The complexity of metabolic and regulatory networks presents a great scientific challenge to an integrated view of how individual components contribute to the overall function. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is undoubtedly a suitable technique for global investigations of microbial metabolism, since it allows a view into living cells without disturbing the cellular organisation. Therefore, metabolic processes can be monitored in real time under physiological conditions. In the present paper, examples of the application of NMR to study the metabolism of lactic acid bacteria will be given. These include the analysis of labelling patterns in end-products using 13C as a tracer, thereby establishing metabolic pathways, the detection and quantification of intermediates in the pathway of exopolysaccharide biosynthesis, and on line monitoring of glycolytic kinetics to assess the effect of metabolic engineering strategies.