Astronomers have always sought the very best locations for their telescopes. From observatories in city centres, astronomers moved first to nearby mountain tops, then to remote sites in distant countries, to aircraft, and into space. In the past decade we have come to realize that the best astronomical observing conditions on the surface of the earth are to be found on the Antarctic plateau. The combination of high altitude, low temperature, low absolute humidity, low wind and extremely stable atmosphere offers astronomers gains in sensitivity and measurement precision that can exceed two orders of magnitude over even the best temperate sites. In addition, spectral windows are opened up – particularly in the far-infrared and terahertz regions – that are otherwise only accessible from high-flying aircraft or from space. Established and highly successful telescopes at the South Pole are soon to be joined by a new generation of facilities at Concordia Station, including large telescopes and interferometers. It has even been suggested that the largest optical telescopes currently proposed, with diameters of up to 100 m, might achieve their science goals at a lower overall cost if they are built on the Antarctic plateau rather than at a temperate site. Such telescopes offer the possibility of not only detecting earth-like planets in other star systems, but also of analysing their atmospheres spectroscopically.