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What Is A Gazebo? Everything You Need To Know

A gazebo is a structure that has a roof and open sides. In public spaces, gazebos can provide shelter and socialization. However, you can also put one in your backyard and make it part of your outdoor living space. It is freestanding and may have an octagonal or hexagonal shape.

Are you looking to add a new structure to your outdoor living space? There are various designs that allow you to create an entertainment and socialization area, transforming your garden. 

However, so many of these structures, like gazebos, pergolas, and pavilions, seem so similar. In this guide, I will erase the mystery and answer the question, “what is a gazebo?” 

By taking a deep dive into what makes this structure distinct from other options, I help you decide if it suits your needs. So, let’s start! 

What Does A Gazebo Look Like?

Hexagonal Gazebo In The Backyard

Gazebos are outdoor living structures with the following characteristics:

  • Freestanding
  • A solid roof or hardtop
  • Fully or partially open sides
  • An octagonal or hexagonal shape
  • Often include side railings 
  • Usually made of wood or metal
  • Typically have their own floors

What Is A Gazebo Used For?

Spacious Gazebo By The Park

You can use a gazebo for various purposes. These can be practical, based on appearance, or to create a social space that increases the value of your backyard

If you’d like to see a complete list of gazebo ideas, you can check out this post I wrote. It covers all the stylistic aspects of gazebos, but here we’ll be looking at the main functions of these garden structures. 

Gazebo Use In History

Vintage Gazebo

We can first find gazebos present in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used these structures more than 5,000 years ago to grow their grapevines. This is maybe the earliest use of gazebos, but they have been seen in many cultures

The ancient Greeks usually had public gazebos made of marble, which emulated the design of their temples. These gazebos sat inside public parks and were close to the temples, allowing them to also operate as sacred spaces

The Romans used gazebos in a similar way, but they usually sat inside private gardens. They had elaborate designs and sacred meanings, but they were more exclusive. 

During the Middle Ages in Europe and England, many wealthy families started to install gazebos in their gardens. They used them primarily for socialization and entertainment

In Chinese and Japanese cultures, gazebos doubled as teahouses. They were ceremonial spaces for tea ceremonies and other worship practices. You can find many gazebos today that incorporate some of these Asian-style elements. 

Today, gazebos are popular all over the world, both in public and private spaces. 

As Shelter

Enclosed Gazebo With Comfortable Seating

Gazebos have solid roofs, making them excellent options for shelter from the sun. Both permanent and portable gazebos are popular structures that create shade and keep you cool during social gatherings or time alone. 

Some gazebos are also waterproof. These models allow you to be outside without rain disturbing your peace. However, because gazebos usually have open sides, they may not protect you against strong wind or storms. 

If you want a waterproof gazebo, you may need to put on an additional canopy and use a waterproofing spray on it. This can prevent heavier rain from penetrating the roof and getting you wet. However, bear in mind that it may need protection on the sides, too, if there is wind. 

As Places To Socialize

Gazebo By The Park

The round seating area of a gazebo makes it an excellent option for social gatherings. It positions you so that you can see and hear everyone around you. Therefore, it is perfect for parties, smaller hangouts, and even meetings. 

Gazebos don’t have to be basic structures. You can add many items to make social gatherings more comfortable and enjoyable. Just by placing some cozy seating, curtains, and lighting, you can create an intimate space

As A Viewpoint

A Gazebo On A Plateau With a Beautiful View

Gazebos have open or partially open sides. Because of their hexagonal or octagonal shapes, they allow you to have an uninterrupted view from inside the structure. In the past, many gazebos also sat on top of hills and served as places to take in the view. 

This may be tricky to achieve in the average backyard. However, you can take advantage of the gazebo’s open sides by placing it near attractive features, like a rose garden or ornamental landscaping. 

To Add To The Aesthetic Of Your Backyard

Ornate Gazebo In The Backyard

If you have a disused area in your backyard, gazebos can also add to the attractiveness of your space. Especially if you choose an outer design that flows well with your existing garden and customize the inside, you can influence the aesthetics of your outdoor living area.  

