The larva feeds on grasses (Poaceae).
Coenonympha pamphilus inhabits open land as for example extensive meadows, fens, nutrient-poor grasslands and pastures. Sometimes it is also found in larger woodland clearings. Previously the moth was common in the agricultural fields on margins and grassy paths. There it occurs today only rarely due to intensification.
Coenonympha pamphilus usually flies in three generations per year. The adults fly from April/May to early October. The caterpillar overwinters.
Coenonympha pamphilus is still the most common species of the genus in Central Europe. The butterfly is still to be observed in every extensive grassland (e.g. Swabian Alb) and often in partially dewatered fens, as well as on pastures in the foothills of the northern Alps up to around 1400m above sea level. But it is now quite rare in many other regions. Near Memmingen (Germany) it is extinct in most places and is nowadays almost only found in the vicinity of wetlands in meadows that are mown not more often than twice a year.
The distribution ranges from Northwest Africa across Europe and Asia to Mongolia.