The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in 2013 met in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) as an innovative and interactive congress involving more than 30,000 participants. There were 10,490 abstract submissions and a total of 227 hotline, basic science hotline and trial update submissions. Participants were involved from more than 150 countries. To make the congress manageable for participants, related topics were grouped together in ‘villages’ and a smart electronic application allowed the participants to guide their way through the congress and choose the sessions of interest. The innovative new program was initiated by the ESC Congress Programme Committee and the Congress Chair (Keith AA Fox, Chair 2012–2014) has responsibility for the design and delivery of the scientific program. The spotlight of the congress was ‘the heart interacting with systemic organs’, chosen because of the importance of cardiovascular disease conditions crossing conventional boundaries. In all 572 abstracts, the work involved an interaction between the heart and another organ, such as the brain, lungs, kidney, vasculature or inflammation system. In addition, innovative new approaches linked basic science and clinical science and the new ‘hubs of the congress’ allowed excellent interaction and exchange of ideas.