The technical properties of helium II (‘superfluid’ helium) are presented in view of its applications to the cooling of superconducting devices, particularly in particle accelerators. Cooling schemes are discussed in terms of heat transfer performance and limitations. Large-capacity refrigeration techniques below 2 K are reviewed, with regard to thermodynamic cycles as well as process machinery. Examples drawn from existing or planned projects illustrate the presentation. Keywords: superfluid helium, cryogenics.