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giant octopus sculpture | Sydney Festival
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Festival | 'Te Wheke-a-Muturangi: The Adversary'

The best things to do in Sydney this January

Summer is in full bloom: the days are long, the Martinis are (very) cold and Sydney's schedule is overflowing with fun

Winnie Stubbs
Written by
Winnie Stubbs
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The first month of the year kicks off with the return of the inimitable Sydney Festival, which is coming back to the Harbour City with over 100 interactive shows and visual art installations from January 5. For pre-show hydration, we’d recommend stopping by Pier Bar for an avo-laced margarita and a plate of prawns. If you’re keen to keep going, this sexy new live music venue and late-night spot from the team behind our favourite restaurant of 2023 is open until 4am at the weekend.

In other good news, Sydney’s summer of al fresco flicks is showing no signs of slowing down (thank you El Niño), with January welcoming the 2024 Westpac OpenAir Cinema season and the addition of a brand new urban beach cinema complete with 150 queen sized beds. If you're more of a short-film fan, make your way to Bondi for the 33rd year of Flickerfest: the international short-film festival taking over Bondi Pavillion for ten nights of screenings.

If you’ve got a boost of new-year-new-me energy, sweat it out on one of our city’s best running routes, or get out of town for a day of hiking – made a lot more tempting with the promise of a beachside beer come sunset (our list of Sydney’s best pubs should help you with that).

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

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Circuses
  • Sydney

This raucous show could be the closest you’ll get to spending a whirlwind evening inside an extravagant Baz Luhrmann flick. Taking over The Studio in the belly of the Sydney Opera House, Gatsby at the Green Light is a sauced-up variety show that transports audiences into a pop-up, vintage-inspired night club (complete with a functional bar). Think of this production as a sort of live concept album – featuring a smorgasboard of circus acts, top-shelf burlesque, evocative live singing, and impressive aerial artistry – with the rare art of hair-hanging to boot.  Gatsby cherry-picks from the glitz and glamour of one of Jay Gatsby’s famous parties, remixes it, and serves it up as an escapist fantasy where the roaring ’20s meets the 2020s. In doing so, this show masters the timeless allure of a particular niche of spectacle: watching profusely talented and beautiful people performing seriously difficult tricks and dangling precariously in the air (before elegantly dismounting with a brazen wink). ARIA-nominated singer Odette is a stand out member of the ensemble, the earthy and mystical vocal quality of the siren of the Inner West providing a soulful connective thread to the mixed bag of acts. Odette collaborated with musical director Kim Moyes (best known as one-half of iconic Australian electronic duo The Presets) on an original song for the production – although, it’s her covers of hit songs that will continue to play on repeat in your mind (her audacious take on ‘Money (That’s

  • Art
  • Street art
  • Sydney

Sydney’s summer of blockbuster exhibitions is about to get a whole lot bigger from January 24, when the highly-anticipated Banksy exhibition will open in Sydney Town Hall. The Art of Banksy: Without Limits has already wowed more than 100,000 people across the nation, with its impressive collection of works by the famously anonymous king/queen of street art. We're the third lucky Australian city to host this mammoth exhibition, which arrives fresh off the back of successful runs in Brisbane and Adelaide. Before landing Down Under, it toured across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States, where it attracted more than 1.6 million visitors.  The Art of Banksy: Without Limits Sydney edition will feature more than 150 of the artist’s works, including certified originals – like ‘Flower Thrower’, ‘Rude Copper’ and, of course, ‘Girl with Balloon’. Visitors – along with murals, sculptures, photos and mapping shows (in plain speak: images or animations projected onto irregularly shaped surfaces).  The exhibition is famed for creating several custom-built experiential installations that fit the venue of each location and in Sydney, visitors can explore an ‘Infinity Room’ of mirrors, a simulation of ‘Dismaland Bemusement Park’ (for those who’ve never heard of it, it’s a dark and twisted theme park that was created by Banksy in 2015), and a ‘Murals’ room that houses seven new murals Banksy created in war-torn Ukraine. There’s even a space dedicated to former the MV Louise Mic

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  • Museums
  • Science
  • Darling Harbour

Discover the hidden marvels of marine life and the remarkable woman who paved the way to better understanding marine conservation at Valerie Taylor: An Underwater Life. This free homegrown exhibition is more than just a tribute to one of the world’s most celebrated underwater storytellers, shark researchers and conservationists. It’s a call to action for all environmental enthusiasts and future changemakers to protect our beautiful oceans, their animals and their habitats from further threat. Dive straight into 60 years worth of stories as told through objects and ephemera donated by Valerie and her husband Ron Taylor, including cameras and underwater housings, Valerie’s iconic blue fins and dive suits, and the stainless-steel chainmail suit she wore to get up close and personal with sharks. You can also admire Hollywood movie posters from the past fifty years, including Jaws and The Island of Dr Moreau, plus more than 500 images from the Maritime Museum’s collection of animals, people and places now under threat.   Valerie Taylor: An Underwater Life is one of the headline exhibitions in the Maritime Museum’s summer program and will run until August 31, 2024. Be sure to catch the other special exhibitions while you’re there including Ocean Photographer of the Year. For more information on the exhibition head here. 

