Arts and culture

Highlights

A diverse and vibrant cultural calendar

Sydney’s arts and culture line-up is one not to be missed. With internationally acclaimed performances on the city's many stages, award-winning festivals, and a number of exhibitions across the city’s many galleries and performance spaces, there’s something for everyone.

  • Affinity First Fleet, Vivid Sydney
  • Matthew Herbert, Vivid Sydney

Sydney's Art and Culture

Sydney is Australia's premier destination for world-class performances, exhibitions and festivals as well as galleries and museums.

Begin your discovery at the cultural heart, the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House, on the edge of one of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world. More than 1,600 performances are held each year at the Sydney Opera House, from ballet and opera to classical music, stage plays and more.

Sydney shines during winter each year when Vivid Sydney warms up the city with a celebration of light, music and ideas. Explore the amazing light art spectacles as well as inspiring music performances and ideas seminars. Due to popular demand the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas will run for an additional five nights in 2016, making 23 spectacular nights from 27 May to 18 June.

Customs House, Vivid Sydney

Immerse yourself in the popular programs of Sydney Film Festival and Sydney Writers’ Festival. More than 300 screenings of feature films, documentaries, short films and animation from around the world will screen in venues across Sydney during the 63rd Sydney Film Festival.

From 16 to 22 May, the world-famous Sydney Writers' Festival attracts audiences of more than 100,000 to the stunning harbourside location, Walsh Bay, and other venues across the city.

For upcoming blockbuster musicals and stage shows, check out Theatre Royal, State Theatre and Capitol Theatre in the city centre and Sydney Lyric, next to Darling Harbour. Some big international concerts are also held at Sydney Olympic Park, in Sydney's west.

Sydney Film Festival, Sydney

Take a cultural cruise on Sydney Harbour with Tribal Warrior, join a heritage tour in The Rocks, explore the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and visit the Art Gallery of NSW for its extensive collections as well as a rolling program of exhibitions and events. This splendid gallery is in the leafy Domain, near the Royal Botanic Garden and Woolloomooloo’s historic Finger Wharf.

For an enjoyable family outing The Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo focuses on historical, interactive and inventive displays, with 12 permanent exhibitions as well as dynamic temporary exhibitions.

Enjoy a fascinating adventure into the past, the Australian Museum has a wonderful collection of dinosaur skeletons and plenty of interactive displays for children. Nearby is the World Heritage-listed Hyde Park Barracks Museum and on the forecourt of the Museum of Sydney, near Circular Quay, is the evocative Edge of the Trees sculpture.

Biennale of Sydney

19th Biennale of Sydney

The Biennale of Sydney is the Asia-Pacific region’s largest contemporary visual arts event, which has featured thousands of artists from more than 100 countries every two years. In 2016, Biennale marks its 20th edition with an especially rich citywide showcase from 18 March to 5 June at interesting venues including Cockatoo Island and the heritage Mortuary Station, alongside the city’s major art galleries.

The Art Gallery of NSW has been a focus for Biennale exhibits for 40 years. While you’re admiring the line-up of 14 international artists, be sure to visit the astonishing archaeological treasures from China’s Golden Age in the Tang exhibition.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s nine Biennale exhibitors include genre-crossing talents Nina Beier, Helen Marten and Daniel Boyd, while Carriageworks features 24 artists exploring themes of absence and memory. Highlights include Charles Lim’s ocean-inspired works and Jamie North’s spellbinding sculptures combining industrial waste products with native flora.

  • Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House. Image credit: Peter Garrett

    Theatre and shows

    Sydney is home to some of Australia’s top stages, with the performances to match. Theatre, shows, musicals and dance performances are all of a high calibre. The Sydney Opera House hosts some of Australia’s most well-regarded performers, with The Australian Ballet, Sydney Dane Company, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Bell Shakespeare and Opera Australia making frequent appearances. Backstage tours are also available.

  • Archibald Prize

    Exhibitions

    There’s always something to see in the harbour city, from cutting edge contemporary exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), to the much anticipated awarding of the annual Archibald Prize for portraiture. Visit the groundbreaking, yet accessible pieces at the White Rabbit Gallery, to the thought-provoking works you’ll find in the independent galleries on the city’s fringe.

  • Aida, Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour

    Plays

    Sydney boasts a buzzing theatre scene, with small independent productions, iconic local companies, and internationally-renowned productions running side by side at the city’s many and varied performance spaces. Check out the Sydney Theatre Company, the iconic Sydney Opera House, the palatial State Theatre or the local favourite Belvoir St Theatre for a great night out at the theatre.