Renal osteodystrophy is a feature of chronic kidney disease (CKD), with increasing prevalence as CKD progresses. This bone disease is responsible for major morbidity, including fractures, and a deterioration in the quality of life and its sequelae. Circulating biomarkers of renal osteodystrophy typically indicate bone turnover, but not other features of bone, like bone volume, mineralization, quality or strength. Bone turnover can be considered to be primarily a reflection of bone cell activity, in particular that of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Since current treatments for bone disease usually target cellular activity, biomarkers are considered to be able to contribute to the decision-making for treatment and its follow-up. In CKD, one has to consider the impact of a diminished clearance of biomarkers or their altered metabolism, both potentially limiting its clinical use. Here, several aspects of the most frequently used biomarkers of bone turnover are reviewed, with an emphasis on the specific situation represented by CKD. This review is based on the overview lecture at the symposium held in Amsterdam, September 23, 2016: "The Bone In CKD", organized by the CKD-MBD working group of ERA-EDTA.