Sydney, renowned for its sunshine-filled beaches and lively surf culture, isn’t generally the first city that comes to mind when you think of winter destinations. However, the city’s charm is not merely limited to the summer months.
For international students, the winter season is a great opportunity to explore a different side of Sydney, one that brims with festivals, cosy eateries, winter sports and cultural activities. Here are eight fun things you can do in Sydney during winter.
1. Winterlight Festival, Parramatta
Just a 25km trip west from Sydney’s bustling centre, Parramatta comes alive each winter with the stunning Winterlight Festival. This event transforms Alfred Square into an ice-covered wonderland featuring Sydney’s largest open-air ice-skating rink. There’s a dedicated rink for children, a towering illuminated Ferris wheel, and a thrilling ice slide. The event also boasts a plethora of live entertainment, from ice-skating shows and DJ sets to live music, as well as street performers like buskers, painters and dancers. With food stalls serving warm winter treats, there’s something for everyone. The festival is a joy to visit, offering ice-skating sessions, carnival rides and an enchanting winter atmosphere.
2. Bondi Festival
From 30 June to 16 July, Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach adopts a different charm in winter with the Bondi Festival. The annual event combines the beach’s typical summer vibrancy with winter festivity, introducing a seaside ice rink and a massive 22-meter Ferris wheel along with a number of performances from artists and comedians. The festival offers both locals and international students the chance to experience the unique phenomenon of winter by the beach, in true Australian style.
3. Explore the Blue Mountains
A visit to the Blue Mountains in winter is like stepping into a serene, frosty wonderland. Situated just two hours from Sydney, the Blue Mountains become even more beautiful in winter as iconic locations like the Three Sisters and Echo Point are covered in snow. Winter presents the perfect opportunity to explore frost-covered walking trails or enjoy a comforting hot beverage in a charming local café. The winter charm of these mountains provides a refreshing break from city life.
4. Bastille Festival
Bastille Festival is a 4-day celebration of French culture that lights up Circular Quay each winter. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, from 13 to 16 July, the free-entry festival offers a unique fusion of food, wine and art. The Parisian Foodie Village becomes a hotspot for traditional French delicacies, from raclette and crepes to saucisson, fresh baguettes and croque-monsieur. The Chef Village serves up specialty dishes from favourite local restaurants infused with a French twist, alongside the main entertainment stage. The Wine Passport activity guides you through a tour of France’s prominent wine regions, each stamp in your passport marking another region explored. Finally, settle into a deck chair at Le Mulled Wine Cinema, a delightful outdoor experience where you can enjoy a French film while sipping warm mulled wine.
5. Ski trip to Perisher
If you’re missing the traditional winter snow during your stay in Sydney, then a ski trip to Perisher might just be the solution. As Australia’s largest ski resort, Perisher provides a thrilling experience of winter sports in the snow-capped peaks of Kosciuszko National Park. About five hours drive from Sydney, the resort offers skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing, among other activities. Perisher also has numerous cosy lodges and restaurants, providing a perfect spot to enjoy hot cocoa after a day on the slopes. Even if you’re not into winter sports, the scenic beauty of the snow-dusted landscape is worth the journey.
6. Explore Carriageworks Farmers Market
Every Saturday, Carriageworks in Eveleigh hosts a bustling farmers market that becomes a cosy retreat during winter. You’ll find fewer crowds, making it a perfect time to explore the vast array of local produce, handmade cheeses and fresh baked goods. The market also offers an opportunity to engage with the local community and learn about the provenance of the food you buy, making it an enriching cultural experience for international students.
7. Discover Sydney’s hidden bars
When winter nights set in, it’s the perfect time to discover some of Sydney’s hidden bars. From The Baxter Inn, a speakeasy-style whisky bar nestled in the city centre’s basement, to the Shady Pines Saloon with its wild west theme in Darlinghurst, there’s a secret watering hole for every preference. Exploring these unique establishments is a fun way to experience the city’s eclectic nightlife.
8. Art appreciation at White Rabbit Gallery
Tucked away in Chippendale, the White Rabbit Gallery is a treasure trove of contemporary Chinese art. Spread across four floors, the gallery offers an engaging insight into China’s vibrant art scene. After soaking up the stunning exhibits, you can descend to the gallery’s teahouse, where you can enjoy a traditional tea ceremony or savour delectable dumplings, providing a holistic cultural experience.