Sydney is one of Australia’s most vibrant cities, home to iconic architecture, world class restaurants and waterfront bars, and surrounded by stunning national parks. There’s no wonder it’s our nation’s most popular tourist destination, welcoming more than 32 million visitors each year. ­­­­There is so much to see and do in Sydney!

But dig a little deeper and you’ll soon find there’s much more to Sydney than what’s written on the pages of your travel guide. Sydneysiders love a good knees-up, and taking part in one of the city’s annual festivals is one of the best ways to experience everything that makes Sydney truly unique. The city’s annual festival line-up is vast, so we’ve picked out seven of our favourite events for you to enjoy in and around Sydney.

Sydney Film Festival | June

Sydney Film Festival is a major event in New South Wales’ cultural calendar. This 12-day festival, usually held in June each year, is one of the world’s longest-running festivals of its kind.

Not only will the festival keep you entertained with its range of feature films, documentaries, short films and animations from around the world, but it also gives you an opportunity to see the city in a new light. Head out to a screening at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, or head out for a night under the stars at the Skyline Drive-In Blacktown.

Related: Top Budget Family Holiday Ideas in Sydney

Mardi Gras | February – March

Sydney’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI) Mardi Gras is an iconic Australian event, and thousands of visitors flock to the city each year to join in the festivities.

The Mardi Gras celebrates the power and beauty of diversity, pride and self-expression through a range of events run from mid-February to early March each year. The festival culminates in a loud and colourful parade through the city’s main streets – expect music, dancing, costume, and a genuine party atmosphere!

Australian Open of Surfing | March

The Australian Open of Surfing is the ultimate Aussie annual sports festival, incorporating surf, skate and BMX competitions, as well as live music.

Held in March on the sands of Manly Beach, just a short ferry ride from Sydney Harbour, this festival is a must for anyone looking to get away from the city for a day and enjoy some of Australia’s best-loved sports. Sit back and enjoy the show while you catch a few rays and sip an ice cold beer. Ripper.

More: Things to do in Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Sydney Festival | January

The Sydney Festival is a yearly arts celebration for all of the family, with hundreds of performances and events covering music, theatre, dance, opera and visual arts.

Held in January, at the height of Sydney’s summer, the festival defines the city’s personality, bringing the best of arts, culture and entertainment to the forefront. For over three decades, the festival has brought international artists to Sydney shores, with previous line-ups including internationally renowned artists such as Björk, Elvis Costello, Cate Blanchett, Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ian McKellen and many more.

Related: Best Ways to Enjoy Spring Time in Sydney

Sydney Harbour Regatta | March

The Sydney Harbour Regatta is another of Sydney’s iconic annual events.

Held in March each year, more than 200 keelboats will take part in competitions in the beautiful waters of Sydney Harbour, as well as at a number of other locations along the Sydney coastline. It’s the most popular regatta event held in the harbour since the Sydney Olympics, and attracted thousands of visitors to the city each year. If you’d rather avoid the crowds, head to Mrs Macquaries Point for a great view of the competition!

Vivid Sydney | May – June

From late May to early June each year, Vivid Sydney brings the city to life in a celebration of the colour, light, music and ideas that make Sydney the creative hub of the Asia-Pacific region.

You’ll see Harbour City transform into an outdoor art gallery, using some of the city’s best-loved buildings as a creative canvas. Expect large scale light installations and projections, live music performance, as well as lively discussions and debates. All you need to bring is an open mind.

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Taste of Sydney

Home to an eclectic and internationally renowned dining scene, Sydney is a top destination for foodies the world over.

Whether you’re looking to try some of New South Wales’ best regional produce or indulge in delicious wines from the state’s vineyards, Taste of Sydney festival is a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to get a flavour of everything the city has to offer. With its four-day lineup, this festival has a bit of something for everyone. Think foodie talks, live demos and masterclasses, tasting dishes prepared by some of Sydney’s top chefs, and more than 100 artisan producers selling local produce for you to take home and enjoy. So, that’s the itinerary sorted! All that’s left is to book your central Sydney hotel.

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