Gazebos vs. Pergolas
Posted by on 9 Sep 2010 in Educational Articles | 28 comments
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Many people have asked us what the difference is between gazebos and pergolas, not to mention other structures such as summerhouses, belvederes, pavilions, follies, kiosks, conservatories, and even pagodas.

This short article will clarify the differences (and similarities) between these various structures.

So, let’s start with gazebos.

A gazebo is a type of pavilion structure, which is sometimes hexagonal or octagonal, but often round, and it usually has a domed roof.

They can be either freestanding, or attached to a garden wall, and they are, traditionally, open on all sides, such as the Victorian gazebo, in England, shown above.

In terms of their purpose, then, they provide shade and shelter, and larger ones, e.g. in public parks, can even be used as bandstands. However, some are purely ornamental.

Now, the problem comes because “gazebo” is a catch-all term for other structures too – such as pergolas, kiosks, belvederes, folies, rotundas, pagodas, and probably more.

However, there are differences, so let’s examine them, one by one.

Pergola Swing SetA pergola is lattice-type framework, consisting of uprights and crossbeams, which support climbing plants, especially vines.

Some may be attached to the side of a house, while others are freestanding. They can be quite small, or they can be long, covered walkways, sometimes connecting two pavilions.

Although traditionally made of wood, you will also find metal ones (e.g. wrought iron) and ones where the supporting pillars are made of brick.

You need to know too that pergolas can also be known as arbours or bowers.

Potsdam Belvedere, GermanyNext, there is the belvedere, and when you realise the origin of the word (it means “fair view”, in Italian), then its purpose become clear.

A belvedere therefore refers to any architectural structure that is situated so as to take advantage of such a view. The one shown here is the Potsdam Belvedere, in Germany

They might be built as standalone structures, or they can also form the upper part of a building – as long as they command a beautiful view.

Moving on, we come to the folly, and once again, the name gives you a good clue.

Connolly's Folly, IrelandFollies are buildings (or parts of building), that are deliberately purely ornamental (e.g. Connolly’s Folly, in Ireland, picture to the right) – that is, they serve no useful function, even though some might give the appearance of being useful.

People often assume that a folly has to be extravagantly eccentric, but this needn’t be true. In a similar vein, they may often, but not always, contain some element of “fakery” (e.g. they may look like a bunch of old ruins, whereas they were actually built to look like that).

Another term you may come across, and which has taken on a different meaning these days, is kiosk.

Trajan's Kiosk, EgyptIn the Middle East, a kiosk is actually a small, separated garden pavilion that is open on some, or even all, sides, whereas in Swahili, it has a meaning closer to its current one, i.e. a booth with an open window on one side, used to sell, for example, newspapers.

The one shown here is known as Trajan’s Kiosk, and it can be found in Egypt, near Aswan.

Talking of pavilions, this is yet another related type of structure that can refer to several different buildings, including, confusingly, gazebos.

Royal Pavilion, BrightonHowever, a pavilion is normally a free-standing structure situated some way away from a main residence. They can be both large or small, but there is usually a connection with relaxation and pleasure in its intended use.

At the smaller end of the scale, then a pavilion, especially one designed to take advantage of a beautiful view, is often called a gazebo; at the larger end, you might be talking about something as grandiose as the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, which is basically a lavish oriental-style palace.

But in both cases, the intention is pleasure.

Syon Park, LondonNext, we have conservatories, and as with some of the other structures we’ve mentioned, they can be large (e.g. the one at Syon Park, London) or small.

Historically, they’ve been made of metal and glass, but nowadays, they are frequently made of PVC instead.

Larger ones were mainly used for growing delicate and/or rare plants, and are, when used to house citrus trees, for example, also known as orangeries.

Smaller ones are usually built on to houses these days, as small sunrooms.

In fact, these are close to what would be known as summerhouses – i.e. somewhere to relax in warmer weather.

Korean PagodaThere are even more types of structure, such as rotundas, chalets, poolhouses, dachas, and pagodas (which, by the way, are oriental multi-storey religious towers, whose only connection to pergolas is the similar-sounding name).


We guess that’s why, to make sense of all these confusing and overlapping terms, many people simply use the word gazebo (which also has a nice sound to it anyway, even if nobody is exactly sure where this word came from).

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28 Responses to ““Gazebos vs. Pergolas”

  1. Rob Northrup says:

    This is a cool post that explains a lot of different types of outdoor buildings.

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    Survival Rob

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  2. What lovely structures. I would love to have a large yard with the top gazebo on it.
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    Dr. Wendy M. Schauer, D.C., R.K.C.
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  3. Shane says:

    It’s a sad day when a gazebo looks nicer than my house.

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  4. Dennis Perry says:

    This is a great article. It makes the differences in these structures quite clear. The structures shown are quite beautiful.

    My “Bucket List” of places to visit just got a bit bigger!

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  5. You always have the coolest pictures of structures for backyards.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Now go implement!

  6. kevin hogan says:

    i’ve never seen so many beautiful gazebo’s. i can’t wait to talk price!

  7. It’s a sad day when almost all these gazebos cost more than my house.
    Leadership is a Choice

  8. Shane’s got a very good point. I love th insight and information you give so we can have a better understanding of eachs structure.

    Jen Battaglino
    Conquer Your Fear Here

  9. Don Hill says:

    I remember sitting under the pergola at Grandma’s. It had a grape vine woven throughout it. Between the birds and falling grapes you needed to watch where you sat :)


  10. mongoose bmx says:

    Thanks. Very nice post. Your web site is very beautiful.

  11. alam ghafoor says:

    Very informative thank you for the education

  12. Hi Mark,

    The Pergolas look simply lovely, and I think I have seen some structures like that at a friends house. However, I gotta say, my own romantic taste goes along the line of adoring the gazebos.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Baby Boomer Dating Expert

  13. Vignesh rajesh says:

    Great post! Explained clearly about a lot of wonderful outdoor buildings.

  14. Ashley Russell says:

    All the gazebos on this post are beautiful, really like the info so I know the difference between them now.

  15. Nick says:

    Love this style of architecture. I could look at pictures like these all day long!

  16. Bhavin says:

    This is really a great information about Gazebos and Pergolas. Rae and Mark, you are making us day dreaming immediately.

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