Time Out Sydney

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Sydney's biggest summer festival celebrates its 40th year with an epic line-up of events – check out our highlights from this year's program

In Sydney we follow-up our major New Year's celebrations by launching a massive festival. The hot days and balmy nights are filled with opportunities to experience the delightful, confronting or mind-blowing events the festival has to offer. With events spread from the Opera House all the way out to Parramatta, you really can't take a wrong turn.

Hyde Park in the CBD is festival HQ, hosting the Meriton Festival Village with performances, pop-up bars, eateries and two Spiegeltents – the Famous Spiegeltent and the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. It's a great space to relax between events, soak up the festival vibe and plan what to do next. Studying the program is advised – there's a crazy amount going on around town from free open-air concerts in the Domain to smaller events hidden in the nooks and crannies of the city. Find ten free things to do at Sydney Festival.

Time Out's music highlights

FBi SMAC Awards

Sydney's much loved indie radio station FBi will be bolstering the 2016 SMAC Awards ceremony with a big ol' party, which will showcase nominees from previous years and of course those in the running for 2016 gongs. Think live music, DJ sets, food trucks and visual art installations all throughout the beautiful Carriageworks precinct. Eveleigh.

Joanna Newsom

The angelic voice of popular music's most winsome harp-rocker comes to the Opera House for Syd Fest. Our friends over at Time Out New York put it best: 'Rejoice, lovers of imaginative, beautiful strange music'. If that's you, get in quick! Sydney.


Fun fact: Morrissey has a passionate Mexican fan base. In fact, so much so that it's produced Mexrrissey, a seven-piece band made up of some of Mexico's best musos. Newtown.

The Flaming Lips

Psychedelic maestros the Flaming Lips hit the Domain for super-duper special free concert. Wayne Coyne and friends will bring a whirlwind of balloons, gigantic inflatable human hamster balls and loads of confetti to match their back catalogue of kooky, feel good hits. Sydney.

Theatre highlights

All the Sex I've Ever Had

Think young people do sex better? Think again, in this live storytelling show locals over 65 share true stories from their sex lives. Sydney.

The Events

David Greig's Edinburgh Festival hit fuses theatre and a live choir to tell a ripped-from-the-headlines story of how a lesbian priest and the community she works in come together to heal the wound left by a horrific act of violence. Granville.

The Object Lesson

American performer Geoff Sobelle takes over Sydney Town Hall with a meditation on "the stuff we cling to and the crap we leave behind". Sydney.


Thalia Theater Hamburg make their Australian debut with this production of Tom Waits' musical. Eveleigh.

Family shows 

La Verita

Sydney Festival's family-friendly alt-circus centrepiece is a surreal tribute to Salvador Dali. Parramatta.

The Rabbits

Kate Miller-Heidke and Lally Katz team up with Opera Australia to adapt a tale of colonisation, displacement and clashing cultures. Walsh Bay.

Top cabaret picks 

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs!

The Tony Award-winning stage-and-screen actor plays fast and louche with the cabaret format in the Spiegeltent. Sydney.

Meow Meow's Little Mermaid

Melbourne's queen of late-night cabaret reinvents a fairy-tale in her inimitable – and distinctly un-Disney – style. Sydney.

One for the cinephiles

Birdman Screening and Live Film Score

With the drums improvised live, it may just be the ultimate way to experience a movie that plays fast and loose with the lines between on-screen fantasy and showbiz reality. Sydney.

Free inner-city art

40 Portraits

Sydney Festival's behind-the-scenes staff, volunteers and audience members get the celebrity treatment. Sydney.

Architectura de Feria

Imagine this: kids giggling as they sit on recycled toilet seats and their parents pump the pedals to operate a whimsical Ferris wheel. It sounds silly. It sounds like fun. Parramatta.

The Ephemeral City

Help create – or destroy – one of the largest community participation pieces in Sydney Festival’s 40-year history. Use boxes and tape to construct a temporary city at Barangaroo Reserve’s the Cutaway – then take immense satisfaction pulling it all down again. Sydney.

Want more things to do? Sign up to our Weekend Planner.

By Emma Dallas, Emma Joyce, Jordan Kretchmer & Dee Jefferson   |   Photos by Todd Spoth

Sydney Festival 2016 details

Sydney, Sydney 2000

Date 07-26 Jan

Open Various times and prices

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