You can’t rely on the moon and stars to illuminate your backyard at all times. So a well-lit patio may just be the secret to outdoor living!
While there are countless types of outdoor-safe lighting to choose from, string lights hold a special place in our (and many others’) hearts.
String lights are affordable, easy to install, and more diverse than you might realize. Here are the best outdoor string lights for the patio.
As one of the trademarks of contemporary patio design, globe lights are a go-to for all types of outdoor living spaces. These string lights are simple, versatile, and easy to style — perfect for homeowners looking to brighten up their patio without too much hassle.
Globe light bulbs come in many sizes and wattages. Clear glass is the most popular choice. If soft mood lighting is your goal, however, frosted glass may be a better option.
In terms of brightness, globe lights are rarely outshone (no pun intended). Utilize these bulbs throughout your patio for a space that’s well-lit but never blinding.
Arlmont & Co. Blairsden 100′ Outdoor 100-Bulb Globe String Light
These string lights are specifically designed for outdoor use. You can mount them anywhere — no need to worry about moisture damage — and enjoy the epitome of modern patio lighting year-round.
With one bulb per foot, these globe lights offer tons of illumination and can cover an impressive amount of space.
The incandescent bulbs are rated for 3000 hours and produce 35 Lumens each. And if that’s too bright for your needs, they are dimmable with a compatible light switch.
Fairy lights are delicate string lights with bulbs the same size or even smaller than traditional holiday lights. Typically, the goal is to make it look like each light is magically appearing out of thin air.
Fairy lights don’t offer much in the way of functional illumination. But they can be a great way to add charm and atmosphere to an outdoor space.
Fairy lights can be wrapped around trees, hidden in shrubbery, or draped across a pergola. You can even place fairy lights in a jar or lantern for an effect that resembles fireflies.
While you shouldn’t rely on fairy lights to illuminate your entire patio at night, they can be a useful tool nonetheless. Use fairy lights to mark the perimeter of your patio, including stairs and other obstacles that can be hard to see in the dark.
Ebern Designs Deomar 33’ Outdoor LED 100-Bulb Fairy String Light
These adorable fairy lights feature built-in LEDs strung along a thin copper wire. The LEDs are spaced about 4 inches apart, creating a dense string of lights that can be hung, wrapped, or clustered together.
These outdoor-safe lights can be left out through rain or shine. They plug into a standard outlet and won’t heat up even after hours of use.
For a classic storybook aesthetic, we recommend opting for the Warm White version. However, these fairy lights are available in several colors to suit any style!
For a vintage aesthetic that makes your patio feel warm and inviting, opt for a set of Edison bulb string lights.
Edison bulbs are styled after some of the first light bulbs ever created. Though these modern iterations feature newer technologies (like LEDs), they retain the prominent filaments and warm glow of vintage bulbs.
These string lights can be used to illuminate a large space without the harshness of some other outdoor bulbs.
Note that Edison-style bulbs are compatible with many string light sets. So you may be able to alternate them with standard globe bulbs depending on your mood and lighting needs!
Birch Lane Gracinha 48’ Outdoor 15-Bulb Standard Vintage String Light
There are countless Edison-style string lights available to choose from. But these lights feature some of the best vintage-inspired bulbs rated for outdoor use.
Unlike many Edison string lights, these bulbs boast tinted glass and authentic-looking filaments. The bulbs are dimmable from 7 to 50 Lumens.
With only 15 bulbs per string, these definitely aren’t the brightest string lights. We suggest pairing them with another light source or hanging several sets for better illumination.
Sometimes regular fairy lights just won’t cut it. Twinkling outdoor string lights are by far the best way to create a magical atmosphere on your patio or deck.
Twinkling lights can come in many colors, sizes, and overall styles. The defining characteristic is, of course, that they twinkle!
Drape twinkling string lights throughout your backyard or garden for a scene that seemingly comes to life when the sun sets. Connect your twinkling string lights to a timer for hassle-free illumination at night.
These lights are the perfect touch for special events but there’s nothing stopping you from using them day to day. We recommend pairing them with brighter globe bulbs or lanterns for maximum functionality.
Twinkle Star 33FT 100 LED String Lights
These twinkling string lights offer the perfect dose of magic for any patio or garden space. And, with several colors to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding a set that matches your outdoor decor.
These LED lights feature 8 different settings — twinkling is just one of them. Other settings include waving, flashing, and always-on.
Each string of lights measures just under 50 feet long. If you have a large patio or balcony to light, you can combine up to 10 separate strings to cover the entire space.
It’s hard to deny the inherent charm of lighting an outdoor space with paper lanterns. With a set of lantern string lights, you can enjoy this quaint aesthetic on your patio whenever you want.
