Template-directing strategies for synthesising metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have brought about new frontiers in materials chemistry due to the possibility of applying control over crystal growth, morphology and secondarily generated pores. In particular, hard templates have resulted in performance breakthroughs in catalysis, secondary ion batteries, supercapacitance, drug delivery and molecular sieving by offering facile routes for maximising the surface areas of shape-directed MOFs. In this tutorial review, a variety of hard templates employed to direct MOFs' growth into superior nano-architectures with enhanced functionalities are discussed. Hard templates discussed here include polymers, silica nanostructures, metal oxides, layered metal hydroxides, noble metals, graphene, zeolites and MOFs themselves. These templates can be divided into three broad categories: sacrificial, semi-sacrificial and non-sacrificial templates. We elaborate on the rationale behind the choice of nanomaterials as hard templates, how hard templates direct the synthesis of MOFs, how sacrificial hard templates can be removed from the final product and what the enhanced functionalities of hard-templated MOFs are. In the case of non-sacrificial hard-templates, synergistic effects arising from the coexistence of the MOF and the hard template will also be reviewed. © 2021 The Royal Society of Chemistry.