The mammalian main olfactory bulb is a crucial processing centre for the sense of smell. The olfactory bulb forms early during development and is functional from birth. However, the olfactory system continues to mature and change throughout life as a target of constitutive adult neurogenesis. Our Review synthesises current knowledge of prenatal, postnatal and adult olfactory bulb development, focusing on the maturation, morphology, functions and interactions of its diverse constituent glutamatergic and GABAergic cell types. We highlight not only the great advances in the understanding of olfactory bulb development made in recent years, but also the gaps in our present knowledge that most urgently require addressing.