A decade ago, the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in a cold atomic vapour came as a nice confirmation of the ideal gas theory. Since then, the research on cold quantum gases has undergone a tremendous advance. It provides experimentalists with a variety of tools for the study of many-body quantum systems, with the high precision achievable in atomic physics. For instance atomic motion in the periodic potential of an optical lattice mimics the physics of electrons in solid-state devices. Another example is the nucleation of quantized vortices in rotating gases, which can lead to Quantum Hall-like phenomena. The talk will give an overview of recent advances in this field, and show how cold atomic assemblies can be considered as quantum simulators of the rich dynamics of condensed-matter systems.