For the next three weeks, Vivid Sydney will light up the city each night from 6pm to 11pm for a spectacle of colour across the city's most famous sites and familiar façades. The festival is one of Sydney's biggest - last year, it attracted around 1.7 million spectators. If you'd prefer to forgo the crowds, we suggest watching from a vantage point, with a well-made drink in hand. These are our picks of the bars with the best Vivid views.
The Deep Purple Pool Hall Pop-Up, Sydney Opera House
Tucked away at the back of the Sydney Opera House at the Northern Foyer - walk via the western harbour-side stairs - this dive-bar isn't exactly away from the crowds so much as in the thick of them. Yet, lit in an ambient haze of purple, it feels hidden away and pinched from another time. The pop-up from the team behind Tio's and The Cliff Dive returns for the second year, filled with billiard tables, bright cocktails, craft beers, '80s vibes and a backdrop of the chopping waves and flashing lights of Sydney Harbour.
Bar level, Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, (02) 9250 7111. Open Fri 27 May to Sun 5 June, 6pm until late.
Blu Bar on 36, Shangri-La Hotel
Winner of GT's 2014 Best Hotel Bar Award, Blu Bar offers inventive cocktails and bird's-eye views of the harbour from level 36 of the Shangri-La Hotel. Bar staff concoct Vivid-themed cocktails, such as the Sweet Enigma, a spiced rum with a raspberry liqueur and passionfruit purée, and the Bee-Inspired, a Johnnie Walker Black mix with honey and pear liqueur, throughout the festival, inspired by the glittering neon below.
Level 36, Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland St, The Rocks, (02) 9250 6000. Open 5pm-midnight Mon-Thu, 4pm-1am Fri-Sat, 3pm-11pm Sun.
The Glenmore Hotel
A few blocks away from the water, the 1921 pub's rooftop offers expansive views of the light shows and crowds below. The terrace was refurbished a few years back, adding a retractable roof and opening up the space with round tables and glass railings.
The Glenmore Hotel, 96 Cumberland St, The Rocks, (02) 9247 4794. Open 11am-midnight Mon-Thu, 11am-1am Fri-Sat, 11am-midnight Sun.
**[A guide to eating and drinking at Vivid Sydney.
The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf
After you've made the walk around Circular Quay to Walsh Bay, take it all in once more from a stool at The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf. Above the Sydney Theatre Company, the large open space matches a dramatic view with warm service and well-priced cocktails and apéritifs.
Pier 4 Hickson Rd, Dawes Pt, (02) 9250 1761. Open 9am-late Mon-Fri, 12pm-late Sat.
The MCA Sculpture Terrace
Make the most of the Museum of Contemporary Art's waterfront views as it opens up its exhibits and the Sculpture Terrace bar until 9pm Thursday to Sunday. Settle in across from the Sydney Opera House where Songlines, the first Indigenous artwork commissioned for the sails, will be projected throughout the night.
Level 4, 140 George St, The Rocks, (02) 9245 2400. Open 5pm-9pm Thu-Sun (on Fri 27 May and 3 June the Sculpture Terrace will close at 5pm).
Zeta Bar, Hilton Sydney
One of the city's few CBD rooftop bars, Zeta Bar is an excellent starting point before wandering through Martin Place and down to Darling Harbour or Circular Quay. Opposite the Queen Victoria Building, the Hilton Sydney has a killer view of the QVB's detailed neo-Romanesque columns, domes, and arches, all glowing under swirling lights.
Level 4, 488 George St, Sydney, (02) 9265 8374. Open 5pm-late Mon-Sat.
Vivid Sydney runs throughout the city from Friday 28 May to Saturday 18 June. For more information, see our guide of where to eat and drink at Vivid, or visit the festival's website: vividsydney.com.