Bacteria of the genus Brucella are Gram-negative pathogens of several animal species that cause a zoonotic disease in humans known as brucellosis or Malta fever. Within their hosts, brucellae reside within different cell types where they establish a replicative niche and remain protected from the immune response. The aim of this article is to discuss recent advances in the field in the specific context of the Brucella intracellular ‘lifestyle’. We initially discuss the different host cell targets and their relevance during infection. As it represents the key to intracellular replication, the focus is then set on the maturation of the Brucella phagosome, with particular emphasis on the Brucella factors that are directly implicated in intracellular trafficking and modulation of host cell signalling pathways. Recent data on the role of the type IV secretion system are discussed, novel effector molecules identified and how some of them impact on trafficking events. Current knowledge on Brucella gene regulation and control of host cell death are summarized, as they directly affect intracellular persistence. Understanding how Brucella molecules interplay with their host cell targets to modulate cellular functions and establish the intracellular niche will help unravel how this pathogen causes disease.