The Best Festivals & Fairs in Sydney

by Paul Joseph  |  Published May 15, 2017

It’s no wonder that smart, slick Sydney remains such a popular place to put down roots. From its more obvious harbourside attractions, centred on the iconic fins of the opera house, to its laidback neighbourhoods, this is one city everyone should experience.

A night-time view of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge (Photo: Pascal Kerouche via Flickr)

There’s a broad architectural mix to discover, from the iron-grey towers of the CBD to the pretty Victorian terraces of the well-heeled suburbs. Then there’s the stunning, sun-baked coast, along with a top-notch foodie scene, from punchy street food to upscale dining rooms with beautiful views and menus to match.

Sydney has an unmistakable identity – and an itinerary of festivals and fairs throughout the year to match.. Here’s our list of the best taking place across the remainder of 2017.

May 2017

Pyrmont Festival

This is one of big gourmet events of the season – 15 glorious days of wine, food and art. The Pyrmont Festival marries the urban delights of Sydney’s Pyrmont district with the rural influences of the Mudgee Region. In particular, you can look forward to the fruits of the Mudgee Region’s famous wineries, located a few hours’ drive from the city. There will be wine and food tastings aplenty throughout the festival, representing both city and countryside. Professional and amateur artists will also submit canvasses to be considered for the Pyrmont Art Prize – you can purchase some of these creations to take home. And don’t miss the Pyrmont Beer Garden, where you’ll be able to sample craft beers from independent local breweries. WHERE Venues across Pyrmont WHEN 13 – 27 May

Pyrmont Festival

A bird’s-eye view of Pyrmont Festival (Photo: Pyrmont Festival)

Sutherland Shire Heritage Festival

Part of the Australian Heritage Festival , every year people hailing from Sydney’s Sutherland Shire region come together to celebrate their rich heritage, history and culture. Festival-goers are invited to step back in time and tour some of the region’s most cherished historic sites during the three-day event. Among the highlights of previous editions have been vintage bus rides, family history displays and an open day at Sutherland Shire Historical Museum. WHERE Corner Pitt Street and Rawson Avenue, Loftus WHEN 19 – 21 May

June 2017

Sydney Film Festival

The world’s best, most imaginative new films come to Sydney each year for a week-and-a-half of premieres, talks and parties. Taking place at venues across the city, including Sydney’s heritage-listed State Theatre, over 50 countries are typically represented at the festival through full-length feature films, documentaries, short films and retrospectives. There are also several awards presented during the event including one celebrating “courageous, audacious and cutting-edge” cinema which comes with a tantalising $60,000 cash prize. WHERE Venues across Sydney WHEN 7 – 18 June

Sydney Film Festival

An audience waits for a screening at Sydney Film Festival (Photo: Imperial College London)

July 2017

Sydney Crystal Show

The biggest hitters from the rarefied world of crystals descend on Sydney for this premier event, held near the city centre and now into its third year. For two full days, the Paddington RSL Club dining and entertainment venue is transformed into a veritable gold-mine of incredible natural wonders, unique gifts and treasures. Minerals, crystals, fossils, gemstones and jewellery are available to peruse – or purchase – from a wide assortment of reputable stone dealers and traders from around Australia. A second Sydney Crystal Show will take place in early December. WHERE Paddington RSL CLub WHEN 8 – 9 July

Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair

The largest and longest running event of its kind in the country, this hugely popular festival celebrates Australian multiculturalism in all its shapes and forms. Held for over three decades, it welcomes tens of thousands of people to enjoy over 150 stalls, cultural performances and entertainment, thrilling rides, and plenty more besides. A major highlight of the festival is an animatronic life-size Baby T-Rex Dinosaur that never fails to captivate kids and adults alike. There’s also plenty of shopping and eating opportunities to keep you well satiated. WHERE Fairfield Showground WHEN 9 July

Australian International Music Festival

Now approaching its 20th year, this hugely popular music extravaganza attracts a global cast of groups and performers, with over 1,000 participants appearing each year at such distinguished venues as the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House, Sydney Recital Hall, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney Town Hall and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. At recent editions, acts have hailed from such diverse locations as China, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and the USA, while a healthy dose of home grown talent is invariably on display too. There are no restrictions on the type of music that can be performed at the festival, although Wind Bands, Orchestra, Choirs and Jazz Bands tend to make up the majority of acts. As well as live music, the cosmopolitan nature of the event is also harnessed through a programme of talks, workshops and cultural exchanges. WHERE Sydney Opera House WHEN 9 – 16 July

