Background Although epilepsy is common in children with cerebral palsy (CP), no data exists on prevalence rates of CP and epilepsy. Aims To describe epilepsy in children with CP, and to examine the association between epilepsy and neonatal characteristics, associated impairments and CP subtypes. Methods Data on 9654 children with CP born between 1976 and 1998 and registered in 17 European registers belonging to the SCPE network (Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe) were analyzed. Results A total of 3424 (35%) children had a history of epilepsy. Among them, seventy-two percent were on medication at time of registration. Epilepsy was more frequent in children with a dyskinetic or bilateral spastic type and with other associated impairments. The prevalence of CP with epilepsy was 0.69 (99% CI, 0.66–0.72) per 1000 live births and followed a quadratic trend with an increase from 1976 to 1983 and a decrease afterwards. Neonatal characteristics independently associated with epilepsy were the presence of a brain malformation or a syndrome, a term or moderately preterm birth compared with a very premature birth, and signs of perinatal distress including neonatal seizures, neonatal ventilation and admission to a neonatal care unit. Conclusions The prevalence of CP with epilepsy followed a quadratic trend in 1976–1998 and mirrored that of the prevalence of CP during this period. The observed relationship between epilepsy and associated impairments was expected; however it requires longitudinal studies to be better understood.