The beauty of using a set of string lights instead of “real” lanterns is that they’re easier to use and last longer. Just be sure to invest in lanterns designed for the outdoors. More delicate paper lanterns will fall apart when exposed to the elements.
We love the look of all-white lanterns strung over a backyard deck or patio — it’s the perfect balance of form and function. If your outdoor space could use a dose of color, however, we highly encourage getting a set of colored lanterns too!
LampLust Mini Lantern String Lights
If you’ve fallen in love with the look of paper lanterns, these string lights make it quick and easy to add a whimsical quality to your outdoor space.
Each string is about 7 feet long and holds 10 individual lanterns. Up to 25 strands can be safely connected to light spaces of all sizes.
Despite the paper-like appearance, these lights are entirely waterproof (the lanterns are made of nylon). These lights are ideal for indoor or outdoor use. They also make wonderful event decor!
Products like Philips Hue have made color-changing light bulbs standard in many homes. So why not bring those same custom lightscapes to your patio?
In many ways, color-changing string lights are the ideal compromise between fun and practicality. You still have access to plain white lighting at any time. But you can also choose from any color of the rainbow at a moment’s notice.
Color-changing string lights also make decorating for the holidays as quick and easy as pressing a button!
Enbrighten Seasons Color-Changing Vintage LED Cafe Lights
These unique string lights combine the vintage aesthetic of Edison bulbs with modern color-changing technology.
Each strand contains 24 impact-resistant LED bulbs. Up to 15 strands may be connected end-to-end (for a total length of around 750 feet).
Using the included remote control, you can choose from 16 different solid colors and a variety of holiday-themed presets. Other custom settings allow you to wirelessly dim or schedule the lights on a timer.
There are many benefits to solar-powered lighting, especially when it comes to outdoor design.
Obviously, solar-powered string lights are more sustainable (and can help lower your household energy costs). But they also make it possible to install outdoor lighting nearly anywhere — no outlet required.
Running inground power to a gazebo or backyard patio is neither cheap nor easy. And no one wants an extension cord permanently running from their house to an outdoor living space.
While solar technology is cheaper and easier to find than ever before, it pays to invest in the highest-quality lighting available. It also definitely doesn’t hurt to select string lights that can be hooked up to an alternative power source in a pinch!
LE Solar & USB Rechargeable Indoor Outdoor String Lights
These solar string lights far outshine plug-in varieties in terms of convenience and portability. You won’t find a better option for lighting a non-powered patio or even a small campsite.
The solar panel isn’t the only special feature offered by these lights. You’ll also find an integrated light sensor that automatically turns the bulbs on and off each night.
Each 25-foot strand includes 25 bulbs that can be set to be constantly on or flash.
The built-in USB port makes it possible to use these lights in the shade or on cloudy days. Just keep in mind that a USB charger isn’t included.
Consider including holiday icicle lights in your patio design year-round. These unique, hanging lights are the perfect addition to fences, pergolas, eaves, and more.
If you’re worried that using icicle string lights on your patio will make it look like you never put away the Christmas decor, you’re just not thinking far enough outside of the box!
One of our favorite ways to use these lights is by running them across a pergola ceiling or between support poles. The final product is reminiscent of hanging wisteria limbs and offers a surprising amount of illumination.
The Holiday Aisle Mini Icicle Light
These simple icicle string lights let you illuminate your patio or porch in a variety of ways. Several styles are available to choose from, including a set with multi-colored bulbs.
Each strand measures 8.5 feet long and holds 150 incandescent bulbs in total.
The hanging “icicles” range in length from 3 to 7 bulbs. Up to 3 strands can be connected end-to-end to light a larger space.
For better or worse, Mason jars have an iron grip on the design world. So if you’re creating a farmhouse-inspired porch or patio, then a set of jar string lights should definitely be on your shopping list.
These innovative string lights offer all of the illumination of a standard strand of bulbs but with a one-of-a-kind aesthetic.
Love this trend but want an alternative to hanging string lights? You can also stuff battery-powered fairy lights into jars to use as makeshift lanterns.
Kurt Adler UL 10-Light Clear Mason Jar Light Set
These Mason jar string lights would make a unique addition to any outdoor space in need of an extra dash of charm.
Each 11.5-foot strand holds 10 jar-covered bulbs. The jars (which are made of plastic rather than glass) can be removed as needed when changing the bulbs.
Rest assured that these string lights are rated for outdoor use. But they probably won’t suffice as a primary or long-term light source.
Also, since the strands cannot be connected end-to-end, these lights aren’t ideal for large spaces.
Solar-powered lighting is not the only option when an outlet is out of reach. If you’re okay sacrificing a bit of energy efficiency, battery-powered string lights are a great choice.
Battery-powered outdoor lighting does away with the unpredictability of solar panels (you’ll never need to worry about cloud cover leaving you in the dark!). Battery-powered string lights are ideal for covered porches and patios where setting up solar panels would be impractical.
