Bigger and better than ever is the notion behind this year’s Sydney Chinese New Year Festival on in Sydney from the 6th February till the 21st. Sydney will be celebrating its 20th anniversary of the festival. What started as a small community festival has grown in size and frivolity and is now the largest celebration outside of China.

With a nod to the light rail construction which is slowly connecting throughout our CBD, and the curious and inventive Monkey, a new proposal was designed for this year’s festivities. A trail of Lunar Lanterns for the 12 zodiac animals will be marked across the Harbour, CBD and Chinatown. The lanterns are designed by 12 contemporary artists and will feature activities and performances at each installation. Start at the Opera House for the Year of the Monkey where you can print your own 3D monkey or view Monkey Business exhibition of Australian handcrafts. Dawes Point has artist Fan Dongwang’s Dragon which represents China’s emerging cultural identity. Bounce along to Customs House Square for the friendly Rabbits, 22 of which will be sporting silk waistcoats and practicing Tai Chi – as you do.

City of Sydney - Rabbit Lunar Lantern

City of Sydney – Rabbit Lunar Lantern

In the CBD the Ox is strutting its stuff in Martin Place – its stuff being a body of hundreds of illuminated Mahjong tiles. Gallop further up Martin Place to the animated Horse lantern. Prowl around to the QVB Forecourt for the brave and unpredictable Tiger lantern. Pitt Street Mall is housing the vibrant Rooster, the resourceful Rat and the generous Pig. Whilst you’re there check out the Chinese New Year fashion collection On Seven at David Jones for some of China’s most contemporary and influential designers.

If all that walking has left you hungry, bring out your best monkey grin as some of Sydney’s top restaurants are offering tantalising set price menus for the Lunar Feasts. Venues around Sydney’s CBD, Chinatown, Circular Quay, Darlinghurst, Potts Point, Surry Hills and Chippendale/Ultimo and Pyrmont have signed up. There’s everything from a quick snack to five star dining so make sure you try a dish or three. Check out Burger Project’s Crumbed Pork Burger $12.50, Lotus – the Galleries has a set menu for 2 or more at $30 each including a crispy skin chicken with spiced soy sauce. Japanese small bar and general yum-yum spot, Tokyo Bird have upped the ante with a delicious osechi set meal including a Tokyo Bird o-toso (spiced sake) and desert for $30 per person. Delima Restaurant has a selection of banquets with at least seven varieties of Indonesian delicacies at $30 per person. Pick up a complimentary cocktail at Old Town Hong Kong with it’s $38.80 set menu. And you can’t go past Bennelong’s Cured and & Cultured fest $50 per person for their Seafood Bun and Monkey See Monkey Do cocktail. Darlinghurst’s Fu Manchu is serving up a pan Asian banquet and chrysanthemum flower tea for $50 per person. At Mama’s Buoi $35 will get you a special Lunar Feast cocktail, entrée and main. And Spice Alley is doing a Lunar feast that will include celebrated dishes for longevity, prosperity and union, complimentary flute of champagne… to name just a few of the delectable offerings.

Desert Degustation at the Galeries

Desert Degustation at the Galeries

Now after all that food you’re probably saved a tiny spot in your belly for deserts and are wondering what to do? Fear not, the Galeries have you covered with Lotus Restaurant’s interactive desert degustation experience on the evenings of 10-14 February. Yes, you heard right, interactive desert degustation experience. The talented executive chef Sam Yeo from Black Star Pastry has teamed up with Lotus Head Pastry Chef Tiffany Jones for this multi-course multi-blessing deliciousness. The three courses include traditional ingredients like white fungus and herbs from Tiffany’s own garden. The dishes are inspired by the Chinese blessings of wealth, prosperity and longevity, perfect for your New Year festivities.

Whilst you’re at the Galeries, wonder through their art installation by paper engineer Paperform, it’s on 4-12 February with over 3000 paper pinwheels spinning in bright reds, bold blues, shimmering golds and metallic silvers suspended from the glass ceiling atrium. The colours symbolise love, peace and happiness and the transformation of obstacles into opportunity.

By now your feet are sore and your belly’s full and your looking around for what else you can see and do… Here’s a selection of the best options to hit all the highlights the monkey has on offer.

City of Sydney - Dragon Boat Racing

City of Sydney – Dragon Boat Racing

Dragon Boat Races – 20th and 21st February

If you’re going to celebrate the Chinese New Year you better see all the big events and 3000 paddlers competing in Australia’s largest dragon boat race has got to be on the list. Two days of racing will commemorate Qu Yuan the great warrior poet who drowned himself in a protest against political corruption, but now has also come to represent patriotism and group integrity. There’s also Taoist eye dotting ceremony and blessing the waters. Check out the Cure Brain Cancer celebrity dragon boat race on the 21st with some of Australia’s biggest personalities.

The Sydney Morning Herald Lunar Markets – 4th till 14th February

The Lunar Markets are on nightly at the Pyrmont Bay Park, Pyrmont. Check out our separate guide to them here.

Fish Markets and Lion Dancers – 8th February

Because sometimes the fish markets are not busy enough and let’s face it you can never have too much luck and prosperity. Monday 8th February head to the markets for some of Sydney’s best fresh seafood, fruit, and deli snacks and whilst you’re there watch the traditional lion dancers as they parade through bestowing luck and prosperity.

Cinema Alley @ Golden Age Cinema & Bar – 10th February

This heritage listed 1940s art deco cinema with a cocktail to get you happily imbibing is presenting two films curated by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Check out Emperor Visits Hell in its Australian Premier followed by Li Wen at East Lake, for its Sydney Premier.

Chinese New Year Gala Concert – 13th February

The Star is hosting a huge night of pop stars and dancers direct from China for this year’s Lunar New Year. There’ll be traditional folk arts as well as all the chart topping pop artists such as Guo Donglin, Lou Zhongxu and Jin Runji (who won the Voice of China Contest).

[ninja_form id=]Monkey Magic Tales – 13th February

You remember the television show and may have heard there was a book, this Lunar New Year you can learn about the real tale at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts presented by Daphne Lowe Kelley, Trystan Go and Derek Quan.

Chinese opera: Monkey King – 20th February

If you really want to head back to the days of Monkey, Pigsy, Tripitaka and Sandy, the Seymour Centre is the place to do it. See parts I and II or just party II.

Bridge Climb: Karaoke Style – 1st till 21st February

You’ve driven over it, caught the train across it, maybe had a picnic on it and possibly already climbed it, but, but you haven’t been on the bridge till you’ve climbed it singing Chinese karaoke and K-pop songs.


Don’t forget you can download a free Sydney Culture Walk app to stroll the 12 Lunar Lanterns or print a copy of the map.

WHEN: Thursday 4th February – Sunday 21st February

WHAT: Venues across Sydney

MORE INFO: click here

Join the conversation: #CNYSYD @cityofsydne

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