9 Best Lighting Ideas for Your Outdoor Pergola

Pergola Lighting Ideas:

A pergola is a great feature for any backyard, providing shade and shelter, and a welcoming seating area. Pergolas are not only useful to provide shade during the day, but they are also a great gathering spot in the evening, whether they include an outdoor kitchen, or an outdoor seating area.

There are many great lighting options for your pergola, including string lights, pendant lights, and wall sconces. We have included some links to some of our favorite products.

Types of Lights:

When you first begin considering outdoor lighting ideas for your pergola, there are two main types of lighting to consider: solar lighting and low voltage lighting.

Solar Lights

With solar pergola lights, you will have individual lights that derive their energy from the sun and do not need to be wired into your existing electrical system.

Solar pergola lighting is the easiest to set up as there is no electrical work required, you simply set up the lights wherever you need them.

Low Voltage Lights

Low voltage lighting will require hardwiring lights into your existing electrical system and while it may be more labor intensive, it greatly expands your lighting options for your outdoor space. You can find tutorials online for how to set them up yourself, or you can hire a landscape lighting expert to set them up for you.

Low voltage lights may be the best option if you are looking for more control over your outdoor lights as you can set them up on a timer so they can be turned off when they are not needed, and they can be set up with a dimmer so you can get just the right amount of light.

1. String Lights

pergola lighting idea number one showing pergola with string lights
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String lights are a perennial outdoor lighting favorite and for good reason. This type of lighting provides a nice welcoming environment in your outdoor seating area, although when purchasing them, you do want to be mindful of the brightness and color temperature of the light.

We recommend a yellow to amber color and a brightness of 40 lumens per bulb or less. This will help to create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere instead of having a harsh and blinding light. Also, be sure to check that your string lights are rated for outdoor use.

Outdoor string lights are available in solar and wired options. If you choose the wired option, you will need an electrical outlet to plug into, but if your pergola does not have electricity, then solar string lights would be a great option.

The solar string lights connect to a small solar panel that powers the lights, so the solar panel will need to be in a sunny area in order to store enough energy to power the lights.

For wired string lights, these are our favorite option. They have a nice warm colored light, are not too bright, and have a unique look with the copper colored shielding.

2. Mason Jar Lights and Candles

candles and mason jar with string lights
Photo Adobe Stock

If you are looking for an easy, budget-friendly option, mason jars can provide some great lighting options. You can use traditional wax candles in mason jars, or you can use LED candles if you want something a little easier and safer.

Also consider citronella candles as they will not only add some light, but they will also help to keep the bugs away!

Adding fairy lights to a mason jar is another great way to add a soft glow to your outdoor living space. These can be used in creative ways to get the right lighting look that you are after.

Pillar candles are also another great source of light for your pergola, and they are also available in wax and LED versions.

3. Outdoor Chandelier

outdoor chandelier used as pergola lighting idea
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An outdoor chandelier in your pergola is a great way to add some elegance to your outdoor space. There is a great variety of styles of outdoor chandelier options available, and we recommend choosing one that is dimmable. Having a dimmable light allows you to easily correct for overly bright lighting and to create a warm and comfortable atmosphere in your pergola.

These are a couple of outdoor chandeliers that we recommend. The first is this modern chandelier.

The second is this great low profile chandelier.

4. Pendant Lights

Outdoor pendant lights for pergola lighting
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Pendant lights are another great choice for pergola lighting. With such a variety of light fixtures, you have many options for customizing your pergola. Here are some of the hanging pendant lights that we recommend:

If you like the farmhouse style look, we recommend this pendant light for a rustic look for your pergola.

For a more unique and modern look, check out this outdoor pendant light.

If you like barn style lights, this pergola pendant light is a good option.

This unique and modern style pendant light would also be a great choice.

This is another great modern pendant light that we would recommend.

For a large pergola, you may need multiple pendant lights to provide sufficient lighting.

5. Wall Lights

wall light for pergola
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Wall mounted lights are another great idea for pergola lighting. They can be mounted to the posts or walls of any outdoor structure. There are many styles of these lighting fixtures, but we have a few of our favorites recommended here.

These solar wall mounted lights are a great choice if you have a lattice topped pergola so they can receive some sunlight to charge.

For low voltage pergola lights, we like this farmhouse style wall sconce.

And these modern low profile lights would also provide great pergola lighting.

6. Built in Lights

built in or recessed lighting in pergola ceiling
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If you are constructing or rehabbing a pergola, then built in lights could be a great option for outdoor pergola lighting.  Built in lights would typically be installed within the pergola ceiling.

7. Paper Lanterns

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Paper lanterns are a fun way to add a warm glow to your pergola. Keep in mind that you will need a fully covered pergola and will need to keep these out of the outdoor elements more than some of the other lights. Most outdoor paper lanterns have some water resistance but can’t withstand a heavy downpour.

8. Strip Lights

Photo Adobe Stock

LED strip lights are sometimes used to provide outdoor lighting to pergolas, but we offer a word of caution. Many of these strip lights tend to be extremely bright, even too bright to look at in most cases. They could potentially be used on the underside of railings or seating areas, but we would not advise using them for much else.

9. Fire Pit

outdoor fire pit
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A fire pit is a great addition to any outdoor area. It does need to be placed a safe distance away from your pergola or any structure to avoid a fire hazard.

Pergola Lighting Tips and Best Practices

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when you are planning and designing your pergola lighting.

Be Mindful of your Neighbors

If you live in an area close to other houses, always be mindful of how your outdoor light will affect your neighbors. Choose lights that will not shine into their yard or windows by choosing lights that are shielded, aimed downwards and that are not overly bright.

Brightness/lumens

With so many outdoor lighting fixtures available, choosing one that will suit your needs can be daunting. Brightness of lights is an important factor in choosing what lights will be best for your space and it varies widely among different lighting options.

You should aim to choose the least bright light possible that will provide adequate illumination for your outdoor space. It is always better to start with fewer lights, then add more if needed. You want to look for a soft gentle light to make your outdoor area feel welcoming, not a harsh blinding light.

Brightness is measured in lumens, and most lights will list the brightness in lumens. A lower number equals a less bright light. For most outdoor lighting needs, you don’t need anything over 700 lumens. For more information on how bright your outdoor lights should be, check out our post here.

Use Your Lights Only When Needed

Outdoor lights should be on a timer or motion sensor. This will not only prevent unnecessary light use and cut down on light pollution, but it is also a great way to save energy and be eco-friendly.

Using lights only when needed is also beneficial for wildlife as well as many animals need the darkness and the cues of the light-dark cycle for migration, reproduction and for feeding.

Setting up a timer or motion sensor and turning your pergola lights off after a certain time at night will help restore the darkness which is beneficial to both humans and wildlife.

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

milky way with some light pollution
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All of the lights that we recommend can be considered dark sky friendly lighting. How can you tell if a light is dark sky friendly? When you look at the light fixture, you should not be able to see the source of the light (bulb).

We understand that people like to use outdoor lights, whether for enjoying your outdoor space at night, entertaining, or security, and we want to help people make informed decisions about the lights being used.

You can use outdoor lights at night while still being a friend to the starry sky movement and decreasing your contribution to light pollution!

For more information about light pollution, check out our article What is Light Pollution.

To stay up to date on all things light pollution related, check out and subscribe to our podcast Light Pollution News. We have a new episode every month bringing you the latest news and research about light pollution.

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