Spectroscopic methods with high spatial resolution are essential for understanding the physical and chemical properties of nanoscale materials, including quantum structures and biological surfaces. An optical technique is reviewed that relies on the enhanced electric fields in the proximity of a sharp, laser-irradiated metal tip. These fields are utilized for spatially confined probing of various optical signals, thus allowing for a detailed sample characterization far below the diffraction limit. In addition, tip-enhanced fields also provide the sensitivity crucial for the detection of nanoscale volumes. After outlining the principles of near-field optics, the mechanisms contributing to local field enhancement and how it can be used to enhance optical signals are discussed. Different experimental methods are presented and several recent examples of Raman and fluorescence microscopy with 10 nm spatial resolution of single molecules are reviewed.