The heart of Sydney once again vibrates with music, art, festivals and food. From ice rinks and heated outdoor igloos to Sydney’s first Solstice Festival, there’s plenty to see and do in the city this winter.
So zip up those coats and get ready to rediscover the countless charms of the port city with a host of activities and events for people of all ages.
Discover the brand new Sydney Solstice Festival
June 8 to 20
Move over Vivid – there’s a new winter festival in town, and it’s set to become a major fixture in Sydney’s cultural calendar. The Sydney Solstice Festival is a celebration of food, arts, nightlife and culture leading up to the shortest day of the year, June 21. Events are spread across several hubs: the city centre, Darling Harbor and surrounding areas, the Oxford Street area, and Newtown and the inner west.
The packed schedule includes a week of live music to mark the reopening of the Metro Theatre, Aboriginal whale-watching and stargazing cruises, an immersive dinner at Sydney Town Hall called The Queen’s Feast, a festival country and western music, as well as several mini-festivals in Paddington’s Five Ways, Darling Harbor and South Eveleigh.
Attend a concert at Winter in the Domain
June 25 to July 18
Live music is definitely back! Catch some of Australia’s favorite artists as they perform in the Big Top pop-up tent, including The Presets, Hot Dub Time Machine, The Cat Empire, Missy Higgins, Matt Corby, Boy & Bear and Thelma Plum. Many shows are open to all ages, and for the duration of the festival the area around the marquee is transformed into a family fun zone called Winterpark with rides, an ice rink, and food and drink stalls.
Shop at a local market
The city’s markets are a great place to buy unique wares and freshly picked produce, while supporting local and independent artisans and producers. Stock up on weekly groceries at Sunday Tramsheds Growers Market or Millers Point Monday Farmers’ Market, or spend a few hours browsing stalls and listening to live music at Saturday Glebe Market or Weekend Rocks Market. In addition to these regular events, the Cannery Rosebery holds a monthly market, the quarterly Glebe Craftsmen’s Market takes place on June 12 and Carriageworks holds its seasonal winter market on June 19. Don’t forget your reusable bags!
Take a dip in a heated indoor pool
When it’s too cold to brave the beach, head to an indoor aquatic center where you can swim laps, join a fitness class, or let the kids splash and play.
Cook and Phillip Park Pool has 3 heated pools, one of which turns into a wave pool on weekends. The Ian Thorpe Aquatic Center has 2 heated indoor pools, a giant inflatable on weekends, as well as a spa, sauna and steam room. The Gunyama Park Aquatic Center, which opened earlier this year, has 3 indoor pools, including a children’s play area with slides, fountains and a mega-drencher.
Indulge your inner Francophile at the Bastille Festival
July 14 to 18
Come hungry to this free festival of all things French, where you can snack and sip your way through France’s wine and food regions within Circular Quay. Vendors will be selling paper-thin crêpes from Normandy, pizza-like Flammkueche from Alsace, oozing fondue raclette from the Alps, impeccable patisserie and many more delights. Wash it down with wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, Loire, Provence and Champagne as you browse market stalls filled with locally made homewares, jewelry and accessories.
Psst, don’t miss a 14th of July celebration at The Argyle on Wednesday, July 14th.
Twirl around an ice rink
Practice your triple axles on the 2 ice rinks which will open in the city in June – one at Winterpark in the domain and the other on the forecourt of the ICC in Darling Harbour. Winterpark is open from June 26 to July 18 every afternoon and every evening on weekdays. The Darling Harbor Ice Rink is open 4-9 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. weekends June 8-20. Reservations are recommended.
See the city light up after dark during Vivid Sydney
August 6 to 28
After a hiatus last year, Sydney’s premier winter festival returns to light up the heart of the city once again. Light projections bring the city’s architecture and outdoor spaces to life, Vivid Live brings together some of Australia’s most innovative musical talent for a series of performances, and the Festival’s Ideas portion expands your mind with a stimulating program of workshops and conferences. This year, the Sydney Opera House sails will feature colorful projections by Martu artists representing the community and landscape of Parnngurr in Western Australia.
