What Is a Gazebo Used For?

Outdoor Structures and Garden Buildings

Gazebo in a Quiet Place
White gazebo with hanging plants. Cathleen Abers-Kimball/E+/Getty Images

A gazebo is a freestanding, open garden structure, sometimes hexagonal or octagonal in shape, with a roof. Most gazebos are constructed of wood or metal and have ​built-in seating inside the sheltered area. To add a sense of enclosure and privacy, latticework or outdoor curtains or drapes are sometimes used. In a garden setting, a gazebo can serve as a focal point—something to be viewed and appreciated—or situated in a location on a property (like a hill) that offers views while providing shelter from the sun. 

Design Considerations

Adding a gazebo to your outdoor space should be carefully thought out, because it can often look contrived and awkward or out of place. When planning any garden structure, try to incorporate architectural elements or features of your house for harmony and continuity. Also be aware of design considerations such as:

  • Scale and proportion: Does the size and shape of the proposed gazebo fit in your yard so that it's neither too big or too small for the location?
  • Style: Does it blend with your house and other structures on the property?
  • Materials: Are materials like stone, wood, and iron used elsewhere on the exterior of your house?
  • Location: A gazebo might be a destination, an escape, or be a place that frames a beautiful view.
  • Additional hardscape features, like paths or walls: Do the materials and shapes echo those used in other parts of the yard or exterior of the home?

History of the Gazebo

Small cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries often had large gazebos in the town center or park, where they often served as bandstands. Because they have a nostalgic appeal, gazebos are a popular prop for garden weddings and are often associated with romantic scenes in films like The Sound of Music and for photographs.

Gazebo-like structures have been built for centuries. The Egyptians built garden gazebos to support grapes for wine and raisins. They believed that these earthly paradises—gazebos and gardens—would follow them to heaven.

Greece and Rome

Gazebos can be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Greeks built temples in public spaces that were surrounded by gardens, with marble gazebos in memory of gods and goddesses.

The Romans enjoyed their private gardens as places to relax and entertain. Garden gazebos were constructed as a beautiful outdoor feature and as a gathering place. 

Gazebos During the Medieval and Renaissance Periods

While gazebos do attract attention, they also were, and still are, built to offer privacy. Elaborate gardens at churches and monasteries used gazebos as places for meditation or to establish a shrine. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe, these sanctuaries were built in more far-off areas of large estates. A gazebo would serve as a destination to which the lord of the manor and his guests would journey outside for fresh air while still under a roof. 

English Gazebos

Garden gazebos became popular in England during the 16th through 18th centuries and could be found in parks or large private estates. In the 19th century, gazebos were built for middle-class properties and also became more functional as a shelter rather than a decorative architectural feature in the landscape. The English practice of afternoon tea was enjoyed in gazebos or similar structures.

Asian Gazebos

Tea houses—or teahouses—are another form of a gazebo that has been popular in China and Japan for centuries. Tea ceremonies are a time of rest, meditation, and reflection while enjoying one another's company and admiring the beautiful surroundings of nature

Creating a Private Place

With residential properties decreasing in size, it's hard to find a place to create a refuge—somewhere to get away from the cares of the day or your household. To establish a cozy hideaway on a smaller lot, add a pergola or overhead roof to your gazebo, paving, and a path leading to the area. For added privacy, create walls with lattice panels on the sides, and plant vines to grow up and over the framework. It will be beautiful to look at and a nice escape on your own property.

Also Known As: Depending on the region or culture, a gazebo might also be referred to as an alhambra, belvedere, kiosk, pagoda, pavilion, pergola, rotunda, shed, summerhouse, or tea house.