This year we brought Christmas string lights into our test lab for the first time ever, and our staff had a blast voting on their favorites. They overwhelmingly chose the super affordable retro Frosted Lights from Crate & Barrel, while I picked my favorite, Twinkly Starry LED String Lights from Restoration Hardware, which are stunning anywhere in your house, as well as on a tree. In addition we’ve chosen the best options out there and divided them into three categories: traditional, minimalist, or decorative lights.
Best Christmas String Lights 2017: Watch the Video
Maxwell’s Top Pick
Twinkly Starry String Lights
I first bought these lights about five years ago, when LED really started to hit this category. Tiny, bright, cool to the touch and able to sip electricity, I still love these lights for use year round. They come in two colorways and look great bunched up into a cluster. I’ve used them as an awesome nightlight when my daughter was young. You must be careful not to get them too tangled, however, as they are super challenging to straighten out!
Our staff favorite, this light strand gives off a retro-inspired vibe with its soft frosted lighting and old school bulbs. Aside from looking great wrapped around your Christmas tree, each bulb socket has a clip to easily attach onto the tree branches.
GE Energy Smart Colorite 100-Light LED Multi-Color Mini Light Set
A more sustainable update on the classic Christmas lights, this colorful option from GE uses Energy Smart LED bulbs, which can help you save up to 80% on your holiday lighting energy costs. Another perk: unlike older versions, these lights won’t malfunction if a single bulb burns out.
LED Color-Changing Linkable Christmas Light String
If you’re looking for a fun twist on the old reliable colored Christmas lights, these color-changing lights from Amazon are a great option. Each bulb slowly changes to a random color, creating a fun lights display in your home.
Mini Star String Lights
These cute little star lights are simple yet effective. Similar to the standard twinkle lights, the star-shaped bulbs can be used anywhere, and make for a modern lighting option any time of the year. These lights are battery-powered, last up to 150 hours, and come in two lengths depending on your needs.
Multi Color Glass Sphere String Lights
Another option from Pottery Barn, these colorful glass bulbs don’t sacrifice fun for a minimalist style. Featuring an on/off timer and 150 hours of battery life, the Glass Sphere Lights have the added benefit of working in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Northern Starlit Clear Glass String Lights
These clear glass bulbs from Restoration Hardware are stylish and simple (and water-resistant!). They come with a built-in timer that operates in six-hour increments, so you don’t have to stress about turning your lights on and off. One thing to note: the 10′ and 20′ options are battery-operated, but the 50′ style needs to be plugged in.
Make Your Own Fairy Light Sign Kit
If you really want to make a statement with your holiday lighting, consider this kit from Urban Outfitters. It comes with a 10 ft. string of fairy lights and separate shaping wire to form any design you like, from words to shapes.
Diamond String Lights
A favorite of the Apartment Therapy office, these diamond-shaped string lights from Urban Outfitters make for an unusual holiday decor choice. While they look great strung up with your other decorations, they can also be hung from wall to wall to create a charming lantern effect.
Mixed Mercury String Lights
Anthropologie is a treasure trove of whimsy string lights, but we especially love these ornament-like mercury glass bulbs. They’re a great alternative to ornaments if you want an easier method of tree decorating, but are definitely attractive enough to be used on their own.
Vintage Snowflake String Light
These string lights are a lot more heavy duty than your typical delicate bulbs. Each strand comes with 10 nicely-sized gold and silver snowflakes that can be used both indoors and outdoors. Measuring 8 feet in length, this option isn’t the longest, but the size and design of the snowflake bulbs make it appear much more substantial.
Tips for Decorating with String Lights Beyond the Christmas Tree
- Add some cozy charm to your fireplace. Drape string lights over the garland on your mantle to create the ultimate cozy fireplace. If your fireplace is purely decorative, consider gathering string lights together in the hearth to brighten up the space.
- Actually use your Christmas lights for lighting. Rather than hanging your string lights, try gathering them up in a Mason jar or cloche to create additional soft lighting in your home. The effect is both aesthetically pleasing and much more festive than a regular lamp.
- Show off your Christmas cards in style. Want a surefire way to add holiday cheer to your home? Hang up your loved ones’ Christmas cards on string lights using small clothespins instead of storing them in a basket.
- Get crafty with the whole family. If you’re looking for a fun craft project to do over the holidays, consider cutting out stars from leftover wrapping paper and attaching them onto your Christmas lights. Another idea (from A Bubbly Life) is to shape copper coils into spheres and wrap string lights around them to create an alternative to the traditional Christmas wreath.