Outdoor Pergola Lighting Ideas: 15 Best Ways to Light It Up

May 2, 2023

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Lighting is everything! Whether it’s inside or outside, lighting can set the stage for the atmosphere and style of your home. If I had my way I would light up the entire exterior of my home. It just makes such a difference. But when it comes to your pergola structure, there are so many outdoor pergola lighting ideas to choose from. Whether you’re hosting a late night dinner, gathering with friends or simply wanting to unwind, the right lighting can set the mood for the occasion.

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With all of the lighting options to choose from, extending the functionality and enhancing the beauty of your outdoor space has never been easier. From charming string lights to sophisticated smart lighting systems, in this post I’ll cover the myriad of all the choices available.

Along with what works best with your style. And of course, as I do with all of my posts, we’ll go over some tips and tricks of the trade. So let’s dive in to 15 of the best outdoor lighting ideas.

15 Outdoor Pergola Lighting Ideas:

Thoughtfully chosen and well-placed lighting not only elevates the ambiance of your pergola but also enhances its visibility, and functionality.  It allows you to maximize the use of your outdoor sanctuary long after the sun has gone down.

On top of that, it serves to accentuate the architectural features of your pergola. Adding depth, character, and a touch of enchantment to your garden or patio. In essence, investing in outdoor pergola lights allows you to create an extension of your home. Your time outdoors doesn’t have to end when the sun sets.

Here they are, the 15 best outdoor pergola lighting ideas….

Types of Pergola Lighting

1. Festoon Lighting (a.k.a: String Lights)

Who knew there was such a variety of styles when it comes to outdoor string lights:

  • Enchanting globe lights
  • Nostalgic Edison-style bulbs
  • Ethereal fairy lights

With a string light option to suit every fancy, installing your lights may just be easier than narrowing your options down to one choice.

Strings lights are not only easy to install, but they can also be installed using a variety of configurations. Strands of simple string lights can be draped, wrapped, or strung from your pergola’s beams and posts to create a canopy of illumination. Truly, the best way to cast an inviting, warm glow over your outdoor haven.

Outdoor pergola lighting ideas: pergola with white curtains and stringed lights

Let’s take a look at a few of the options available when considering patio string lights for your outdoor pergola. For a more modern look consider:

Globe Lights:

Stringed lights

Edison Style Lights: 

Edison style bulb

​If you’re looking for a more delicate and twinkling lighting consider:

Fairy Lights:

Fairy lights for outdoor pergola lighting ideas

2. LED Strip Lights for Outdoor Pergola Lighting Ideas

The modern and sleek LED strip lights offer a wealth of customization options. These options enable you to tailor the mood and atmosphere of your pergola with just a few simple adjustments.

If you have teens, you know all about RGB strips (known in the teen world as TikTok lights). These strands of string lights come in a variety of different colors.

I have to admit, these wouldn’t necessarily be my choice for LED strip lights, in my outdoor pergola space. But I do see how they could serve a purpose at times. I could see them used for a get together with friends or maybe even a child’s birthday party.

Outdoor fireplace on a deck with table in backdrop

If I were choosing LED strips for my outdoor pergola lighting, I would stick to the elegance of single color LEDs. I would lean towards utilizing them only to accentuate a part of the space I might want to highlight. Or another great use for them would be to light up a stairway or pathway…

Of course, one of the great benefits of LEDs is their smart function. This operation empowers you to take control of your outdoor space, It effortlessly allows you to transition from subtle, ambient lighting for a cozy evening to a bold, radiant display for a lively gathering.

3. Illuminating Your Pergola With Pendant Lights

Of the 15, outdoor pergola lighting ideas, this one has to be my favorite! Wow! Pure Salt Interiors knows how to make an outdoor space feel like an extension of the home. From the warm, inviting, soft glow of lanterns….

Outdoor pergola lighting ideas: large lanterns hanging over a long dining table outside


to the eye-catching, suspending light fixtures…pendant lights…

Black pergola with lots of outdoor plants hanging

SOURCE: @ateliergarden_

Exterior pendant light fixtures come in a wide array of designs to complement any aesthetic. These eye-catching lighting fixtures, suspend gracefully from the pergola’s structure. Serving as both a source of illumination and a stunning focal point, they’re a great way to elevate the style and sophistication of your outdoor space.


