Catalysis by metallic nanoparticles is certainly among the most intensely studied problems in modern nanoscience. However, reliable tests for catalytic performance of such nanoparticles are often poorly defined, which makes comparison and benchmarking rather difficult. We tackle in this tutorial review a subset of well-studied reactions that take place in aqueous phase and for which a comprehensive kinetic analysis is available. Two of these catalytic model reactions are under consideration here, namely the reduction of (i) p-nitrophenol and (ii) hexacyanoferrate (iii), both by borohydride ions. Both reactions take place at the surface of noble metal nanoparticles at room temperature and can be accurately monitored by UV-vis spectroscopy. Moreover, the total surface area of the nanoparticles in solution can be known with high precision and thus can be directly used for the kinetic analysis. Hence, these model reactions represent cases of heterogeneous catalysis that can be modelled with the accuracy typically available for homogeneous catalysis. Both model reactions allow us to discuss a number of important concepts and questions, namely the dependence of catalytic activity on the size of the nanoparticles, electrochemistry of nanoparticles, surface restructuring, the use of carrier systems and the role of diffusion control.