Summary Symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg in atherosclerotic disease. Beneath the surface are multiple patho-physiological processes taking place in and around the vessel wall. The increasing knowledge in the field of vascular biology also reveals new imaging targets as biological markers of the disease. Promising targets particularly relate to the early detection of subjects at risk and monitoring of therapeutical efforts. Among other imaging modalities magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an emerging tool with strong potential and a favourable safety profile. This article summarizes the different approaches of imaging various facets of atherosclerotic disease by MRI. In particular, endothelial function, arterial stiffness, vessel remodeling, angiogenesis inside the vessel wall, vessel stenosis and plaque characterization are addressed. As such MRI is a very versatile diagnostic tool for vascular biology research with high diagnostic accuracy and reproducibility of its results. Moreover, MRI allows for comprehensive studies, applying several techniques within one exam.