To understand processes in a living cell, sophisticated and creative approaches are required that can be used for gathering quantitative information about large number of components interacting across temporal and spatial scales without major disruption of the integral network of processes. A physical method of analysis that can meet these requirements is fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), which is an ultrasensitive and non-invasive detection method capable of single-molecule and real-time resolution. Since its introduction about 3 decades ago, this until recently emerging technology has reached maturity. As commercially built equipment is now available, FCS is extensively applied for extracting biological information from living cells unattainable by other methods, and new biological concepts are formulated based on findings by FCS. In this review, we focus on examples in the field of molecular cellular biology. The versatility of the technique in this field is illustrated in studies of single-molecule dynamics and conformational flexibility of proteins, and the relevance of conformational flexibility for biological functions regarding the multispecificity of antibodies, modulation of activity of C5a receptors in clathrin-mediated endocytosis and multiplicity of functional responses mediated by the p53 tumor suppressor protein; quantitative characterization of physicochemical properties of the cellular interior; protein trafficking; and ligand-receptor interactions. FCS can also be used to study cell-to-cell communication, here exemplified by clustering of apoptotic cells via bystander killing by hydrogen peroxide.