The metabolic syndrome describes a clustering of risk factors—visceral obesity, dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, and salt-sensitive hypertension—that increases mortality related to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The prevalence of these concurrent comorbidities is ~ 25–30% worldwide, and metabolic syndrome therefore presents a significant global public health burden. Evidence from clinical and preclinical studies indicates that glucocorticoid excess is a key causal feature of metabolic syndrome. This is not increased systemic in circulating cortisol, rather increased bioavailability of active glucocorticoids within tissues. This review examines the role of covert glucocorticoid excess on the hypertension of the metabolic syndrome. Here, the role of the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes, which exert intracrine and paracrine control over glucocorticoid signalling, is examined. 11βHSD1 amplifies glucocorticoid action in cells and contributes to hypertension through direct and indirect effects on the kidney and vasculature. The deactivation of glucocorticoid by 11βHSD2 controls ligand access to glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors: loss of function promotes salt retention and hypertension. As for hypertension in general, high blood pressure in the metabolic syndrome reflects a complex interaction between multiple systems. The clear association between high dietary salt, glucocorticoid production, and metabolic disorders has major relevance for human health and warrants systematic evaluation.