Understanding and controlling the interactions between nanoscale objects and living cells is of great importance for arising diagnostic and therapeutic applications of nanoparticles and for nanotoxicology studies. Here we report a detailed transmission electron microscopy (TEM) study of the uptake of ca. 16 nm surface-modified gold nanoparticles by human fibroblast cells (HeLa cells). It is demonstrated that the well-established endosomal route of cellular uptake can be bypassed to a significant extent by controlling the uptake mechanism either via the delivery of the nanoparticles by liposomes or by surface modification of the nanoparticles with so-called cell penetrating peptides (CPPs). Successful nuclear targeting is demonstrated using surface modification with a cocktail of CPPs and a peptide acting as a nuclear localization signal (NLS).