Australian International Music Festival

Revelers wave their arms in the air at the Australian International Music Festival (Photo: Eva Rinaldi via Flickr)

Bankstown Bites Food Festival

Bankstown Bites stands out from the competition because of its excellent guided food tours around the Bankstown CBD, also known as Little Saigon. Join one and head out on food safari to discover the many different international flavours the area has to offer. The tours follow an aromatic trail of groceries, bakeries, cafés and restaurants you may never have noticed before, and you’ll be able to stop and buy everything from Vietnamese snacks to Lebanese sweets as you go. You’re invited to donate a very reasonable $5 for the experience – tours are in demand, so book your spot in advance. Back at the Bankstown Arts Centre, you’ll find entertainment, cooking demos and stalls selling food and crafts. WHERE Bankstown Arts Centre WHEN 29 July

Bankstown Bites Food Festival

Traditionally-dressed women among crowds at Bankstown Bites Food Festival (Photo: May Robertson via Flickr)

August 2017

Sydney Jewish Writers Festival

The rich diversity of contemporary Jewish writing from around the globe is celebrated at this annual festival. Founded in 2006, it has grown into a significant event on Sydney’s cultural calendar, attracting a wide number of Australian and international authors, novelists, journalists, screenwriters and performers whose work has explored subjects and themes relevant to Judaism and Jewish culture. Important issues to have been explored at previous editions of the festival include refugees, crime, and both fictional and real-life stories of Holocaust survival. WHERE Waverley Library, Bondi Junction WHEN 26 – 27 August

Italian Wine and Food Festival

The Italian Wine and Food Festival’s mission is to assemble the most authentic regional Italian produce for Sydneysiders to enjoy. The focus is on the quality of the ingredients, from the olive oil upwards. You can pick up some cooking tips at a live demonstration – witness a proper Italian pizza taking shape or a special sauce to accompany handmade pasta. Shop the food market for breads, cured meats, oils and vinegars, then stop for creamy gelato. Then you might as well do some wine-tasting by region, followed by a strong Italian espresso or three. The festival runs from 11am to 9pm and you can buy tickets for timed sessions, starting from $45. Or why not pay $90 and stay all day? WHERE The Cutaway, Barangaroo Reserve WHEN 27 August

September 2017

Sydney Fringe Festival

If you find yourself in Sydney in September and your artistic tastes lean towards the alternative, then this annual festival in September is the place to be. The largest independent arts festival in New South Wales, the event presents over 300 theatre and comedy productions spread across five “cultural villages”, and with a strong focus on local artists and building Sydney’s independent arts sector. Adding to the esoteric atmosphere, the venues are often kept a secret until the last moment. As is custom at Fringe festivals across the world, the Sydney Fringe is open access, meaning that anyone who applies can put on a show – at their own cost. WHERE Venues across Sydney WHEN 1 – 30 September

Sydney Fringe Festival

A performer at the Sydney Fringe Festival (Photo: Sydney Fringe Festival)

Sydney Indie Film Festival

Here’s your chance to see some of the best recent independent films from around the globe. On the programme, you’ll find films that have already been recognised with awards, plus fresh cinema from emerging filmmakers about to make their mark on the industry. The festival honours all genres, including action, comedy, sci fi, family-friendly, animation and documentary. You can even participate in red carpet events and get your questions answered by the filmmakers themselves at Q&A sessions. Start choosing your showings now and buy your tickets online. WHERE Event Cinemas, George Street WHEN 18 – 28 September

October 2017

Kidtopia Festival

Created to close out the October school holidays, this fun-filled outdoors event 27km west of Sydney is packed full of live entertainment and a whole bunch of activities for kids and adults alike. Held over three days, there’s musical performances, animal enclosures, a petting zoo, a silent disco, face painting, cooking masterclasses, carnival rides, an open-air cinema, science shows and yoga classes, not to mention a mouth-watering selection of food and drink served up by local Sydney vendors. Entry to the event is free, but activities and refreshments come at a price. WHERE Cattle Paddocks, Parramatta Park WHEN 6 – 8 October

