The nasal route is widely used for the administration of drugs for both topical and systemic action. At an early stage in drug discovery and during the development process, it is essential to gain a thorough insight of the nasal absorption potential, metabolism and toxicity of the active compound and the components of the drug formulation. Human nasal epithelial cell cultures may provide a reliable screening tool for pharmaco-toxicological assessment of potential nasal drug formulations. The aim of this review is to give an overview of the information relevant for the development of a human nasal epithelial cell culture model useful during drug discovery and development. A primary goal in the development of in vitro cell culture systems is to maintain differentiated morphology and biochemical features, resembling the original tissue as closely as possible. The potential and limitations of the existing in vitro human nasal models are summarized. The following topics related to cell culture methodology are discussed: (i) primary cultures versus cell lines; (ii) cell-support substrate; (iii) medium and medium supplements; and (iv) the air-liquid interface model versus liquid-liquid. Several considerations with respect to the use of in vitro systems for pharmaceutical applications (transport, metabolism, assessment of ciliary toxicity) are also discussed.