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  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Barangaroo

It’s less than a month until the world’s biggest pop star Taylor Swift will be jetting Down Under for her truly epic three-hour-long Eras Tour, and are we... Ready For It? You better believe it. Whether you managed to score tickets to her Sydney show and are keen to get into the Taylor spirit, or missed out but are still a Swiftie at heart, you’ll be stoked to know that Teahouse at Crown Sydney has launched a Taylor Swift The Eras Tour themed high tea. The enchanting birdcages will be transformed into a Swiftie heaven, with sweet and savoury snacks and photo opps, all soundtracked to Swift’s non-stop hits. And the best bit? You will go in the draw to win free Taylor Swift tickets to her upcoming sequined soirée. Yes, really. Food wise, the high tea highlights include ‘You Need To Calm Down’ teriyaki Wagyu slider; ‘Fearless’ Sichuan miso-baked toothfish on a pastry nest; ‘Red’ fermented choc custard with a cherry compote and Buddha’s hand (a type of citrus fruit); and ‘1989’ lavender ganache with yuzu and almond streusel. So, put on some red lipstick, your best snake-green frock and shimmy down to Crown. You’ll need to be with four others to enter, so tell your lover, and your squad (you can see more details here). The Taylor Swift The Eras Tour themed high tea will be available Thursday to Sunday, 2-5pm. It costs $125 per person, and that includes tea or coffee (Champagne and cocktails are also available to order at an additional cost). Make a booking here. RECOMMENDED READS

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  • Art
  • Public art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Bankstown

Bankstown is being transformed into a hub for creatives and makers as the City of Canterbury Bankstown brings back its Arts Nights: Culture Alive. Hosted across several local hot spots, this free event is a major marker in the city’s calendar and it returns for two more nights on February 15 and March 1. First up in February is Craft Alive: Craft for Care and Connection, where you can catch a series of creative workshops and an epic line-up of musical performances from 5 to 10pm. Make a start at Bankstown Arts Centre, where the courtyard will transform into a craft market to pick up one-off wares. Western Sydney collective Beat Kitchen Records will be providing the dance tunes that will have you out late grooving. If you’re after something more lowkey, head over to Bankstown Library to catch acoustic music performances, including one from the local Bankstown Theatre Company.  Stop in at the exclusive art performance by local artist Garry Trinh whose work aims to reveal magic in the mundane; test your skills by joining in on a poetry workshop from Western Sydney University Young and Resilient Research Centre; explore Blak Flǎneur, an experiential exhibition at the Art Centre by artist Travis De Vries; take a tour through the city on the Augmented Reality art walk Hyperreal Amble, which weaves AR with real world installations.  Don’t leave without having a go at one of the craft workshops on offer. Led by local contemporary artists, you can expect to learn ethical craft practic

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Carriageworks Farmers Market
  • Shopping
  • Markets
  • price 0 of 4
  • Eveleigh

It’s imperative that you do not eat before you visit the Carriageworks Farmers Markets. You’ll want to save maximum belly space for your personal version of The Bachelorette where you decide who gets your dollars and what delicious produce gets to come home with you. Maybe you like something soupy and savoury first thing? In that case head to Bar Pho for a traditional Vietnamese start to the day. On the veggie train? Hit up Keppos St Kitchen for a falafel breakfast, or head to Food Farm for a classic bacon and egg roll.Once the hounds of your hunger have been quieted it’s time to prepare for your next meal, or seven. Stock up on artisan cheese from Leaning Oak, smoked salmon from Brilliant Foods and Sydney’s favourite sourdough from AP Bakery and brunch is sorted. You can spend a whole lot of money if you want to here, but equally you could just grab a kombucha on tap from Herbs of Life and find a chair for some of the best dog-watching in the city.   Hungry for more? Look at our list of the best markets in Sydney – produce or otherwise. 