Warragamba DamFest

Held in the town of Warragamba, an hour’s drive west of Sydney, this event celebrates the very best in community values, bringing together local groups and organisations as a reminder of their importance in forging strong community networks. Rescue services, sports team and local retailers are just some of the participants at this not-for-profit annual event, which is now into its 11th year. Also featuring are market stalls, live music, a car and bike show, helicopter rides, and a display by the emergency services. WHERE Warragamba Recreation Reserve WHEN 15 October

Sculpture by the Sea

It’s not as if the iconic Bondi Beach needs any embellishment, but some years ago the idea was pitched to use the popular coastal walk between Bondi and to Tamarama Beach for an intriguing arts project. The result is Sculpture by the Sea, which once a year sees the two-kilometre walking trail transformed into a temporary sculpture park. Featuring over 100 sculptures by local, national and international artists, the park has grown to become one of Sydney’s most cherished events, proving as well that artwork can be enjoyed outside the confines of a stuffy museum. WHERE Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach WHEN 19 October – 5 November

Sculpture by the Sea

The chiseled form of crawling babies at Sculpture by the Sea (Photo: Ian Sanderson via Flickr)

Sydney Beer Week

Sydney Beer Week was once merely Sydney Beer Day (albeit not its official name), but after debuting in 2009 the festival sky-rocketed and within a couple of years had been extended across a full seven days. Today it has grown to include around 120 events across 70 Sydney venues and is, by some distance, the city’s largest celebration of all things amber nectar. Beer-curious consumers will love the gigantic selection of producers in attendance, each putting their mouth-watering wares to the test by inviting visitors to enjoy samples and offer their feedback. Whether it’s a watermelon sour or a traditional pale lager, you’ll find it here. WHERE Venues across Sydney WHEN 20 – 29 October

Sydney Blues and Roots Festival

Held on the banks of the scenic Hawkesbury River in the historic town of Windsor, a little less than an hour’s drive north of Sydney, this has become one of the region’s premier events on the music calendar. Both established and emerging Blues and Roots performers from across Australia and beyond perform at the event, which is now in its 9th year and continues to grow in both size and popularity. Overnight festival-goers can either camp out on-site or stay at a choice of local hotels. Entry to the festival is free. WHERE Windsor WHEN 27 – 29 October

Sydney Blues and Roots Festival

A stage performance at the Sydney Blues and Roots Festival (Photo: Sydney Blues and Roots Festival)

Norton Street Festa

One of Australia’s largest – if not the largest – street festival, Norton Street Festa takes place in the heart of Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’ district and is packed full of entertainment, all imbued with a distinctly Italian flavour. There’s carnival rides, jumping castles, animal farms, face painting and puppet shows for the kids, along with concerts, dancing and cooking demonstrations by renowned local Italian chefs. All of this is augmented by stall holders showcasing a huge range of authentic Italian products, including food, coffee and gelato. Entry to the Festa is free for all-comers. WHERE Norton Street, Leichhardt WHEN 29 October

Gymea Village Fair

The Gymea Village Fair returns for its annual community celebration. Take a stroll along Gymea Bay Road from The Kingsway to President Avenue to browse around 200 stalls, selling everything from food to fashion to flowers. Stock up on cakes and preserves, handmade bags and crafty items to brighten up your home, then head to the stage for live music, dancing and a fashion show. The cuisine will be a truly international affair, offering a taste of Oz, Turkey, Mexico and much more. The kids are sure to be happy too, with child-friendly performances, face painting, rides and those all-important snow cones. WHERE Gymea Bay Road WHEN 29 October

Gymea Village Fair

Visitors walk between stalls at Gymea Village Fair (Photo: Gymea Village Fair)

Rose Bay Street Fair

This much-cherished fair encapsulates a true village atmosphere at its finest. Each year visitors descend on the harbourside Sydney suburb of Rose Bay for a fun-filled day out which includes a huge variety of craft and food stalls, live entertainers, a Rotary raffle wheel, rides, animal farm, jumping castle, face painting and much more. With all events and activities held along a single road that is pedestrianised for the occasion, adults can let their kids roam free while they enjoy a relaxing drink. The fair also has a significant altruistic focus, with proceeds from all stall registrations going to the Sydney Children’s Hospital. WHERE Newcastle Street Panerong Reserve, Rose Bay WHEN 15 October