Metal oxides are among the technologically most important materials. Almost all metals are covered by one oxide layer under ambient conditions. The characterization of oxide surface properties, therefore, is still attracting an increasing amount of attention in surface science. A challenge is provided by the fact that these materials cannot be studied with standard techniques in a straightforward fashion. In this review, we summarize recent results obtained by IR-spectroscopy applied in a reflection-geometry to macroscopic oxide monocrystals. These results provide new insights in the adsorption and subsequent reactions and photoreactions of molecules on these highly interesting, very complex class of materials. In addition, the IR-spectroscopy can also be used to probe photophysical properties, e.g. the generation and decay of electron or hole polarons.