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Pergola vs. Gazebo: What’s The Difference?

Pergola vs. Gazebo: What’s The Difference?
  • PublishedSeptember 18, 2023

Gardens, patios, and backyards are areas of solace, relaxation, and entertainment. An essential aspect of creating the ideal outdoor space involves selecting the right kind of architectural structure to complement your setting. Two popular choices in this regard are pergolas and gazebos.

While both serve to elevate the aesthetics and functionality of outdoor spaces, they are distinct in terms of design, purpose, and usage. Here’s a deep dive into the differences between these two structures.

Defining the Structures


Originally from Italy, a pergola is an outdoor structure that consists of vertical columns or posts that support a series of horizontal beams or lattice. Typically, these are open structures, both on the sides and the top. Vines, plants, or fabric might adorn the top to offer a hint of shade, but primarily, they allow sunlight and air to pass freely. Pergolas can be attached to buildings or stand freely in gardens or patios.


The gazebo, by contrast, is a freestanding, often octagonal or round, pavilion structure with a solid roof and open sides. Gazebos are primarily designed to offer shelter from the sun, light rain, or wind while maintaining a view of the surroundings. More intricate gazebos may come with built-in seating or even enclosed sides. A notable variant of this is the pop up gazebos with sides, offering a portable sheltering option.

pop up gazebo example

Functional Differences


Being open structures, pergolas primarily serve as design statements and light shade providers. They can delineate spaces, offer a walkway, or act as an extension of a building. Climbing plants, like wisteria or roses, can be trained to grow on them, converting the pergola into a blooming, fragrant walkway or seating area.


Gazebos cater more towards shelter. While they offer scenic views of the surroundings, they also provide a more defined space for activities like outdoor dining, meditation, or even small gatherings. With their solid roof structure, they offer better protection against unpredictable weather elements than pergolas.

Aesthetic Variations


Pergolas are all about linear simplicity. Their design versatility allows them to fit seamlessly into modern, minimalist gardens or traditional, ornate ones. They often carry an elongated shape, which can create the illusion of a longer garden or patio.


Gazebos evoke a sense of traditional charm and intimacy. Their typical round or octagonal shape makes them a focal point in gardens. With the possibilities of ornate railings, decorative eaves, or even cupolas, gazebos can stand out as the centrepiece of an outdoor setting.

Which is Right for You?

The decision between a pergola and a gazebo boils down to your functional requirements and aesthetic preferences.

If you’re looking to create a shaded walkway or an ornamental feature that integrates with the natural elements of your garden, a pergola might be the choice for you. It offers a structure that can evolve with time, especially if you have plants growing over it.

On the other hand, if you want a defined outdoor area that provides more protection against the elements and can act as an exclusive spot for relaxation or entertainment, a gazebo would be more fitting. Its solid structure makes it ideal for those who wish to have a semi-enclosed outdoor setting.


Whether you lean towards the elegance and openness of a pergola or the protective charm of a gazebo, it’s undeniable that both structures can elevate the aesthetics and functionality of any outdoor space. Your choice will ultimately reflect your lifestyle, preferences, and the kind of ambience you want to curate in your garden or patio.

Remember, it’s all about creating a space where you can relax, rejuvenate, and make memories.

Read more in our article: Fun home projects to improve you interior space.

Written By
Gesten Van Der Post

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