Outdoor lighting turns a mundane night-time backdrop into a magical space that is perfect for al fresco entertainment. 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 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 overall, but we also have dedicated guides to the Best Outdoor Solar Lights and the Best Philips Hue Outdoor Lights.
Let there be light!
The best outdoor lights you can buy today in 2022
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 this impressive set of four solar-powered spots instead.
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.
Solar-powered lights like this 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. Top buy.
To see how this solar powered outdoor light competes against a top rival, then make sure you take a look at T3's TrueFlame Mini Solar Powered Garden Torch Lights vs OxyLED 8 Pack Solar Lights comparison feature.
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?
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 spot lights 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 above 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 spot light system compares to another top-rated outdoor lights competitor, then be sure to take a look at T3's Philips Hue Lily Outdoor Spotlight vs Chiron Solar Spotlight comparison feature.
Also be sure to check out our specialised page on the Best Philips Hue Outdoor Lighting
This outdoor wall lantern from John Lewis will save you fumbling for your keys in the dark. It aims to provides 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.
Available in steely silver or black, this up and down wall light 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 verandah ready outdoor light compares to a top-rated competitor from a premium lighting brand, be sure to read T3's John Lewis & Partners Strom vs Philips Hue Appear comparison feature.
This modern solar-powered spot is a good, cheap option for shedding light on a garden centrepiece or water feature. The Elise is cheap to buy (£6), but to create a really good lighting effect you're likely to need to purchase several at a time. You will also need to position it in an area that receives a lot of sunlight during the day – in other words, don’t spike it under a tree with a lot of sun-blocking foliage.
We’ve been very impressed by the brightness of these spots and, reading the online reviews, it seems we’re not alone.
Bring your trees to life and make it Christmas in July 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, but 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 impossible 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.