Metal ions are inextricably involved with nucleic acids due to their polyanionic nature. In order to understand the structure and function of RNAs and DNAs, one needs to have detailed pictures on the structural, thermodynamic, and kinetic properties of metal ion interactions with these biomacromolecules. In this review we first compile the physicochemical properties of metal ions found and used in combination with nucleic acids in solution. The main part then describes the various methods developed over the past decades to investigate metal ion binding by nucleic acids in solution. This includes for example hydrolytic and radical cleavage experiments, mutational approaches, as well as kinetic isotope effects. In addition, spectroscopic techniques like EPR, lanthanide(III) luminescence, IR and Raman as well as various NMR methods are summarized. Aside from gaining knowledge about the thermodynamic properties on the metal ion-nucleic acid interactions, especially NMR can be used to extract information on the kinetics of ligand exchange rates of the metal ions applied. The final section deals with the influence of anions, buffers, and the solvent permittivity on the binding equilibria between metal ions and nucleic acids. Little is known on some of these aspects, but it is clear that these three factors have a large influence on the interaction between metal ions and nucleic acids.