Outdoor lighting turns a mundane night-time backdrop into a magical space that is perfect for al fresco entertainment. At night, it also brings a smile of satisfaction to your face every time you glance out of the window. And with smart home technology moving outdoors, the best outdoor lights can also open up all kinds of possibilities like being able to change colour schemes on the fly.
Whether you're looking for decorative wall or garden lighting or lighting for better visibility, we've got a range of outdoor lighting options to suit all styles and budgets.
In this guide we're focussing on the best outdoor lights in both mains- and solar-powered configurations, but we also have dedicated guides to the Best Outdoor Solar Lights and the Best Philips Hue Outdoor Lights.
The best outdoor lights you can buy in 2023
Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Philips Hue is arguably the most versatile outdoor lighting system on the market since it allows you to change the colour of each bulb to suit the mood simply by fiddling about with an app. And by colour we mean every colour and shade in the spectrum. This particular model is comprised of three mat black aluminium spotlights with stands for wall and deck mounting and spikes for ground installation.
Set-up isn’t as straightforward as the solar-powered Atlas system reviewed below but it’s not too taxing if you already have an outdoor power outlet. The spots themselves are bright enough to illuminate trees and shrubs up to about four metres in height.
The Lily kit isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination (you will also need to add a Hue Bridge – £50 – to the checkout basket) but it’s a fantastic way to improve ambience, whether it’s highlighting shrubs, trees and water features or adding atmospheric lighting to the patio.
To see how this spotlight system compares to another top-rated outdoor lights competitor, then be sure to take a look at our Philips Hue Lily Outdoor Spotlight vs Chiron Solar Spotlight comparison feature, and be sure to check out our page on the best Philips Hue outdoor lighting.
If you’re looking to light up a cosy corner of your garden and don’t fancy the thought of having to hire the services of an electrician, consider installing the Atlas Solar Spotlights instead. This impressive set of four solar-powered spots are bright, powerful and can keep your outdoor space lit for a long time.
Simply stake the 24cm x 20cm solar panel into the ground and attach the four 4.5m waterproof cables to each high-quality spot. The panel absorbs the sun’s energy during the day and, come darkness, its built-in light sensor flicks the lights on.
The reasonably-priced 200-lumen Atlas system has a combined illumination range of about five metres so its perfect for highlighting small trees, shrubs and water features. In summer, you can safely expect them to go on shining till well past bedtime. Highly recommended – which is why they're top of our list!
If you have a patio, balcony, veranda or even a decent tree, consider stringing up this elegant garland of quality watertight, vintage-style LED bulbs. The JL Festoon package comes with ten 0.5w filament-style, screw-in LEDs encased in crystal-clear glass (replete with nail hoops), a long 9.5-metre cable and a 36-volt power transformer.
The light they give off is in the warm white region and the brightness of each bulb is equivalent to a 25-watt filament. Their combined power consumption is a negligible five watts.
This writer would advise unscrewing the bulbs before installing lest you smash any in the process. Also, be sure to place the transformer indoors or in a safe, dry outdoor area; an inconvenience, yes, but what were you expecting from a mains-powered outdoor lighting system?
Solar-powered lights like this Trueflame Mini Solar Torch Lights two-pack stake set from the Solar Centre are a perfect, fuss-free way to illuminate garden paths, flower borders, pond surrounds and patios.
Each solar-powered TrueFlame is equipped with a Li-ion battery for storing energy and a battalion of LEDs that flicker independently to simulate a flickering flame. When night falls they automatically switch on and stay on for up to 10 hours at a time (less in winter). The flickering flame these keenly-priced torches emit is startlingly realistic, even from up close. They’re also surprisingly bright. A top buy all around.
To see how this solar powered outdoor light competes against a top rival, then make sure you take a look at our TrueFlame Mini Solar Powered Garden Torch Lights vs OxyLED 8 Pack Solar Lights comparison feature.
The elegant fish tank-like Hue Econic wall light measures 26cm (10 inches) square and emits a wonderfully warm glow that’s perfect for a patio wall, an outdoor ceiling or even a conservatory. It uses a single full-colour 15w 1,150-lumen LED bulb set behind an opaque plastic box surrounded by a black metal frame and five panels of clear glass. It does, however, require professional installation (it doesn’t come with a mains cable) and you will also need to purchase a Hue Bridge (unless you already have one).
This lamp is a top choice for stylish nocturnal ambience but it’s perhaps better suited to a contemporary Grand Designs-style home rather than a Victorian bricks and mortar one.
This Nordlux Vejers outdoor wall lantern from John Lewis will save you fumbling for your keys in the dark. It aims to provide a warm but bright light which is ideal for placing by the front or back door or a gated entrance for better visibility as well as style.
The industrial-style casing of this outdoor wall light make it ideal for modern homes and with its galvanised steel anti-rust coating, it promises to stand the test of time (and British weather). You will need get an electrician to fit this light as it is mains powered but once it's mounted, away it goes!
Available in steely silver or black, this Strom up and down wall light from John Lewis has a very modern look, and puts out a decent amount of illumination via two standard, replaceable LED bulbs.
With the beams shooting up and down rather than radiating outwards, the Strom does throw less 'useful' light than the Nordlux Vejers above, but it's a very chic, modern option that should also weather interestingly over time.
To see how this veranda-ready outdoor light compares to a top-rated competitor from a premium lighting brand, be sure to read our John Lewis & Partners Strom vs Philips Hue Appear comparison feature.
Bring your trees to life and make it Christmas in summer with this string of 300 softly glowing fairy lights. Because they're powered from a detachable, solar-powered capacitor (which can also be topped up via USB), the Lumify 300 Fairy Lights are extremely easy to place.
Eight lighting modes cater for everything from sedate glow to a rave strobe, and there's a low-power winter mode, too. As long as the main solar panel is in direct sunlight, they should run till well past bedtime, but less during the winter. However, if it’s been really dull with no sunshine at all, the included rechargeable battery will ensure they run for up to 12 nights on a single charge.
Best outdoor lights: solar or wired?
The first thing about buying outdoor lights is that this is a case where paying more is advisable, unless you want to replace your lights every year. That's especially true of solar lights.
For most people, solar garden lights are best, simply because they are a doddle to install yourself. Anything attached to the exterior of your house is probably better off being wired. We will now point out to you that, legally speaking, this should be done by a qualified professional or you may find it difficult to sell your house when the time comes.
As a more minor consequence, you might also electrocute someone, and they may die. Yes, we know wiring lights is extremely easy, but doing so outside your house is a lot more difficult, and the law is the law.
The best lights to brighten up the garden are wall-mounted lamps for smaller spaces, with string lights or fairy lights for further down the garden path. These can be kept up all year around. Another great option is to get a load of freestanding solar lanterns and leave them on tables, hanging from tree branches and, for more adventurous hosts, glued to your summer hat.
Spike lights are the classic choice for pitching in the garden to illuminate or highlight ponds and pathways. These are usually solar powered so ensure they get at least some sunlight during the day, so they can be useful at night. The other classic option is buying more directional lights and using them to pick out a statement plant or statue.
Before purchasing any kind of outdoor lights, be sure to check they are suitably weatherproof and waterproof according to the area you plan to use them. Pond lighting requires very different levels of waterproofing to decorative garden lighting, for obvious reasons, and none of the mains-powered options here should be considered suitable.