Bromodomains, epigenetic readers that recognize acetylated lysine residues in histone tails, are potential drug targets in cancer and inflammation. Herein we review the crystal structures of human bromodomains in complex with histone tails and analyze the main interaction motifs. The histone backbone is extended and occupies, in one of the two possible orientations, the bromodomain surface groove lined by the ZA and BC loops. The acetyl-lysine side chain is buried in the cavity between the four helices of the bromodomain, and its oxygen atom accepts hydrogen bonds from a structural water molecule and a conserved asparagine residue in the BC loop. In stark contrast to this common binding motif, a large variety of ancillary interactions emerge from our analysis. In 10 of 26 structures, a basic side chain (up to five residues up- or downstream in sequence with respect to the acetyl-lysine) interacts with the carbonyl groups of the C-terminal turn of helix αB. Furthermore, the complexes reveal many heterogeneous backbone hydrogen bonds (direct or water-bridged). These interactions contribute unselectively to the binding of acetylated histone tails to bromodomains, which provides further evidence that specific recognition is modulated by combinations of multiple histone modifications and multiple modules of the proteins involved in transcription.