Vivid is one of the best times of the year to be in Sydney — and also one of the most crowded. The festival of light, music and ideas has returned for 23 days from May 25 to June 16, and its tenth-anniversary program is sure to draw the biggest crowds yet. Want to see all of those glorious Sydney CBD light shows without packing into the streets like sardines? We know the best spots where you can get in on all the Vivid action — drink in one hand, phone in the other snapping shots from a unique vantage point.
We've also partnered with our mates at Samsung to ensure we've selected bars with the primest of views, so you can use that new Galaxy S9 and S9+ with its specially developed low light camera to snap the best evening shots. So whether you're into DJ sets with a front row seat to the new Luna Park installations or glowing gin cocktails with rooftop panoramas of those illuminated Opera House sails, we've picked out five of the best spots to hit for epic Vivid sights.
MCA ROOFTOP BAR
The MCA Cafe's rooftop boasts quite possibly the best Vivid vantage point the city has to offer — sans the heaving crowds. Panoramic sights of nearly all the festival highlights are visible from here (apart from the MCA itself, of course), so it's an ideal spot for snapping wide-angle pics. This year, Bombay Sapphire will be running the pop-up bar, which is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5–9pm during the festival. Here, you can sip on glowing gin cocktails while taking in unobstructed views of the Opera House light show. The MCA has also extended its Lights on Later program to coincide with the Vivid hours; so in between drinks up at the bar, you can catch the last days of its 21st Biennale exhibition, running until Monday, June 11.
Since being refurbished back in 2012, The Glenmore terrace has become one of our go-to spots all year 'round — especially during Vivid. The heritage-listed pub's rooftop offers 180-degree views over Sydney Harbour, featuring up-close sights of the Harbour Bridge light show. Tuck into some pub grub favourites and raise a glass to snagging one of Sydney's very best views of the festival. Our tip? Get in early (pre-sunset) so you can get a front row seat to all the glowing action come sundown.
No matter what you decide to snack on, this is really food with a view, as Smoke at Barangaroo House was designed to lead the eye out over the harbour. Thanks to Vivid Sydney, it's a prime location for a little light spotting. Barangaroo becomes a magical bushland of lights with The Liminal Hour, featuring the fiery six-metre high Marri Dyin, Eora for 'great woman'. You'll also surely catch a glimpse of the Australian National Maritime Museum rooftop, which will be projecting the underwater delights of BBC Earth and David Attenborough's Blue Planet II. Between sips of an Autumn Spritz — which blends Martini Riserva Abrato with pink grapefruit, St Germain elderflower liqueur, juniper and prosecco — you'll also be able to aim your lens at floating light boats and the beams of Skylark, an interactive custom-built laser, controlled out of nearby Pier 8.
GOLDIE'S MUSIC HALL AT SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE
Along with the Sydney Opera House's massive Vivid lineup comes its annual pop-up bar. This year, Goldie's Music Hall has taken over the northern foyer — brought to you by the team from Newtown's The Midnight Special. Themed 60s and 70s, the bar features a black and gold fit-out complete with beaded lampshades, plush furnishings and peacock chairs. DJs including Gonz, Mama Disquo and Rusty and Boonge will be spinning playlists of funk, soul and R&B, while you relax with signature cocktails like the Golden Years (a boozy concoction of cognac, rye whiskey and amaretto with whisky barrel bitters and orange zest), plus craft beers from The Grifter and Young Henrys, liquor from Poor Toms and Archie Rose and decadent small bites. Of course, you also get prime viewing of the Harbour and can snap all the waterside shots you want from the comfort of the bar. Goldie's is open daily from 6pm–late and runs until Monday, June 4.
BLU BAR AT SHANGRI-LA
Set on the 36th floor and fitted with floor-to-ceiling windows, the Shangri-La Hotel's Blu Bar boasts sky-high panoramas of the Harbour. So, if you want some sprawling overhead shots of Vivid, this is the place to be. From here, the technicolour lights dance below while you enjoy the late-night menu with an extensive cocktail list, featuring both classics and inventive signatures (like the chamomile sour or a yuzu-thyme vodka concoction), plus refined bar snacks that you can nibble on while watching the show below.
Escape the crowds, opt for exclusive sights from some of the best bars with Vivid views and snap some seriously professional-looking shots on the new Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+, designed especially for low light.