Show caves may not be what comes to mind when you think of things to do in Germany, but Germany has 51 of them!
A show cave is loosely defined as a cave that is suitable for visitors. One that is accessible by foot using walkways and stairs. It’s normally equipped with lighting. They also frequently include guided tours as well.
Two such show caves are found near Sonnenbühl, ~60km south of Stuttgart. Besides castles, they’re one of my favourite sights near Stuttgart. Bear Cave (Bärenhöhle) is famous for the cave bear skeletons found there and Fog Cave (Nebelhöhle), is one of the longest and most beautiful show caves in southern Germany. We went to Bear Cave first which is only accessible by a guided tour.
Tours are only available in German. Through the tour, I learned that Bear Cave had been used as a refuge for people. Because it had a constant temperature regardless of the temperature outside.
It was later used as a graveyard, then later on as a dump and finally a mass grave before its rebirth as a show cave.
Travel tip: It’s still worth a visit even if you don’t speak German.
Bear Cave wasn’t just used by people though. It was heavily used by cave bears of which numerous skeletons were found. Pretty incredible considering that this creature that has been extinct for over 15,000 years. Hyenas and wolves also used Bear Cave. Somehow I’m thinking I wouldn’t want to be sharing a cave with cave bears, hyenas and wolves, but maybe that’s just me.
Hyenas and wolves also used Bear Cave. Somehow I’m thinking I wouldn’t want to be sharing a cave with cave bears, hyenas and wolves, but maybe that’s just me.
Bear Cave is beautiful in itself and although only 250m of it is open to the public, I enjoyed it and the guided tour. I was curious to see how Fog Cave, one of the longest caves in southern Germany with 450m open to the public compared.
Guided tours are available of Fog Cave, but not when we were there. We went on our own, descending what seemed like endless steps followed by the seemingly endless stalagmite and stalactite formations that had me oohing and ahhing.
While much tamer than Horne Lake Caves, which I visited in Canada, I still enjoyed both Bear Cave and Fog Cave. I would classify show caves as a family friendly outing rather than an adventurous one. When you visit a show cave, you simply walk through them, rather than actually caving. If you’re going to do just one, I would have to recommend Fog Cave because it’s more grandiose. If you do both, then I would recommend going to Bear Cave first, then Fog Cave. Both show caves are accessible for anyone capable of walking, (but I wouldn’t recommend doing it on crutches as I did). Some of the kids under the age of 6 were afraid of the skeletons in Bear Cave and the dimly lit atmosphere in both caves, so keep this in mind if you’re going with young children.
The visits to the caves are relatively short so you can combine them a visit to Lichtenstein Castle,
Bear Cave and Fog Cave are open daily from April – Oct and only on weekends and public holidays in November and March. They’re closed from December – February for bat conservation.
Neither cave is directly accessible via public transportation so if you go by bus you must be prepared to walk a bit. For more info visit the Höhlenwelten Sonnenbühl website (only in German).