Streptococcus pyogenes (group A Streptococcus, GAS) is a human-adapted pathogen responsible for a wide spectrum of disease. GAS can cause relatively mild illnesses, such as strep throat or impetigo, and less frequent but severe life-threatening diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. GAS is an important public health problem causing significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. The main route of GAS transmission between humans is through close or direct physical contact, and particularly via respiratory droplets. The upper respiratory tract and skin are major reservoirs for GAS infections. The ability of GAS to establish an infection in the new host at these anatomical sites primarily results from two distinct physiological processes, namely bacterial adhesion and colonization. These fundamental aspects of pathogenesis rely upon a variety of GAS virulence factors, which are usually under strict transcriptional regulation. Considerable progress has been made in better understanding these initial infection steps. This review summarizes our current knowledge of the molecular mechanisms of GAS adhesion and colonization.