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Celebrate an Amazing Chinese New Year in Sydney

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.

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.

Sydney Town Hall bathed in red light for Chinese New Year
Sydney Town Hall bathed in red light for Chinese New Year
QV buildings elaborate decorations for Chinese New Year in Sydney
The elaborate CNY decorations in the QV building in Sydney

Lunar Lanterns

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 .

Rabbit zodiac lanterns for Chinese New Year in Sydney

Sydney city lanterns for Chinese New Year
Sydney city lanterns for Chinese New Year

 Food market

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.

Lion Dance for Chinese New Year in Sydney
Lion dance for Chinese New Year in Sydney

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.

Darling Harbour Lanterns for Chinese New Year in Sydney

Darling Harbour gates for Chinese New Year in Sydney
The entrance gates to Darling Harbour during Chinese New Year
Darling Harbour lanterns for Chinese New Year in Sydney
Pandas gathered for the celebrations in Darling Quarter

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 2019

The celebrations in 2019 will run from New Years Eve on February 15th through until March 3rd.  We’ll be saying farewell to the Year of the Dog and welcoming in the start of the Year of the Pig.

The Pig years are 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and now 2019.  People born in the year of the Pig are typically energetic, enthusiastic, realistic and optimistic.

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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  • They also have big chinese new year celebrations here in the Philippines but I always wanted to try to celebrate either in Australia or in New York ( well for new year at least) . Australia isn’t that far, perhaps next year, I can plan for it.

  • I would love to travel to Sydney for the Chinese New Year celebrations … we’re leaving for an overseas trip on Jan 31st, so I may be able to sneak this in right at the start of the festivities on the 27th. Have never been before, but we’re only 3 hours away in Canberra so I don’t think there’s any excuse! 😀

  • Wow, it looks like Sydney goes all out for Chinese New Year! I’d definitely check out the pop-up food market. We won’t have anything nearly as elaborate here in Bordeaux where I live, but they’ve been hanging lanterns and decorating.

  • It’s great to see how other cultures (outside of China) celebrate Chinese New Year. It looks like Sydney does it right 🙂 Unfortunately, Sydney is not in the travel plans, though your article makes it really tempting!! Love your pictures!

  • Great info! I love soaking in the spirit of Chinese New Years, whether in Chinatown in NYC or London. Sydney seems to really get into it! What an event. Night markets, parades,light displays. It’s quite impressive. Yet another why I need to get down to Sydney as soon as possible!

  • I love those glowing rabbits! I am an Aussie, but have been in the UK the last 2 years. They don’t celebrate Chinese New Year the same way they do here. I hope they have lots of options like this in Melbourne this year.

  • This would be awesome to experience in Sydney. I used to live in Sydney, but I think that the celebrations have really grown bigger and more elaborate over the past decade. Great tips and excellent suggestions for where to go to see the best of the event, and your accommodation suggestions are spot on – within easy walking distance to Darling Harbour and China Town.

  • What a cool experience! I would never have thought you could celebrate Chinese New year in Sydney! It seems like lots of fun especially with the lanterns and the performers!

  • Wow! Didn’t know that the Chinese New Year was such a thing in Sydney. How cool is that! Would love that Lisbon, in Portugal (were I’m from), would celebrate with such decorations. They’re astonish! It’s certainly a different way of seeing the city, while engaging in another culture.

  • The Chinese New Year looks awesome in Sydney! The food market sounds especially amazing, it’s making me very hungry reading this.

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