Relax with your friends in a private igloo
Several restaurants and bars have erected transparent igloos in their outdoor spaces, like individual air-conditioned VIP bubbles that you can rent for a few hours or even for the night. A garden igloo at Surry Hills Winery is $50 per person and comes with free snacks. The waterfront igloos at Darling Harbor’s Cargo Bar are $59 per person and include snacks with a 90-minute beverage package. Perhaps the most photogenic is the luxury igloo suite at Pier One. It’s designed by blogger and influencer Tara Milk Tea, can accommodate up to 10 people, and has an overnight option. Prices start from $600 for a 2.5 hour session.
Listen to top local talent during the Winter Jazz Fest
Jazz lovers and improvised music aficionados won’t want to miss this showcase of Australian artists who explore the sounds of classical, contemporary and global jazz. The lineup includes trumpeter and composer Phil Slater, ARIA award-winning vocalist Elana Stone, the world music-influenced quartet Bungarribee, and pianist Greg Coffin with his contemporary jazz trio. Everyone will take over the new hall of the Australian Institute of Music, The Space, for an intimate one-night show.
Rediscover the city on a free walking tour
Sydney is Australia’s oldest city, so there’s plenty of history to discover on the 2.5-hour colonial walk through the city center and the rocks. The Sydney Sights walking tour is of a similar duration and will take you past the city’s most famous landmarks as well as down the backstreets to find hidden art and bars. Nature lovers can explore the 30-hectare heritage-listed Royal Botanic Gardens on a 1.5-hour guided walk that takes place several times a week. Or visit the Secret City website on your phone and select one of 5 self-guided walks through the Rocks, Chinatown, Darling Harbor and Downtown. Courses range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and you’ll have to solve puzzles along the way.
And if you love art, be sure to try one of City Art’s free walking tours. Rediscover the bustling streets of Chinatown and Haymarket as you explore inspiring and imaginative artwork. Or encounter artistic creations hidden in alleys, sandwiched between buildings, planted in the sidewalk and raised above the street.
Laugh, cry and be transported to the theater
Hamilton is set to return to Broadway in September, but until then Sydney is the only place in the world where you can watch Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical live. If tickets are too expensive, try your luck in the daily lottery where you can win $10 tickets. 2 more TONY award-winning musicals are coming to town this winter: Once returns to the Darlinghurst Theater for another season after a sold-out run in 2019, and Come From Away debuts at the Capitol Theater to tell the unusual tale of stranded passengers in a small town after the events of September 11.
Cozy up by the fireplace in these historic pubs
Grab a home-brewed beer and sit by the hearth at the Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel. The fireplace has been warming punters since the Rocks pub was established in 1841. There are 2 other pubs nearby located in heritage buildings from the 1840s which have retained their fireplaces: the Hero of Waterloo Hotel which offers live music every week -ends, and the whiskey and cocktail bar the Doss House which serves mulled wine in winter. In Woolloomooloo, Hotel Old Fitzroy offers a cozy fireplace, food prepared by a former Momofuku Seiōbo chef, and an attached theater if you fancy a show. In the town centre, the Duke of Clarence is home to a cozy 18th century London tavern with bookshelves, armchairs and delicious Sunday roasts.
Did we miss a cozy pub? Let us know.
Soak up the winter sun in these parks and gardens
Nothing invigorates the mind, body and soul like a brisk walk in the fresh air, and the city center is full of truly unique and spectacular green spaces to explore. Find respite from the daily routine in the Chinese Garden of Friendship, a serene and tranquil walled garden designed by landscape architects in Guangzhou, China.
Or take in harbor views from Barangaroo Reserve with its winding pathways, stepped lawns and terraced gardens adorned with Sydney sandstone and native plants – it’s a stunning transformation of a former industrial shipping site . And of course there’s the Royal Botanic Garden and Estate, with its running tracks, wide open spaces and unparalleled views of Sydney Harbor landmarks. No matter how many times you’ve seen it before, it’s a prospect that never fails to impress.
Psst… You have until July 31 to redeem your Dine and Discover vouchers for food, drink and entertainment. The city is full of museums, hotels and restaurants that will gladly accept them.
Want more? Find the latest events in the city.