Get Your House Holiday Party–Ready With the Best Indoor Christmas Lights

One brand snagged two spots on our list of top picks.
Best Indoor Christmas Lights

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Gone are the days when traditional incandescent bulbs were the only option for your Christmas tree (though we still have a soft spot for those, too). This holiday season, trim your evergreen—or your banister, mantelpiece, or table—with a set of lights that shows off your unique decorating style. Feeling mid-century? Why not try a string of bulbous cherry-shaped lights. Looking for something a bit more delicate and ethereal? Fairy lights might be calling your name.

Regardless of your personal taste, the best indoor Christmas lights all share a few features in common: They are durable and long-lasting, and they add holiday sparkle like nothing else can. And forget what you know about time limits on seasonal decor—you can still hang these string lights long after Santa has departed. These are our top picks for Christmas lights that will burn brightly for seasons to come.

Our Favorites

Best Standard-Issue: Pretex 100-Count Clear Green Wire Christmas Lights

Best Standard-Issue

Bulb style: Incandescent | Size: 100 lights | Power source: Electric

What We Like

  • Traditional shape
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Up to six strands can be connected

Worth Noting

  • Short length

Why we chose it: Durable, classic style and beloved by many.

One Christmas decor element that will never go out of style are classic green-wire string lights. These from Pretex are the gold standard. They’re inexpensive but durable and can be draped over anything, from a tree to a bush. Plus they’re also waterproof for outdoor use. We love the warm, bright white of the bulbs, which are ideal for trimming that holiday card–perfect tree. While the 100-count length is on the shorter side, they’re relatively inexpensive, and you can plug up to six of these together, making a long strand that can cover most tree lengths.

Best Extra-Long: MZD8391 105-Foot Christmas Lights

Best Extra-Long

Bulb style: LED | Size: 300 lights | Power source: Electric 

What We Like

  • Multicolored
  • Eight lighting modes
  • Low voltage

Worth Noting

  • No remote

Why we chose it: Fun, multicolored lights and a 99-foot-long strand.

If you want to provide your larger tree a bit more flair than simple white bulbs, this extra-long set from MZD8391 offers a wealth of options. Each string measures 105 feet and contains a whopping 300 LED lights. The bright, multicolored lights can flash in eight different patterns, from a slow fade to a twinkle, giving your tree the chance to (literally) shine. And because the bulbs are LED, they are low voltage and don’t get hot to the touch like incandescents do. While this strand is already long, you can also string up to four sets together, for a total of 1,200 lights.

Best Fairy Lights: Pottery Barn Mini LED String Lights

Best Fairy Lights

Bulb style: LED | Size: 5 to 50 feet | Power source: Battery 

What We Like

  • Range of lengths
  • Battery operated
  • On-off timer

Worth Noting

  • No clear wire option

Why we chose it: A delicate design with a powerful battery.

The best indoor Christmas lights aren’t just for your tree. Fairy lights, with a soft glow and teeny-tiny bulbs, are ideal for wrapping around table legs, putting inside a cloche, or framing artwork. We love these fairy lights from Pottery Barn because of the customization. You can choose between silver and gold wire, as well as lengths ranging from 5 to 50 feet. And even though these run on a battery, because they’re LED, they use less power (the battery lasts a solid 150 hours). There is also a handy timer so you can make sure they won’t run all night long.

Best Globe: Minetom Christmas Globe String Lights

Best Globe

Bulb style: LED | Size: 100 lights | Power source: Electric

What We Like

  • Shatterproof bulbs
  • Dimmer
  • Waterproof

Worth Noting

  • Can’t string light sets together

Why we chose it: Shatterproof bulbs with adjustable light.

Sometimes your holiday decor needs a dose of “go big or go home.” Globe lights are an easy way to brighten up your tree or mantelpiece even more, and Minetom’s are our favorite. The sturdy bulbs are waterproof and shatterproof; there are eight lighting modes; and the remote allows you to control everything—aka no need to fiddle with a control panel on a string. With a 0.7-inch diameter, the bulb size itself is also not overwhelmingly large, making these suitable for a small tree or even draping on crown molding.

Best Cluster: Terrain Cluster LED Connectable Light String

Best Cluster

Bulb style: LED | Size: 500 lights | Power source: Electric

What We Like

  • Can connect up to six strands
  • Eight types of twinkle
  • Indoor and outdoor use

Worth Noting

  • Short length

Why we chose it: Elegant and unique bulbs that can be placed anywhere.

For a unique twist on twinkling Christmas lights, we love the sparkle that these cluster lights bring. The extended wire allows the bulb to drape in unexpected ways on a tree or tablescape, and you can even create a shining wreath by wrapping it in a circular shape. These from Terrain are particularly impressive because you can connect several strands together; there are eight different twinkle patterns to program; and even though they’re LED, they emit a lovely, warm glow.

Best Retro: Ballard Cherry String Lights

Best Retro

Bulb style: LED | Size: 120 to 240 lights | Power source: Electric

What We Like

  • Tangle-resistant cable
  • Indoor and outdoor use
  • Shatterproof bulbs

Worth Noting

  • Non-replaceable bulbs

Why we chose it: Old-school style with contemporary electricity.

