Born at Wipfeld in Lower Franconia, Celtes pursued his studies at Cologne and Heidelberg. While at Heidelberg, he received instruction from Dalberg and Agricola. For some time he delivered humanist lectures during his travels to Erfurt, Rostock and Leipzig. His first work was titled Ars versificandi et Carminum ("The art of writing verses and poems")(1486). He further undertook lecture tours to Rome, Florence, Bologna and Venice.
The elector Frederick of Saxony approached the emperor Frederick III, who named Conrad Celtes Poet Laureate (Honored Poet) upon his return to Germany. At this great ceremonial gathering in Nuremberg, Celtes was at the same time presented with a doctoral degree. Celtes again made a lecturing tour throughout the empire and during this time went to Krakow. At Krakow (1488), he applied himself to mathematics, astronomy and the natural sciences and while there, he became friends with many other humanists, such as Lorenzo Rab and Bonacursius. He also founded a learned society, based on the Roman academies. The Krakow society was called Sodalitas Litterarum Vistulana ("Literary Society at Vistula"). In Hungary he formed the Sodalitas Litterarum Hungaria ("Hungarian Literary Society"). He made stops at Regensburg, Passau and Nuremberg (and Mainz?) At Heidelberg he founded the Sodalitas Litterarum Rhenana ("Rhineland Literary Society"). Later he went to Lübeck and Ingolstadt. While the plague ravaged Ingolstadt, Celtes taught at Heidelberg. By now he was a professor. In 1497 Celtes was called to Vienna by the emperor Maximilian I, who honored him as teacher of the art of poetry and conversation with an imperial Privilegium, the first of its kind. There he lectured on the works of classical writers and in 1502 founded the Collegium Poetarum, a college for poets. He died at Vienna a few years later.
Conrad Celtes' teachings had lasting effects, particularly in the field of history. He was the first to teach the history of the world as a whole. He started work on the Germania Illustrata with Germania generalis and De rigine situ, moribus et institutis Norimbergae libellus ("Booklet of structure, habits and institutions of Nuremberg"). He discovered and published the writings of Hroswitha of Gandersheim. He discovered a map of the military roads of the Roman Empire, the Tabula Peutingeriana, or Peutinger Table. He collected numerous Greek and Latin manuscripts in his function as librarian of the imperial library that was founded by Maximilian.
He was more of a free-thinking humanist and placed a higher value on the ancient heathen, rather than the christian ideal. His friend C. Pirkheimer had blunt discussions with him on that subject.