As a consequence of their segmented arrangement and the diversity of their tissue derivatives, somites are key elements in the establishment of the metameric body plan in vertebrates. This article aims to largely review what is known about somite development, from the initial stages of somite formation through the process of somite regionalization along the three major body axes. The role of both cell intrinsic mechanisms and environmental cues are evaluated. The periodic and bilaterally synchronous nature of somite formation is proposed to rely on the existence of a developmental clock. Molecular mechanisms underlying these events are reported. The importance of an antero-posterior somitic polarity with respect to somite formation on one hand and body segmentation on the other hand is discussed. Finally, the mechanisms leading to the regionalization of somites along the dorso-ventral and medio-lateral axes are reviewed. This somitic compartmentalization is believed to underlie the segregation of dermis, skeleton, and dorsal and appendicular musculature.