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

It’s time to stop and smell the popcorn and grab your picnic basket – this popular outdoor cinema is returning to the beautiful surrounds of Centennial Parklands this summer. From November 23, 2023, Moonlight Cinema is back in action for its 28th year in Sydney and screening a bunch of flicks in the open air and under the stars. The program features a stellar line up of 2023 Box Office blockbusters, festive movie favourites and family flicks right through to March 24, 2024. The Moonlight experience is about more than the movie. You can snuggle up in the comfiest of bean bags – and so can your furry best mate, because dogs are allowed! It’s BYO friendly (so chuck a bottle of bubbles on ice) but if you’re famously under prepared, have no fear – there’s a phalanx of food trucks, licensed bars for libations (including freshly made Aperol Spritzes) and on-site activations flogging free samples, to boot.  There are multiple ticketing options at various price points to choose from. Are you the extra-AF type? Level up your outing with the Platinum Experience package, you’ll enjoy the evening sunset with an exclusive hamper featuring a range of classic picnic delicacies from Victoria’s High Country. Plus, waiter service to your deluxe double bean bed.  So what’s playing this summer? Moviegoers can expect a line-up of some of 2023’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters, from The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Trolls Band Together and the brand-new R-rated romcom Anyone But You s

  • Film
  • Outdoor cinema
  • The Rocks

Nothing will come between us and a free flick, and the gimmick of an outdoor movie will never wear off – add an iconic location to that, and we’re ready to say “pass the popcorn!”. So yeah, we're pretty pleased to hear that the Rocks is bringing back its Laneway Cinema this summer. Every Wednesday night between October and March, they're busting out the big screen, deckchairs and cosy bean bags on Atherden Street amongst the golden sandstone buildings and cobbled lanes. You can even grab a bag of popcorn for $2, with proceeds in support of charity.  In February, the line-up is taking a romantic turn – with romantic favourites including When Harry Met Sally (February 7), 50 First Dates (February 14) and Aussie masterpiece Muriel's Wedding (February 28). Come March, expect cinema classics including Back to the Future (March 6), Groundhog Day (March 13) and The Princess Bride (March 27). A bunch of the Rocks’ food and drink offerings are just a few steps away. Our resident food and drink fanatic recommends popping into the wine bar at Le Foote for a glass of vino and a top notch snack, while gin lovers can wander up to Hickson House Distilling Co and whisky nerds should check out The Doss House, or you can keep it simple with beer and barbecue at the Tap Rooms. Films screen at 7pm every Wednesday night. Be sure to register over here for free tickets to secure your seats, as there is limited seating available. Recommended: Love movies outdoors? Bondi is getting a pop-up sunset ci

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  • Music
  • Sydney

It’s summertime and you know you can't go wrong with some picnic blankets, antipasto snacks, and live music. Bonus points if there's a sunset and a harbour view involved.  Sunset Sessions, Cockatoo Island's family-friendly outdoor gig series, is back and running from January 13 to April 6. A pair of homegrown performers will be playing on the lawn of the Biloela House every Saturday evening, 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 Mi-kaisha and Georgia Mulligan, or the R'n'B suave of Ruby Jackson, Anieszska, Betty and Sunny Reyne. If you’re after a funkier indie atmosphere, you can see Euan Hart and Caitlin Harnett, or the good-vibe pop of Gem Cassar-Daley. For some twangy folk vibrations, come for Leah Senior, Ned Olive, and Babe Rollins. You can catch Sunset Sessions on Saturdays from 5.30pm, but get there early when the gates open at 5pm* to soak in the atmosphere. 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.  *For the final three shows of the season (March 23, March 30, and April 6) doors w

  • Film
  • Outdoor cinema
  • Barangaroo

Curling up in bed to watch your favourite romcom or thriller is truly one of life’s greatest joys. Now, imagine yourself snuggled up in a queen-sized bed, surrounded by sand, watching the latest Hollywood release under the stars. It sounds like a summer dream, right? Well, dream on, Sydney. The world’s biggest outdoor bed cinema is landing on a beach in Barangaroo this summer and tickets are already on sale. Mov’in Bed will transform Barangaroo’s Harbour Park into a city beach, with 280 tonnes of white sand and 150 cloud-like queen-size beds that can comfortably fit you and two of your closest mates.  Sessions will run every Wednesday to Sunday night from January 12 to April 14, 2024, featuring new release films and classic hits like Wonka, Barbie, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Anyone But You. Kids can join the summer cinema fun too with screenings of Trolls, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and The Boy and the Heron. You can watch the plot unfold on the giant 15-metre-long 4K screen, with the sun setting in the background directly across the harbour. Moviegoers will each receive a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, creating a completely immersive audiovisual cinema experience. And yes, that means you cry and laugh as loud as you want. For a full summer showdown, get popcorn, pizza, and fish and chips delivered straight to your bed. And if you get thirsty during the film, head to the beach bar for coconuts, wine, Champagne, beer and soft drinks. You can relax

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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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