To launch an effective antiviral immune response, cells must recognize the virus, activate a cytokine response, and initiate inflammatory processes. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and HSV-2 are nuclear-replicating viruses composed of a double-stranded DNA genome plus glycoproteins that are incorporated into a lipid bilayer envelope that surrounds an icosahedral capsid. Several novel receptors that mediate innate recognition of HSV and that activate the innate immune response have been identified in recent years. The host-virus interactions that lead to type I interferon (IFN), type III IFN, and cytokine production include cellular recognition of viral envelope and structural proteins, recognition of viral genomic DNA and recognition of virus-derived double-stranded RNAs. Such RNAs can interact with cellular pattern-recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors and a number of cytoplasmic and nuclear receptors for virus DNA and virus-derived RNAs. In this review, I present a systematic overview of innate cellular recognition of HSV infection that leads to immune activation, and I discuss the implications of the known cell-host interactions. In addition, I discuss the use of innate stimulation to improve anti-HSV treatment and vaccine response and I discuss future research aims. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.