Bacterial genomes are organized by a plethora of chromatin proteins and physical mechanisms. This organization appears to be hierarchical with DNA folding events at the nm scale influencing higher levels of chromosome organization. Besides acting in shaping the genome these factors also play important regulatory roles in numerous DNA transactions. While DNA folding mechanisms operating at the nm scale are fairly well understood, it has been hard to translate this knowledge into accurate models that describe the complete dynamics of the genome. In recent years new techniques have evolved that are key to filling the current gaps in understanding. Particularly insightful in this light appear techniques that probe architectural properties of chromatin proteins on single molecules, techniques that map the binding of protein components and spatial structure on a genome-wide basis and improved imaging techniques that provide resolutions capable of resolving substructures/heterogeneities in the nucleoid. Moreover, bioinformatic and polymer physics approaches are starting to provide novel insights. In our opinion, an important aim in the field is to generate an accurate and complete description of the nucleoid and its dynamics at all scales. A first step towards this aim has now been set by bringing together people from diverse disciplinary backgrounds at the Lorentz centre workshop ‘Biology and Physics of Bacterial Genome Organization’ in Leiden, the Netherlands from 18 to 22 June 2012.