Bembibre lies in the valley of the River Boeza, the main tributary of the River Sil, and which is also known as the Upper Bierzo Valley.

Its name (bene vivere) refers to the favourable conditions of the land, its pleasant climate and its strategic location for trade, linking the Meseta with the low-lying region of El Bierzo. Its economy traditionally depended on agriculture and livestock, until the arrival of the railway, when the rich coalfields provided a new source of wealth.

The buildings stand on an area of high ground flanked on one side by the ruins of a castle, which the locals refer to as a palace, the property of the Counts of Alba de Liste, lords of the town since the 15th century. The houses, featuring the traditional mud and slate walls line the twisting streets, some of which are cobbled. Well worth a visit are the Romanesque churches of San Pedro and San Ecce Homo, which form an attractive view set against a spectacular natural backdrop.