival, featuring all the best things in life: food, culture, music and art, to share with friends and family. Highlights include the Rabbit Sculpture Trail (Jan 18-Feb 12), featuring eight giant inflatable rabbits created by artist Amanda Parer in a whimsical nod to the animal of the moment. There’s Lunar New Year Comedy (Sat, Jan 28 ), showcasing an ace line-up of some of the top Australian comedic acts including Nina Oyama, Harry Jun, Jenny Tian, AJ Lamarque, Ting Lim, Chris Nguyen, Kevin Jin and MC Diana Nguyen, held at the Concourse Concert Hall. Inner Edge Drifting (Jan 18 Jan-Feb 12) is a moving exhibition featuring more than 10 artists expressing their experiences of having Asian heritage while living in a Western society. The East Meets West outdoor concert (Sun, Jan 29) by the incredible Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, which used to be a ticketed event, will now be free for thousands to enjoy. The colourful Twilight Lantern Parade (Sun, Feb 5) will see a handful of streets close and come alive with lanterns. And then there’s Milan Ring featuring Yeo and Rainbow Chan (Fri, Feb 10), a concert featuring three of our leading Australian R&B, electronic and hip hop artists. During the four-week festival, folks can also visit the

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Glebe Markets
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • Glebe

You’ll find massive variety among the 200 stalls that take over Glebe Public School each Saturday morning, but it’s the fashion ones that attracts most visitors. There are rows upon rows of eccentric and colourful vintage clothes, alongside hand-crafted jewellery, accessories and new clothing designed by locals. There are vintage stalls scattered all around the market, but the smaller section just off Derby Lane at the back of the school is a goldmine and a slightly quieter place to scour through racks and try things on.  Even if you’re not searching for a new wardrobe, Glebe Markets is a great place to grab some lunch and relax on the school lawns where live musicians serenade the crowd from noon. The lane of food stalls – just opposite the lawn – has old market favourites and more high-end offerings: gözleme, kebabs, dumplings, fancy doughnuts, gluten-free baked goods and tandoori chicken wraps from the Madras Cuisine stall, which has been part of the markets for more than two decades. Best of all, you can get a freshly squeezed, made-to-order lemonade from the Citrus Factory. It’s mixed together in a cocktail shaker and you’re able to request a little more lemon or sugar, depending how sweet your tooth is. Want to market all day long? Hop, skip and jump over to Rozelle for some more treasures.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Parramatta

After taking Sydney and Melbourne by storm, this bonafide '90s musical is returning to Sydney for a saucy encore season as it saunters along a 2023 east coast tour. It shouldn't work, and yet, this so-wrong-it's-right show rips the script from a problematic favourite '90s flick, injects it with a jukebox full of era-appropriate pop hits, and turns out a hell of a good night at the theatre. Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical is bringing its best boy band dance moves to the stage at Riverside Theatres in Parramatta from February 2 to 12. Tickets are on sale now. Read on for our four-star review of this sexy, pop-powered production: The wigs look inescapably like cheap, shiny party store fodder. For the most part, the actors all look conspicuously older than the teenagers they’re portraying. The lines between irony and sincerity are so blurred that it's impossible to know if this a magnificent work of satire or a so-bad-it's-good guilty pleasure. But either way, we were here for campy, schlocky, corny, daggy brilliance of Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical. If you’re ready for some laugh-out-loud ridiculousness and theatrical takes on throwback hits, this could be just what you’re after.  As a film, Cruel Intentions treads a complicated path. This raunchy thriller about teens either having sex with each other, or trying to convince other people to have sex with them, got hearts racing on its release in 1999. It was an era where the studios were really into mining old, old storie

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Art After Hours
  • Art
  • Paintings
  • Sydney

Every Wednesday evening, the Art Gallery of NSW welcomes you into its hallowed halls and throws the ultimate in absolutely free mid-week social and cultural events. Until 10pm, Art After Hours offers a regular program of live music, lectures and celebrity talks, drawing workshops, film screenings, gallery tours and other events – and, of course, nocturnal access to its latest exhibitions.  The program is usually themed around the exhibitions currently showing at the gallery, and you can join guided tours around the gallery at 5.30pm. Plus, a free courtesy bus runs every 20 minutes from 7pm until closing from the gallery to various city locations that are all close to public transport – so, no matter where you need to go, they have you covered.  Head to Art After Hours to jazz up your Wednesday night, and to inject a liberal splash of arty delight into your week, and your life.  Want more high culture? Check out our list of the best art exhibitions on across Sydney right now.

  • Film
  • Outdoor cinema
  • price 1 of 4
  • Centennial Park

Pack your picnic baskets and grab the popcorn, because this popular outdoor cinema experience is back in action for the summer in the beautiful surrounds of Centennial Park. Centennial Parklands' annual flick fest is open right through to March 26, screening a bunch of newly released blockbusters and beloved classic movies.  As ever, Moonlight Cinema is a BYO-friendly event, so pack a picnic and some bubbles on ice. If you’re famously under prepared, have no fear – there will be a phalanx of food trucks on offer and a licensed bar for libations too. And if you’re the extra AF-type, you can bling it up with Moonlight’s Gold Grass and Platinum options, offering the best views plus waiter service direct to your plush bean bag pew. Cocktails and ice cream will, of course, be on hand to cool your jets. Films on offer this year include the Harry Styles starring drama-fest of Don't Worry Darling, moody murder mystery hit Where The Crawdads Sing, Taika Waititi's Sydney-made Marvel hit Thor: Love and Thunder, plus many more and some Christmas flicks to fill it out. Check out the full program and nab your tickets on the website. As always, dogs are welcome too, so grab your well-behaved canine companion and get ready to snuggle up under the stars. Want more? Here's the best outdoor cinemas in Sydney this summer.

Glide around the salty bay

  • Things to do

There’s a good reason why Sydney is often called the Harbour City: this place is defined by its connection to the water and the sheltered bays hold some irresistible charms. Whether you’re in it, on it, or simply admiring it, here are our top recommendations for the best ways to experience Sydney Harbour.

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