Introduction Multiple surgical approaches and combinations thereof have been described to gain access to the jugular foramen. In an area laden with important neurovascular structures, care must be taken in choosing the best surgical approach for treatment of rare pathologies involving this region. Methods This manuscript provides a comprehensive review of the relevant anatomy along with an overview of the various approaches to the jugular foramen. In an attempt to simplify the various concepts, we propose a basic distinction into anterolateral and posterolateral approaches based on the main trajectory targeting the jugular foramen. Conclusion The anatomy surrounding the jugular foramen is exceedingly complex and requires in-depth understanding of skull base and head and neck relationships.