Two-dimensional metal–organic frameworks (2D MOFs) have attracted intensive attention owing to tailorable composition and structures, unique dimension-dependent properties, and tunable surface chemistry. Therefore, applications of 2D MOFs have been explored widely in many fields. To make practical application of the 2D MOFs fast, it is of vital importance to develop low-cost, controllable and facile synthesis. In recent years, significant progresses have been achieved in the synthesis of 2D MOFs nanosheets. In this review, we summarize the effective synthetic strategies, dividing them into top-down and bottom-up methods. Subsequently, we discuss the applications of these 2D MOFs nanosheets in electrocatalysis, photocatalysis, energy conversion/storage, gas separation, sensing and adhesion, and share insights into the challenges and prospects in this field.