A 3-day Christmas itinerary in Sydney
It really is the most wonderful time of the year. And there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Sydney.
For the whole month of December, Sydney is in Christmas mode; expect lights, trees, carols and gifts galore all across the city. Plan a visit to the Harbour City during the festive season to experience a magical Christmas under sunny skies. And if you can extend your stay, Sydney’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are famous around the world.
The largest Christmas tree in the state stands tall in Martin Place; standing more than 24m tall, it’s ringed with 110,000 LED lights, decorated with 330 specially created glossy baubles and topped with a 3.4m colour-changing star. The 800 branches hold 15,000 flowers, made up of nine different kinds of Australian natives – banksia, waratah, bottlebrush, wattle, eucalyptus gum flower, kangaroo paw, flannel flower, pink wax flower and white wax flower.
Check in to the hotel with the best view of the tree; The Fullerton Hotel Sydney. Occupying the historic former General Post Office Building, as well as a modern tower, it’s a stylish blend of history and luxury. Opt for one of the heritage rooms that overlook Martin Place – and the iconic tree.
The show begins at 7pm, with the tree erupting in a kaleidoscope of light and colour every 15 minutes. Once you’ve had your fill, wander up Martin Place to admire the more than 4,000 icicle lights that are strung above the walkway. Then turn into Pitt Street Mall, where the Canopy of Light awaits with another 85,000 LEDs strung between the buildings along with 10 stunning two-metre-high stars.
On your way back to the hotel, stop off at the pop-up Champagne bar in 25 Martin Place (open Thursday to Saturday). Set around an 11m tree adorned with gold and platinum decorations inspired by the iconic Harry Seidler building, it’s the city’s chicest Christmas spot.
Take things slowly with a leisurely breakfast at The Place, The Fullerton’s signature restaurant. By the time you’ve finished your pancakes or eggs, you can step straight out into the festive cheer of the Martin Place Christmas Market (every Thursday to Saturday from 11am). Browse 40 stalls featuring gifts, food and fresh produce, all with a backdrop of the grandest decorations.
If you need more Christmas gifts, head back to Pitt Street Mall, where you’ll a large selection of major retail chains. David Jones is, of course, a must stop to admire the Christmas window displays, an annual tradition that has been celebrated since 1838. Other festive activities at the department store include having breakfast with Santa, creating your own personalised gift wrap and joining a masterclass on how to design a stylish tablescape for Christmas.
Don’t miss the Strand Arcade, one of the city’s finest shopping arcades that dates back to 1881. It’s lined with local high-end designers and chic boutiques, and during the holiday season will be decked out with a spectacular display of Christmas decorations inspired by the Australian landscape.
Just a further 2min walk down the road, check out the Queen Victoria Building’s new Christmas tree. Inspired by Australia’s native Wollemi pine, the decorations – which include interactive art installations, such as a soundscape of the nation’s endangered birds – where designed in collaboration with First Nations artists from Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative. Guided tours from the top (Level 2) to the bottom (Ground Floor) of the tree are available. Afterwards, book into the High Tea with Santa experience, set under the glistening chandeliers of the Tea Room QVB, or indulge in a decadent cup of the TikTok-viral French hot chocolate at Manon Brasserie.
Wander over to Darling Harbour tonight for bright lights and plenty of family-friendly fun. You can’t miss the giant, 6m-tall illuminated Christmas bauble floating on the water; the perfect place to snap a selfie. You can also take one last ride on the famous Darling Harbour ferris wheel before it closes for good on 2 January. Then test your skills at the pop-up Pixar themed putt putt golf course.
On the two weekends before Christmas, Tumbalong Park comes alive with a colourful Christmas Festival featuring live music, food trucks and, of course, a visit from Santa. Fireworks will light up the sky on Friday and Saturday nights, starting from 9pm. And with more than 150 places to eat and drink, you can happily spend the whole night by the water bathed in the glow of Christmas lights.
For those looking for that perfect Instagram shot, stroll 15min up to the Barangaroo Precinct to get a pic on the Barangaroo Bells – three gigantic interactive Christmas bells with inbuilt swings that light up (and play music) every time you reach the top.
Take the short walk down to Sydney’s oldest neighbourhood today for Christmas Wonderlanes, an immersive installation that takes over The Rocks’ picturesque laneways. There’s a 7m-tall Christmas tree and a giant snowglobe in Playfair Street, a mini white and gold Christmas village in Wells Courtyard, and fairy lights strung through the tiny Nurses Walk. From Friday to Sunday a special Christmas edition of The Rocks Market will feature up to 60 stalls selling handmade clothing and jewellery, local artwork, organic skincare and quirky gifts.
The new Noël Sydney festival is lighting up the streets and skies around Macquarie Street and the Royal Botanic Garden. It kicks off from 6pm every night from 9-24 December and you can follow the light trail along Macquarie Street, walk through the illuminated digital Christmas forest, grab some last minute gifts at the Noël Christmas Market and watch the incredible drone show light up the sky. There are also lots of food trucks, festive-themed cocktails and live entertainment.
Hot tip: Download the Sydney Culture Walks app to for a guide to the city’s must-see Christmas lights and events on your mobile.
Spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney?
Spending New Year’s Eve in Sydney?
With its world-famous fireworks, exclusive island parties, harbour cruises and rooftop bars with spectacular views, Sydney is the best place in the world to ring in the new year. Discover the best places to watch the fireworks, exclusive events and more.