Glucocorticoids (GCs), as ligands for the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), represent one of the most effective and frequently used classes of drugs for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive therapy. In addition, its role in physiological and pathophysiological processes makes the GR an important research target. The past decades have yielded a wealth of insight into the physiological and pharmacological effects of GCs. Today's era of next generation sequencing techniques is now beginning to elucidate the molecular and genomic circuits underlying GR's cell type-specific actions. This review focuses on the concepts and insights gained from recent studies in two of the most important tissues for GC action: the liver (mediating GR's metabolic effects) and macrophages (as the main target of anti-inflammatory GC therapy). We summarize results obtained from transgenic mouse models, molecular and genome-wide studies to illustrate GR's complex interactions with DNA, chromatin, co-regulators and other transcription factors. Characterizing the cell type-specific transcriptional complexes assembled around GR will pave the road for the development of new anti-inflammatory and metabolic therapies in the future.