What’s the Difference Between a Gazebo and a Pergola?

Are you trying to decide between getting a garden gazebo or a pergola for your outdoor area? It’s common for people to mix up these two structures, but they’re actually quite different. A gazebo is like a small, roofed house with open sides, while a pergola is more like an outdoor frame with a slatted roof. Understanding their differences is important to pick the right one for your needs.

In this guide, we’ll make things easy to understand by explaining their unique features and uses. Let’s clear up the confusion and help you choose the perfect addition to your outdoor space!

Definition and Purpose

Sunjoy Pindo 4x4m Brown Steel Gazebo with 2-tier Tan and Brown Dome Canopy
Sunjoy Pindo 4x4m Brown Steel Gazebo with 2-tier Tan and Brown Dome Canopy

A gazebo is a standalone structure with a roof and open sides – in essence, no walls. Pillars or columns usually hold it up and might have a solid floor. Take this particular Sunjoy gazebo model, for instance. You can even add screens or curtains around it if you want more privacy.

People often use gazebos for hanging out outside. Whether having a BBQ with friends, reading a book in the shade, or enjoying a nice meal with your family. They’re great because they keep you dry if it’s raining or give you some shade on a sunny day. All the good stuff while letting you feel the breeze and enjoy being outdoors.

Sunjoy Oeta 4x3m Steel Pergola with Adjustable Shade
Sunjoy Oeta 4x3m Steel Pergola with Adjustable Shade

In contrast, a pergola is like a big outdoor frame with tall posts and beams. It doesn’t have walls or a solid roof like a gazebo. This means there’s more air flowing through, giving it a breezy feel. The Sunjoy Oeta Steel Pergola with Adjustable Shade makes a great example.

Homeowners use pergolas to mark out different areas in their outdoor space. For instance, shading a patio or creating a cosy walkway. They’re also perfect for growing climbing plants, like pretty vines or flowers. This, in turn, can make the framework look full of life. Pergolas add a nice touch to outdoor areas, making them look interesting. They’re a great place to relax outside, even if it’s sunny or rainy — they still give you some shelter.

Design and Structure

Sunjoy Eggi 4x4m Cedar Framed Octagon Gazebo with Black Steel 2-tier Hardtop Roof
Sunjoy Eggi 4x4m Cedar Framed Octagon Gazebo with Black Steel 2-tier Hardtop Roof

Gazebos come in various designs, typically with a round, octagonal, or rectangular shape. Their roofs can be peaked, domed, or flat, adding to their charm. While some have open sides all around, others may have partial walls or lattice panels. Such designs offer a bit more privacy or block the wind. Gazebos often feature decorative elements like intricate woodwork or railings, to add.

Sunjoy 4x2m Skuta Arched Pergola with Wood Finish and Tan Shade
Sunjoy 4x2m Skuta Arched Pergola with Wood Finish and Tan Shade

Meanwhile, pergolas have a simpler design. As mentioned, they consist of sturdy vertical posts or columns supporting horizontal cross-beams. The roof is usually made of slats or beams spaced apart, allowing sunlight to filter through. Pergolas lack walls entirely, providing a more open and airy feel compared to gazebos. Their minimalist design makes them versatile and adaptable to various outdoor settings.

Overall, gazebos offer more coverage and protection from the elements. And cue pergolas that focus more on providing shade and defining outdoor spaces.

Placement and Use

Gazebos are best placed in spacious outdoor areas such as gardens or large backyards. These structures serve as focal points for outdoor gatherings and social events. They offer a sheltered space for relaxation and entertainment. Moreover, they can strategically be placed near pools to create picturesque settings.

Pergolas are well-suited for various outdoor settings. This includes patios, decks, or pathways in gardens. They provide shade and define outdoor spaces without blocking airflow or views. Pergolas can also be used to create cosy seating areas or as a support structure for climbing plants.

Imagine having a gazebo right in the middle of your garden. It’s perfect for throwing garden parties or simply relaxing with a cup of tea. On the other hand, picture a pergola above your patio. It offers garden shade for outdoor dining or lounging in comfort. Plus, it adds a touch of style to your outdoor space, making it a cosy spot for unwinding and enjoying the fresh air.


Knowing the differences between the two helps you pick the right one for your outdoor space. Gazebos are open-sided rooms with a roof, great for gatherings. Pergolas are more like airy frames, perfect for providing shade and defining areas. Remember to consider what you like, how much space you have, and what you’ll use it for to make the best choice.

If you’re still searching for the perfect option, explore our collection of wooden gazebos or metal gazebos. Explore Garden Buildings Direct for more quality, affordable buildings and garden features.

Up next on your reading list: Garden Shade Ideas For a Shady Backyard Oasis