Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by a strain of coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has become a global pandemic that has affected the lives of billions of individuals. Extensive studies have revealed that SARS-CoV-2 shares many biological features with SARS-CoV, the zoonotic virus that caused the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, including the system of cell entry, which is triggered by binding of the viral spike protein to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2. Clinical studies have also reported an association between COVID-19 and cardiovascular disease. Pre-existing cardiovascular disease seems to be linked with worse outcomes and increased risk of death in patients with COVID-19, whereas COVID-19 itself can also induce myocardial injury, arrhythmia, acute coronary syndrome and venous thromboembolism. Potential drug–disease interactions affecting patients with COVID-19 and comorbid cardiovascular diseases are also becoming a serious concern. In this Review, we summarize the current understanding of COVID-19 from basic mechanisms to clinical perspectives, focusing on the interaction between COVID-19 and the cardiovascular system. By combining our knowledge of the biological features of the virus with clinical findings, we can improve our understanding of the potential mechanisms underlying COVID-19, paving the way towards the development of preventative and therapeutic solutions.