The larvae feed on Salicaceae (willows like Salix caprea) and Betulaceae (birches like Betula pendula or Betula pubescens), rarely probably also on other woods.
Nymphalis antiopa inhabits large forests, particularly in cool, moist, mountainous areas. It is rarely found in parks, especially in years with higher abundance.
Nymphalis antiopa occurs in a single generation per year. Overwintered adults fly from April to June, sometimes even early or mid-July. Oviposition takes place much later than in Nymphalis polychloros. The caterpillars can be found from June to August, often in larger communities. The resulting butterflies appear in August/September.
Nymphalis antiopa is endangered through monotonization and darkening of the forests, removal of economically worthless soft woods, dense coniferous afforestation and forest fragmentation. Nymphalis antiopa itself has also pronounced cycles of abundance (possibly influenced by parasitoids). Nymphalis antiopa was quite common on the Adelegg (a prealpine low mountain in Southern Germany) between 1990-1996. After this period Nymphalis antiopa was very rare there again. First new own observations succeeded not before 20010 and 2011. Elsewhere, such as in the Upper Bavarian Alps Nymphalis antiopa was observed regularly in the years 2004-2007 (Mario Peluso, Ulrich Rau).
The distribution is Holarctic. Nymphalis antiopa occurs from Northern Spain through Europe and temperate Asia to North America.