Viral infections represent a major threat for mankind. The adaptive immune system plays a key role in both viral clearance and disease pathogenesis, and, accordingly, understanding how lymphocytes interact with different viruses is critical to design more effective vaccination and therapeutic strategies. The recent advent of intravital microscopy has enabled the real-time visualization of the complex interplay between viruses and the ensuing adaptive immune response in living organisms. Here, we will review the most significant recent insights on antiviral adaptive immune responses obtained through intravital imaging. We will also discuss what challenges lie ahead and what we think are the most promising areas for future research. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.