Best festoon lights 2024 – tested by a garden expert

After years of testing, I've found the best festoon lights on the market

Fire pit on patio with festoon lights
(Image credit: Getty Images/svetikd)

Festoon lights are some of the most underrated accents when it comes to your outdoor furniture and styling. The right lights can turn even the drabbest of patios into cozy hangout spots long after the sun has set.

However, outdoor festoon lights have a bad reputation. You may have bought some cheap solar lights online or in a bargain bin at a big box store, only to find that they don't quite work and break a couple of months later.

I've tested several sets of lights and found a handful worth recommending. These are the best festoon lights you can buy for your backyard.

Best festoon lights

Festoon light FAQs

What's the difference between festoon lights and fairy lights?

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Festoon lights use a few large, single bulbs, often covered by some kind of of paper covering or light shade. Fairy lights use lots of small, uncovered bulbs. Festoon lights provide more useful light, whereas fairy lights tend to only be for ambience.

What's an IP rating?

An IP ( or ingress protection) rating is a measure of how easy it is for dust and water to enter an electronic device. IP ratings are given as IP followed by two numbers. The first number refers to protection against dust and dirt, and the second number refers to protection against water. Outdoor festoon lights should have an IP rating of at least IP44 to ensure that they're weatherproof.

How we test

pergola and outdoor seating area with festoon lighting

(Image credit: Future)

I've tested some of these lights for years. It's a very simple test. First, I see how easy it is to unbox and set up the lights. I assess if there are any unnecessary steps, if the stake for the solar panel is firm in the ground, or if they're easy to hang along a tree, fence, or gazebo without tangling in themselves. This step also lets me assess different light modes and timers built into the lights.

Next, I time how long it takes for the lights to turn on after sunset to see how responsive they are to changes in the light. I then stay up a few nights a week to see how many hours of light you actually get for your money.

Finally, I let the lights run as you would use them in your home, checking in on them every few months. This lets me see how the lights can stand up to changes in temperature and weather. In the case of my number 1 pick, those lights are still going three years later after standing up to heatwaves, blizzards, hailstorms, thunderstorms, and one month, even a dust storm.

For more help with outdoor lighting, take a look at our guide to the laws on outdoor lights, or our pergola lighting ideas.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.