I love the Chinese New Year celebrations and wherever we are I try to get along to some of the festivities. A few years back we celebrated in Kobe, Japan. Last year we decided to spend Chinese New Year in Sydney, Australia so I thought I’d share what you need to know to get the most out of your CNY celebrations in Australia’s biggest city.
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Chinese New Year in Sydney
We really enjoyed how the whole city got into the celebrations. The organizing committee must work all year to bring it together. There are giant lanterns, night food markets, dragon boat races, lion dances, special evening light ups and over 1000 performers in dozens of cultural events around the city.
The huge lanterns were placed all across the city which was great for making sure everyone had a chance to see them and encourage residents and visitors to explore all corners of the city. You absolutely must wear comfortable walking shoes, this is not an event for those cute new strappy heels. Walk the trail and search them out from the Sydney Opera House at Circular Quay around the waterfront to Dawes Point.
For the year of the Rooster in 2017 I hear on the grapevine they also plan to paint the city red from the 27-29 January. The icons including Sydney Opera house, the Harbour bridge, city hall and the Circular Quay station will be bathed in red light. See what other landmarks you can find lit up around town and let us know in the comments section below. Red of course is a very auspicious colour symbolising good fortune and joy so it’s fitting we should see it featuring heavily during the Lunar New Year .
Over in Pyrmont Park there’s a huge pop up night food market. Featuring food and flavours from all across the Asian continent there is something here to suit all tastes. Our favourites are the soft pillowy bao, dumplings of all shapes and sizes, the Japanese grilled okonomiyaki (yes a little pork belly now and then is good for you) and those little balls of octopus joy, takoyaki. What are you looking forward to most?
For the foodies of course many of the restaurants have special menus running and in Martin Place you just need to look for the 50 meter chain of red lanterns strung overhead to find the food, drink and entertainment.
We especially enjoy spending time in Chinatown during the New Year celebrations. The lucky red envelopes hung above the doors of restaurants and shops, the lion dancers and drummers making the rounds of the business establishments and the sounds and smell of fire crackers permanently in the air.
In Australia the lunar new year falls in the summer so frequent stops for icy bubble tea are essential and dumplings are good in any season.
Darling Quarter & Darling Harbour
The Darling Harbour precinct had a range of events for the Chinese New Year. These photos are from the year of the monkey in 2016 (my zodiac sign) hence the monkey gates at the entrance to Darling Quarter. There were more lanterns around the park here making it a great place to wander around after dinner at the excellent local restaurants. Darling Harbour is also the location for the dragon boat races that are a big part of the city’s celebrations. These races have been part of the Chinese culture for over 2000 years. Follow the rhythm of the beating drums to see these 12 metre long boats face off to see whose dragon head will cross the finish line first, there’s a lot of pride at stake so expect so strong competitive spirit and a great spectator sport.
Chinese Friendship Gardens
While you can enjoy this destination all year round the Chinese Friendship gardens are the perfect respite from the bustle and babble of the city taking place not far away. Tucked in behind Chinatown within Darling Quarter it’s a peaceful walled garden featuring traditional Chinese garden design features including several ponds and water features making it feel a little cooler on a hot summers day. The tea pavilion overlooking a peaceful pond is the perfect place to sit for a while, enjoy a pot of Chinese tea from their selection of favourites or a coffee if that is more your thing.
Where to stay during Chinese New Year in Sydney
Sydney city embraces the Chinese New Year right around the city so you really can really stay anywhere in the central city and enjoy it. We prefer to be near the heart of Chinatown though where many of the community events and the bulk of the lion dances will take place. In Sydney Chinatown is adjacent to Darling Quarter and Darling Harbour at the top end of town. On this trip we chose to stay at the Meriton Kent Street, we got a good price for the week and it’s less than a 5 minutes walk to Chinatown and the Darling Harbour area with its fabulous variety of restaurants. If you’re looking for the subway it’s a reasonably close walking distance (5 minutes) to both the Town Hall station and Museum station. If you’re going to be in Sydney for a few days check our post on getting around on Sydney public transport. Getting to Circular Quay at the other end of town is just under 2 km it’ll take about half an hour at a relaxed pace along Kent or George Street. Of course you might prefer the scenic walk through the botanic gardens which is a bit further.
Chinese New Year 2017
The celebrations in 2017 will run from New Years Eve on January 27th through until February 12nd. We’ll be saying farewell to the Year of the Monkey and welcoming in the start of the Year of the Rooster.
The Rooster years are 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and now 2017. People born in the year of the Rooster are typically social, confident, honest and hard-working.
If you’re going to be in Sydney you can check out the official site for individual event details closer to the time and don’t forget to tag your photos in Instagram with #CNYSYD.
Have you spent Chinese New Year in Sydney? Where do you plan on celebrating the year of the Rooster in 2017?
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