The hydration of the alkali metal ions in aqueous solution has been studied by large angle X-ray scattering (LAXS) and double difference infrared spectroscopy (DDIR). The structures of the dimethyl sulfoxide solvated alkali metal ions in solution have been determined to support the studies in aqueous solution. The results of the LAXS and DDIR measurements show that the sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium ions all are weakly hydrated with only a single shell of water molecules. The smaller lithium ion is more strongly hydrated, most probably with a second hydration shell present. The influence of the rubidium and cesium ions on the water structure was found to be very weak, and it was not possible to quantify this effect in a reliable way due to insufficient separation of the O-D stretching bands of partially deuterated water bound to these metal ions and the O-D stretching bands of the bulk water. Aqueous solutions of sodium, potassium and cesium iodide and cesium and lithium hydroxide have been studied by LAXS and M-O bond distances have been determined fairly accurately except for lithium. However, the number of water molecules binding to the alkali metal ions is very difficult to determine from the LAXS measurements as the number of distances and the temperature factor are strongly correlated. A thorough analysis of M-O bond distances in solid alkali metal compounds with ligands binding through oxygen has been made from available structure databases. There is relatively strong correlation between M-O bond distances and coordination numbers also for the alkali metal ions even though the M-O interactions are weak and the number of complexes of potassium, rubidium and cesium with well-defined coordination geometry is very small. The mean M-O bond distance in the hydrated sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium ions in aqueous solution have been determined to be 2.43(2), 2.81(1), 2.98(1) and 3.07(1) Å, which corresponds to six-, seven-, eight- and eight-coordination. These coordination numbers are supported by the linear relationship of the hydration enthalpies and the M-O bond distances. This correlation indicates that the hydrated lithium ion is four-coordinate in aqueous solution. New ionic radii are proposed for four- and six-coordinate lithium(I), 0.60 and 0.79 Å, respectively, as well as for five- and six-coordinate sodium(I), 1.02 and 1.07 Å, respectively. The ionic radii for six- and seven-coordinate K(+), 1.38 and 1.46 Å, respectively, and eight-coordinate Rb(+) and Cs(+), 1.64 and 1.73 Å, respectively, are confirmed from previous studies. The M-O bond distances in dimethyl sulfoxide solvated sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium ions in solution are very similar to those observed in aqueous solution.