Algebraic quantum field theory is an approach to relativistic quantum physics, notably the theory of elementary particles, which complements other modern developments in this field. It is particularly powerful for structural analysis but has also proven to be useful in the rigorous treatment of models. In this contribution a non-technical survey is given with emphasis on interesting recent developments and future perspectives. Topics covered are the relation between the algebraic approach and conventional quantum field theory, its significance for the resolution of conceptual problems (such as the revision of the particle concept) and its role in the characterization and possibly also construction of quantum field theories with the help of modular theory. The algebraic approach has also shed new light on the treatment of quantum field theories on curved spacetime and made contact with recent developments in string theory (algebraic holography).