If you’re looking to channel a little postwar style for the holidays this year, we love Ballard’s lights. The string features three different sizes of white cherry-shaped bulbs, which will give any tree a delightfully retro appeal. But unlike versions from 70 years ago, this set is made from shatter-resistant plastic casings and energy-saving LED bulbs. They’ll look just as good hanging on a patio as they will on an artificial pink Christmas tree.

Best Star-Shaped: Terrain Starry Light Strand

Best Star-Shaped

Bulb style: LED | Size: 20 lights | Power source: Battery 

What We Like

  • Beautiful design
  • Battery operated

Worth Noting

  • Short string

Why we chose it: Gorgeous glow and dramatic flair.

To bring a shimmering, starry night indoors, pick up this pretty strand from Terrain. We love how the star-shaped lights would look on a mantel, but they would also be stellar on your Christmas Eve table. Heck, you don’t even need a topper on a tree with these showstopping bulbs. Aside from the multidimensional star shapes, the set is battery powered, which means you can place it anywhere you’re looking to add a bit of whimsy.

Best Flair: IKEA Karismatisk LED String Light

Best Flair

Bulb style: LED | Size: 12 lights | Power source: Battery 

What We Like

  • Built-in timer
  • Battery operated
  • Unique design

Worth Noting

  • Short strand

Why we chose it: A wacky design with an affordable price.

Who says the best indoor Christmas lights have to be bulbs? This playful set from IKEA resembles papier-mâché flowers but comes in an eye-catching gold that’s perfect for the holidays. Since the bulbs are LED, there are no worries about the external material getting too hot and setting the tree ablaze. What’s more, there’s a built-in timer, which allows you to program the lights to turn on at the same time every day for a six-hour period. Less work for you!

How We Chose These Products

These products were sourced by Domino’s knowledgeable market editor, Cat Dash. She obsessively researched the category with a special focus on quality materials, price point, local makers, and durability. The brands and models that she ultimately selected are not only the best in their respective categories, they are durable and safe. And, of course, all of these lights will look stunning on your tree.

How to Install Indoor Christmas Lights

According to Cara Fox of The Fox Group, the easiest way to install Christmas lights is to divide the tree into four sections vertically. From there, you zigzag the lights from top to bottom of each quarter, connecting new lights until you reach the bottom of the tree.

A good rule of thumb is to only use about 1,000 lights for an 8- to 9-foot tree, or about half that for larger bubble lights. Otherwise you run the risk of overcrowding the tree or running out of lights toward the end. “Take a ‘more is better’ approach: A poorly lit tree or dark spots on a tree feels unfinished,” says Fox.

Shopping Checklist

Types of Christmas lights

The two most popular types of Christmas lights are light-emitting diodes (LED) and incandescent. The former uses less energy and tends to last longer, while the latter is generally less expensive and has that classic warm glow.

Design and shape

There is a shape for whatever tree aesthetic you’re going for, from kitschy old-school Santas to elegant mini string lights to classic incandescents. What you choose ultimately depends on your personal style, bulb preference, and size of your tree; however, you’ll see some more unique shapes emerging on trees nowadays. “Smaller, square-shaped LED Christmas lights are becoming more popular these days, as are large and small bubble rounds,” says Fox. 

Bulb colors

While a warm white hue is the most classic seen on trees, don’t be afraid to inject more color into your tree. And that doesn’t mean limiting yourself to a rainbow array of string lights. “Today the top choices for lights include cool white, warm white, red, or green, plus clear or opaque styles,” says Fox.

Number of bulbs

The number of bulbs you’ll need depends on your decorating project. For example, a 10-foot tree will need more lights than a glowing banister. “We typically buy the 200-light-string size for residential trees,” says Fox. “But depending on your needs, you can find strings up to 500, or as little as 50 for smaller quarters.”

Electricity powered vs. battery operated

While most lights on the market will need to be plugged into an outlet, there are some options for battery-operated lights. They won’t glow as long, but they’re good for those tricky spaces. “The battery-powered light packs are great for areas that don’t have outlets,” says Fox. “A lot of older homes don’t always have outlets by the stair banisters, for example. But whenever we can, we use an outlet.”

Ask Domino

Q: Is it safe to leave indoor Christmas lights on all night?

No. “Always turn off your indoor Christmas lights at night or when you leave your house,” says Sharon Cooksey, fire safety educator for Kidde. “When purchasing lights, consider LED lights, which emit less heat than incandescent lights, so they pose less of a fire hazard.”

Q: Can I hang Christmas lights on a fake tree? 

While some fake Christmas trees may come with prestrung lights, you can still add your own spin to your plastic pine. “Yes, as long as they’re rated for indoor use,” says Cooksey.

Q: Do indoor Christmas lights use a lot of electricity? 

The amount of electricity that your Christmas lights will run you all comes down to the bulb you use. A 100-count string of incandescent mini lights is typically 40 watts, while a 70-count of 5mm LEDs is approximately 4.8 watts, amounting in significantly less power.

“We recommend stringing a maximum of three lights together to minimize power requirements,” says Cooksey. “We, again, also recommend using LED lights, which are more energy efficient.”

The Last Word

The type of Christmas lights that are best for you depend on what you’re looking to decorate. But for the safest, longest-lasting glow, LED bulbs have a bigger life span without using as much energy as incandescent bulbs. The Pretex 100-Count Clear Green Wire Christmas Lights should work for most people, but for a more dainty twinkle, the Pottery Barn Mini LED String Lights are your best bet.