Skip to Content

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
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 Tiger in 2022, I hear on the grapevine they also plan to paint the city with light from the 29th January – 13 February.  The icons including the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the city hall and the Circular Quay station will be bathed in coloured 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

[columns_row width=”half”]
[column]Sydney city lanterns for Chinese New Year[/column]
[column]Sydney city lanterns for Chinese New Year[/column]

 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 made the rounds of the business establishments and the sounds and smell of firecrackers 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 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
Darling Harbour lanterns for Chinese New Year in Sydney

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 summer’s day.  

The tea pavilion overlooking a peaceful pond is the perfect place to sit for a while, and 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 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 the Darling Quarter and Darling Harbour at the top end of town.  On this trip we chose to stay at Meriton Kent Street, we got a good price for the week and it’s less than a 5-minute 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 to walk down Kent or George Street.  Of course, you might prefer the scenic walk through the botanic gardens which are a bit further.

Chinese New Year 2022

The celebrations in 2022 will run from New Year’s Eve on January 31st through until February 20th.  We’ll be saying farewell to the Year of the Ox and welcoming the Year of the Tiger.

The Tiger years are 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 20010 and now 2022.  People born in the year of the Tiger are typically brave, competitive, unpredictable and confident.

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 Tiger in 2022?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Karla | Karlaroundtheworld

Friday 20th of January 2017

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.

2 Aussie Travellers

Friday 20th of January 2017

Oh I would love to experience the celebrations in the Philippines too - Happy New Year!

Megan Jerrard

Wednesday 18th of January 2017

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! :D


Wednesday 18th of January 2017

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.


Monday 16th of January 2017

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!


Monday 16th of January 2017

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!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.