Betws-y-Coed lies in the Snowdonia National Park, in a valley near the point where the River Conwy is joined by the River Llugwy and the River Lledr, and was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century. The village grew very slowly with the development of the local lead mining industry. In 1815, the Waterloo Bridge built by Thomas Telford to carry the A5 road across the River Conwy and through the village, brought considerable transport-related development. The village became a major coaching centre between Corwen (to the east) and Capel Curig (to the west) on the Irish Mail route from London to Holyhead, which led to the improvement of the roads south to Blaenau Ffestiniog and north to Llanrwst and Conwy. It is a primary destination for the purpose of road signs.
Construction of Betws-y-Coed railway station in 1868, heralding the arrival of the railway line from Llandudno Junction railway station, resulted in a marked population growth, as shown in this table:
The village has a large village green which is the playing field for the local football team. The green is bounded on its western side by the A5 Trunk Road with 19th century buildings including shops, hotels, and the parish church of St. Mary. This church was built on the site of a former cockpit and fairground, and although it is of early English appearance, it was completed as recently as 1873, the internal roof timbers testifying to this relatively young age. The interior also features various types of stone - local bluestone, sandstone (and floor tiles) from Ancaster, and black serpentine from Cornwall. The square bell tower was added in 1907, and the integral church hall was added in the 1970s, the commemorative stone being laid by the Earl of Ancaster in 1976.
On the southern side of the green is Betws-y-Coed railway station with cafes and tourist shops and a car park. In the former railway goods yard, reached from the station, is the Conwy Valley Railway Museum with its extensive miniature railway. The village also has a motor museum with a collection of over thirty vintage cars and early automobiles.
Other attractions in the village include the Miners' Bridge and the fourteenth century church of St. Michael, which is the origin of the name Betws (meaning "prayer-house"). There are scenic walks beside the river Llugwy, which flows through the village, and the River Conwy provides further attractions including the Fairy Glen, the Conwy Fish pass and waterfalls including the Conwy Falls. The Pont-y-Pair Falls are in the centre of the village, and nearby are the famous Swallow Falls.