Each plant starts life from the zygote formed by the fusion of an egg and a sperm cell. The zygote gives rise to a multicellular embryo that displays a basic plant body organization and is surrounded by nutritive endosperm and maternal tissue. How the body organization is generated had already been studied before the genome sequence of Arabidopsis thaliana was completed 10 years ago, but several regulatory mechanisms of embryo development have since been discovered or analysed in more detail. Although this progress did not strictly depend on the availability of the genome sequence itself, several advances were considerably facilitated. In this review, we mainly address early embryo development, highlighting general mechanisms and crucial regulators, including phytohormones, that are involved in patterning the embryo and were mainly analysed in the post-genome decade. We also highlight some unsolved problems, provide a brief outlook on the future of Arabidopsis embryo research, and discuss how the knowledge gained from Arabidopsis could be translated to crop species.