4. Subtle Brilliance in Recessed Lighting

Venturing deeper into our exploration of outdoor pergola lighting ideas, let’s look at the sleek and unobtrusive option of recessed lighting. Think minimalist, clean aesthetic and low-profile.

Not wanting to detract from the architectural beauty of your pergola? Recessed lighting is a great choice. Discreetly installed within the pergola’s structure, recessed lighting casts a gentle, even glow across your outdoor space. It offers an ample illumination without overpowering the senses.

Outdoor pergola lighting ideas: recessed lighting on a large pergola


5. Boho Solar Lanterns

Although these could also be placed under the “Pendant Lights” category, I felt they deserved their own space. Plus they’re one of my favorite. So there’s also that. Haha!

Outdoor movie on a deck with lots of pillows and boho lanterns

SOURCE: @ateliergarden_ 

Combining bohemian style with solar-powered technology, Boho solar lanterns are a popular decorative lighting option. These lanterns typically feature colorful patterns and are designed to be hung outside to add a touch of boho chic to an outdoor space. Since they’re powered by solar panels that collect energy from the sun during the day and use it to light up the lanterns at night, no electricity is needed.

Boho solar lanterns make such a fun and stylish addition to any outdoor space.

6. Accentuate Your Pergola With Downlighting

Are you looking for a way to enhance your outdoor pergola space? Downlighting is an excellent option to consider. Perfect for relaxing or entertaining guests, downlighting will create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Here are some things to keep in mind when installing your downlighting:

  • Ensure that the lighting is evenly distributed throughout the space
  • Use downlights to highlight specific areas. Such as a seating area or outdoor kitchen
  • Install dimmer switches. This will allow you to adjust the lighting levels according to your needs.

Uplighting on a pergola with a hanging bed swing


7. Add a Cozy Fireplace

Is there anything more cozy than an outdoor fireplace? Ok, maybe an outdoor fireplace with wall sconces. Haha!

My brother and his wife live two doors down from us and they just put in an outdoor custom fireplace. It’s gorgeous! I’m so excited to hang out by it in the upcoming late summer nights.

Adding a fireplace to your outdoor pergola area really does take your backyard to the next level. Of course the warmth and coziness it brings is goals in and of itself. But the stunning focal point it provides is truly unmatched.

If a fireplace isn’t in the budget, no need to completely scrap the idea. A fire pit can add that ambient glow and warmth you’re looking for.

Outdoor sitting space with a large stone fireplace


8. Create Ambiance With LED Candles

Do you love to burn candles? If so, are you more of an “only in the winter” candle burner? Or an “all year round” candle connoisseur? Me? I go in spurts. Sometimes I’ll burn a candle every day for a stint. And then all the sudden one day I forget and I don’t burn it again for several months. But all that to say, I do love the warm, inviting ambiance a candle exudes.

Placing LED candles in your pergola space can give that same cozy effect outdoors too.

Consider clustering them in groups for a dramatic effect, or placing them strategically around your pergola for a subtle glow.

Large outdoor dining set under a pergola


Functionality and Convenience

When considering outdoor pergola lighting choices, functionality and convenience should be top priority. Here are 3 options that cover these bases and are both practical and visually appealing.

9. Innovate with Smart Lighting Systems

A cutting-edge smart lighting system provides unparalleled control and customization for your pergola. With options such as voice control and app integration, you can easily adjust brightness, color, and even create pre-set lighting scenes to match your mood or the occasion.

Smart lighting systems also offer energy-saving features, allowing you to minimize electricity consumption while still enjoying a beautifully illuminated pergola.

Many options are operated with the convenience of a remote control. Which is always a great feature.

Black outdoor pergola with string lighting, patio furniture and a black and white striped rug


10. Solar-Powered Lights-A Budget-Friendly Option

Want an easy and more cost effective lighting source? Solar powered lighting is the way to go. Solar lights convert sunlight into electricity. This, in turn, eliminates the need for additional wiring or power sources. Which of course, makes installation super easy.

Pergola with 3 lanterns hanging and a dining set underneath


11. Add a Touch of Magic with Motion Sensors

Incorporating motion sensors into your pergola lighting design not only enhances safety and security but also promotes energy efficiency.

By activating lights only when movement is detected, motion sensors reduce energy consumption and ensure that your outdoor space is adequately illuminated when needed.