This video shows a few different design ideas for backyard gazebos. 

Gazebos Pros & Cons

There are various advantages and disadvantages to installing a gazebo in your backyard. 


  • They can protect you from sun, rain, wind, and other weather conditions.
  • Gazebos have excellent ventilation, and they can keep you cool in their shady space.
  • Many gazebos have an attractive aesthetic.
  • You can use gazebos for social gatherings, and the rounded shape makes it easier to hold a conversation
  • You can install electricity and insect screening in gazebos. 


  • Gazebos can be more costly than some other outdoor structures. 
  • They can be challenging and time-consuming to install
  • Gazebos may not provide suitable protection during heavy rain or a storm

How Are Gazebos Different From Other Outdoor Living Structures?

There are so many different outdoor living structures that it can get confusing to differentiate between them. Let’s look at the most similar ones and how they are distinct from gazebos. 

Gazebos Vs Pergolas

Pergola in the backyard

There are a few characteristics that show you whether a structure is a pergola or gazebo. 

  • Pergolas have open roofs, whereas gazebos have solid tops.
  • Pergolas are often square or rectangular, but gazebos are octagonal or hexagonal. 
  • Both structures are often made of wood, metal, or vinyl. 
  • Pergolas create some shade, but they do not block the sun entirely.
  • Pergolas can be freestanding or an extension of your home

Gazebos Vs Pavilions

A pavilion by the lake with a young lady doing some meditation

There are a few differences and similarities between gazebos and pavilions

  • Pavilions have fully open sides, whereas gazebos often have partially open sides. 
  • Pavilions do not have their own floors, but gazebos do. 
  • Pavilions are often square or rectangular, compared to the octagonal or hexagonal gazebos. 
  • Both structures have solid roofs. 
  • Pavilions have a more open feeling, and you can fit more furniture inside. 
  • Both structures are commonly made of wood or metal. 
  • Pavilions are commonly attached to your home, but gazebos are freestanding. 

The Best Backyard Gazebos

Now that you’ve read everything about gazebos, you’re probably ready to choose one for your garden: Go check out my guide to the best gazebos for your backyard


What Is The Purpose Of Gazebo?

A gazebo can serve many purposes, regardless of whether it is in a public park or your backyard. These structures provide a social and comfortable space and protection from the elements. They can also improve the aesthetics of an outdoor area. 

Why Is It Called Gazebo?

A gazebo is called a gazebo because it puts together the word “gaze” and the Latin word ending “ebo,” which means “I shall.” This comes from the 18th century because gazebos sat up high so that you could get a better view of your surroundings. 

What Is A Gazebo Without A Roof Called?

A gazebo without a roof is called a pergola. The structure must have a complete roof covering, an established base, and open sides to be classified as a gazebo. In contrast, a pergola may have an open top that has slats or gaps in it. 

Are Gazebos Waterproof?

Some gazebos are waterproof, but not all. Waterproof gazebos resist the elements with canopies that repel water and prevent it from entering the structure. However, most can only protect you against light showers and are not waterproof if there is heavy rain or a storm. 

Is A Gazebo A Permanent Structure?

Gazebos can be permanent structures or portable models. If you choose a permanent gazebo, it may be made of stronger materials like wood, composite, or plastic. It also usually has a foundation, a roof, and anchoring to keep the structure in place. 

A Summary Of Gazebos And Their Purpose

Now you should know the answer to the question: “what is a gazebo?” Gazebos are freestanding outdoor structures with solid roofs, open sides, and a hexagonal or octagonal shape. They can serve as shelter, socialization spaces, viewpoints, or aesthetic additions to your backyard. 

They are similar to pavilions and pergolas, but there are subtle differences between the different structures. If you’re looking for a new gazebo, I recommend the Kozyard 10ftx12ft Hardtop Aluminium Permanent Gazebo.

Do you have any questions about gazebos? Would you like to share your gazebo design ideas? Please let me know in the comments section.

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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

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