Lidars are active optical remote sensing instruments with unique capabilities for atmospheric sounding. A manifold of atmospheric variables can be profiled using different types of lidar: concentration of species, wind speed, temperature, etc. Among them, measurement of the properties of aerosol particles, whose influence in many atmospheric processes is important but is still poorly stated, stands as one of the main fields of application of current lidar systems. This paper presents a review on fundamentals, technology, methodologies and state-of-the art of the lidar systems used to obtain aerosol information. Retrieval of structural (aerosol layers profiling), optical (backscatter and extinction coefficients) and microphysical (size, shape and type) properties requires however different levels of instrumental complexity; this general outlook is structured following a classification that attends these criteria. Thus, elastic systems (detection only of emitted frequencies), Raman systems (detection also of Raman frequency-shifted spectral lines), high spectral resolution lidars, systems with depolarization measurement capabilities and multi-wavelength instruments are described, and the fundamentals in which the retrieval of aerosol parameters is based is in each case detailed.