The study of angiogenesis has grown exponentially over the past 40 years with the recognition that angiogenesis is essential for numerous pathologies and, more recently, with the advent of successful drugs to inhibit angiogenesis in tumours. The main problem with angiogenesis research remains the choice of appropriate assays to evaluate the efficacy of potential new drugs and to identify potential targets within the angiogenic process. This selection is made more complex by the recognition that heterogeneity occurs, not only within the endothelial cells themselves, but also within the specific microenvironment to be studied. Thus, it is essential to choose the assay conditions and cell types that most closely resemble the angiogenic disease being studied. This is especially important when aiming to translate data from in vitro to in vivo and from preclinical to the clinic. Here we critically review and highlight recent advances in the principle assays in common use including those for endothelial cell proliferation, migration, differentiation and co-culture with fibroblasts and mural cells in vitro, vessel outgrowth from organ cultures and in vivo assays such as chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM), zebrafish, sponge implantation, corneal, dorsal air sac, chamber and tumour angiogenesis models. Finally, we briefly discuss the direction likely to be taken in future studies, which include the use of increasingly sophisticated imaging analysis systems for data acquisition.