High-resolution x-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) have been used to study BiFeO3 thin films grown on the bare and SrRuO3 buffered (001) SrTiO3 substrates. Reciprocal space mapping (RSM) around (002) and (103) reflections revealed that BFO films with a thickness of about 200 nm were almost fully relaxed and had a rhombohedral structure. Cross-sectional, high-resolution TEM showed that the films started to relax at a very early stage of growth, which was consistent with the RSM results. A thin intermediate layer of about 2 nm was observed at the interface, which had a smaller lattice than the overgrown film. Twist distortions about the c axis to release the shear strain introduced by the growth of rhombic (001) BiFeO3 on cubic (001) SrTiO3 were also observed. The results indicate that a strained, coherent BiFeO3 film on (001) SrTiO3 is very difficult to maintain and (111) STO substrates are preferable.