They are extremely portable — even more so than solar-powered string lights. So feel free to move them around your backyard or take them on the road as you please.
Brightech Ambience Pro 24.5 ft Outdoor USB Powered Edison String Lights
If you’ve taken a look around your patio and decided that plug-in or solar lighting won’t work, these USB-powered lights are certainly worth a try.
Each strand measures 24.5 feet long and contains 10 LED Edison bulbs. The bulbs are surprisingly bright and feature easy-to-hang bases.
Since these lights connect to a USB power pack (which must be purchased separately), there’s no need to worry about replacing single-use batteries. As long as you have a fully charged power pack on hand, you can use these string lights literally anywhere.
Curtain string lights are the bigger, more dramatic cousins of icicle lights. They feature dangling strands of bulbs that are several feet long.
While less versatile than other forms of outdoor lighting, curtain lights offer a look that’s hard to recreate.
Hang curtain lights around the perimeter of your patio or backyard fence. You can combine these string lights with fabric panels or decorative toile for a soft ethereal glow.
The Holiday Aisle Mini Curtain String Lights
No matter what your current outdoor lighting setup looks like, these curtain lights are a great way to take it to the next level.
These mini curtain string lights feature 150 basic bulbs spread across a 5.5-foot strand. You can connect up to 3 strands together using a single outlet.
The maximum drop length is 65 inches. The dangling strands vary in length for a softer appearance overall.
This particular set features mini incandescent bulbs that are rated for 3,000 hours.
Rope lights, made of clear plastic tubing lined with small LED bulbs, make great alternatives to string lights. Outdoor-safe rope lights come in many different colors (some even change color using a remote or app!).
With rope lights, you can replicate the look of outdoor string lights without the hassle of detangling or replacing spent bulbs. Still, rope lights don’t provide the same aesthetic as regular string lights — at least not in the daytime.
Instead of draping these lights across your pergola or porch ceiling, try wrapping them around a tree trunk or mounting them to a roof eave. Or use a piece of toile to disguise the plastic tubing for a fairy light-inspired look.
LE LED 33ft Rope Lights
This outdoor-safe LED rope light is a versatile alternative to classic string bulbs.
It can be hung across a patio, laid along a walkway, or wrapped around nearby trees to give your backyard a unique glow. Made of commercial-grade PVC that won’t overheat, this rope light is also safe to use around water sources (the power source itself should always be kept dry).
This rope light boasts 32.8 feet of illuminated LEDs plus a 6.6-foot power cord that can be plugged into any standard outlet. You can connect up to 3 rope lights together.
Exposed bulbs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But shaded string lights let you enjoy the convenience of this lighting solution with a classier aesthetic.
Shaded string lights look their best hanging overhead in a casual dining or entertaining area. You can also drape these lights along a fence for a bit of perimeter lighting that’s less harsh than bare bulbs.
Shaded string lights are available in many styles to suit a variety of outdoor living spaces. You may even be able to get your hands on some add-on shades to upgrade an existing set of lights!
Williston Forge Defreitas 15′ Outdoor LED Solar Powered 8-Bulb Shaded String Light
These stylish string lights will make any patio feel like a high-end bistro or luxury terrace. They’re the perfect upgrade to basic string lights while still being accessible and practical.
These lights feature LED bulbs encased in industrial-inspired shades. Each 15-foot strand holds 8 bulbs and can be connected end-to-end.
While the entire setup looks great from a distance, the shades are made of plastic rather than metal.
These particular shaded lights are solar-powered but can also operate on 2 AA batteries. If you don’t plan to use the included solar panel, however, you’d be better off finding a comparable set of lights that can be plugged in.
With the ability to control nearly everything in the modern home via a smartphone app, it should come as no surprise that the same technology can be used outdoors.
App-enabled lights are nothing new. But this may be the first time you’ve thought of using them on or around your patio.
Being able to turn your outdoor lights on and off with your phone is certainly convenient. But the best app-enabled lights also boast features like color-changing bulbs, built-in timers, and dimmability.
When shopping for app-enabled patio lights, keep in mind that the lights themselves are not the only thing you’re buying. A well-made app can make all of the difference when it comes to smart patio lighting!
Govee 48ft Patio Lights with Bluetooth App Control
These app-controlled string lights rely on Bluetooth to manage settings from a phone, tablet, or another smart device.
Up to 2 strands can be connected for a maximum length of 96 feet (or 30 bulbs total). The lights can be controlled via Bluetooth from up to 230 feet away.
Depending on the exact features you’re looking for, the best app-enabled string lights for you may not be the ideal choice for someone else. But these lights are a wonderful option for anyone in need of basic Bluetooth connectivity.