This can be especially useful for illuminating pathways and steps leading to your pergola, as well as deterring potential intruders. With motion sensors in place, you can enjoy peace of mind and a well-lit pergola that caters to your every move.

12. Add Dimension with Layered Lighting

You’ve probably heard of layering textures and even color hues when decorating. But did you know, you can layer your lighting too? As you design the perfect lighting scheme for your outdoor area, consider the powerful impact of layered lighting. This approach combines ambient, task, and accent lighting to create a balanced, visually appealing space that caters to a variety of purposes and moods.

Ambient lighting sets the overall tone of your pergola, providing a gentle, diffused glow that welcomes you and your guests.

Task lighting, on the other hand, focuses on specific areas, such as a dining table or outdoor kitchen, to facilitate activities like cooking or reading.

Finally, accent lighting highlights architectural features, artwork, or plants, adding depth and dimension to your outdoor space.

By skillfully blending these three types of lighting, you can create a dynamic, inviting pergola that seamlessly transitions from a tranquil sanctuary for relaxation to a vibrant, engaging environment for socializing and entertaining.

You can easily create an inviting pergola with these three types of lighting. If done well, you’ll have a seamless transition from relaxation to entertaining.

Outdoor pergola lighting ideas: layered lighting in a pergola area with a huge rug


13. Accentuate the Focal Points

When designing your pergola lighting, be sure to consider the power of focal points.  Where, in the space, is there visual interest you would like to highlight? By strategically highlighting specific features within your outdoor space, you can draw attention to:

  • architectural elements
  • landscape design
  • unique decorative pieces,
  • In other words, anything that adds depth and dimension to your pergola.

Focal points can be created using a variety of lighting techniques:

  • uplighting
  • downlighting
  • backlighting

Choosing the right technique is dependent on the desired effect and the object being illuminated.

For example, uplighting can accentuate the texture of a stone wall or emphasize the graceful branches of a tree.

Uplighting on a large pergola


While downlighting can showcase a beautiful sculpture or a cozy outdoor seating area.

L-shaped couch and coffee table under a well-lit pergola


Backlighting, on the other hand, can create a stunning silhouette effect, adding an air of mystery and intrigue to your pergola.

By thoughtfully incorporating focal points into your lighting design, you can transform your pergola into an enchanting, visually engaging space that captivates the senses and invites exploration.

14. Focus on Path and Step Lighting

As you plan your pergola lighting, it’s important to consider safety and visibility. Well-lit pathways, steps, and handrails can greatly reduce the risk of accidents. This helps to ensure that your outdoor space remains accessible and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of the time of day.

To achieve this, focus on illuminating potential hazards and high-traffic areas with the help of low-voltage landscape lights, step lights, or solar-powered path lights.

Additionally, you can opt for motion-activated lights that turn on only when needed, providing a practical and energy-efficient solution.

Outdoor pergola lighting ideas: Pathway lighting with full foliage landscaping


15. Have Fun with Seasonal Decor

Seasonal lighting can be a fun and great addition to your pergola space. During the holiday season, you might adorn your pergola with twinkling fairy lights, vibrant ornaments, Christmas lights, or even a temporary chandelier made of evergreen branches and pinecones.

For summer gatherings, you could string up colorful paper lanterns or festoon lights, creating a lively and playful atmosphere.

Seasonal décor allows you to refresh your pergola’s appearance throughout the year, keeping your outdoor space dynamic, engaging, and reflective of your personal style.

By embracing the creative potential of seasonal décor, you can ensure that your pergola remains a captivating and inviting retreat, no matter the time of year.

Icicle lights hanging from a pergola for Christmas


Outdoor pergola lighting offers numerous benefits that can significantly enhance your outdoor living spaces.

From creating a warm and inviting ambiance to improving safety and visibility, the right lighting design can transform your pergola into a functional, stylish, and versatile space.

By considering factors such as aesthetics and energy efficiency, you can create a lighting scheme that reflects your personal taste and your wallet.

In addition, incorporating seasonal décor, focal points, and smart technology allows you to tailor your pergola to your specific needs and desires. This ensures that it remains a dynamic, engaging, and welcoming haven throughout the entire year.

Ultimately, investing in outdoor pergola lighting not only elevates the beauty and charm of your outdoor space but also enriches your overall quality of life. It provides endless opportunities for relaxation, entertainment, and memorable moments spent with family and friends under the night sky.

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String lights on a pergola


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