This butterfly inhabits meadows and woodland clearings with plenty of flowering plants, both in the lowlands and in the mountains. It is not usually found at altitudes above 1500m except in the Asian mountains where it is known also from higher altitudes. It does not occur in Ireland, England, Portugal, or Spain. Its range of distribution extends from the Pyrenees, across the Central Massif, the Alps, and the Carpathians as far as central Asia. It inhabits all European countries including Norway, where it appears rarely and only in certain places. A great number of different geographical races and individual forms are distinguished in this extensive region. The most striking specimens include the dark race from the eastern Bavarian Alps (ssp. hartmanni Stdf.); f. melania Hon. has the most pronounced dark colouring.

The Clouded Apollo is quite common in some places in central Europe but the inhabited areas are strictly limited in size. The female lays whitish eggs with a granular surface. The caterpillar feeds only on sunny days, otherwise it is hidden under leaves or stones. The blunt-ended chrysalis lies on the ground in a light spun covering. To prevent the continuing disappearance of this butterfly from many places in central Europe, it is now protected in some regions.