In our travels around the world, we have been to a good deal of unique cafes. As a former barista of many years, I have a passion for checking out trendy coffee shops everywhere I go. In the more than 50 countries I have visited, few coffee shops stand out more than the Ziferblat Cafe in Moscow.
The Ziferblat is a pay-per-minute cafe located on Tverskaya Street in the Russian capital. Instead of charging guests for drinks and food, the cafe charges guests for the total time they spend at the shop. The Moscow cafe is one of several in the world that go by the same name and adhere to the same concept.
Our Experience Visiting the Ziferblat in Moscow
When we visited Moscow, we scoured the internet for a list of unique things to do. We knew we probably wouldn’t make it back to Russia any time soon, and we wanted to make sure we had some great memories to look back on from Russia’s capital.
Finding the Ziferblat in Moscow
We walked to the cafe from our hotel and, to be honest, got a little lost. Since the cafe is designed to feel like a residential space, it is also housed in a residential building. Apart from the small insignia by the building’s door, you’d never guess that there’s a cafe tucked away inside.
In fact, we really thought we were in the wrong place. Once we determined that we were, indeed, at the correct building, we used the doorbell and said we were going to the Ziferblat. We then proceeded to head up the stairs, which are immediately to the left once you enter the foyer.
Once you make it upstairs, it’s pretty clear you’re in the right place.
Our First Impression of the Ziferblat Cafe in Moscow
When we entered the Ziferblat, we weren’t sure what to think. The place has a very unique charm. Since we didn’t really know what to expect, we also didn’t really know how to react!
The baristas were very kind and understanding of the fact that we didn’t speak Russian. The main barista we were talking to actually spoke wonderful English and was really helpful in explaining how the cafe operates. He happily whipped up some cappuccinos for us, handed us an alarm clock, and set us free to relax and enjoy the space.
Amenities in the Ziferblat in Moscow
The Moscow Ziferblat offers the same amenities you might expect in most cafes. There is free wifi, comfortable seating, and a full coffee bar. While the cafes don’t make full menus of their own food, there is a variety of snacks offered.
One really cool aspect of the Ziferblat is the wide variety of seating arrangements and styles within the cafe. From couches and stools to tables and chairs, there are many different places to get comfortable in the cafe. We weren’t doing any work at the time, so we sat down at a couch together to enjoy our cappuccinos and each other’s presence while warming up from the freezing winter weather.
Paying at the Ziferblat Cafe in Moscow
When we felt satisfied with our time at the Ziferblat, we headed to the bar to settle our tab. The barista took our clock, assessed how much time had passed, and presented us with our bill.
The Ziferblat charges per minute of time spent in the cafe. In 2023, the price per minute is 3.50 rubles, which is about 5 American cents.
All things considered, this is a very cheap price to pay to get such a unique experience. This is especially true since you’re getting a pretty solid cup of coffee, too! We recommend the Ziferblat to anyone visiting Moscow or any of the other cities where a Ziferblat can be found.
What Is a Pay-Per-Minute Cafe?
There are several Ziferblat cafes scattered around Europe, and they all operate using a similar approach. While typical cafes charge you for drinks and food and allow you to stay for as long as you want, the Ziferblat cafes flip the script.
Upon entering, the barista provides you with a clock that tracks the total amount of time you spend in the cafe. You are then free to order whatever food and drink you wish, at no cost! When leaving, you will pay for the amount of time you spent in the cafe instead of your coffee.
The Ziferblat cafes want to encourage their guests to make new friends and meet new people while in the cafe. This is why each of the cafes is set up to look like the living room in a house. The homey environment, complete with free wifi and board games, makes guests feel truly at home with one another.
When we visited, the barista told us that the business model is simple. Instead of promoting food and beverage as the reason to come, Ziferblat promotes friendship and free space. The complimentary snacks and drinks are meant to keep you comfortable as you enjoy the charming space and the people who are visiting alongside you.
In essence, Ziferblat believes that paying by the minute helps you to be more conscious of your time and the real life people around you instead of just fueling your caffeine levels.
This present attitude is part of what makes Ziferblat such a good place to make new acquaintances and deepen existing friendships! While you can choose to read or work in silence at the Ziferblat, it is also a very social space.
How Does it Get the Name Ziferblat?
“Ziferblat” is the Russian word for “clock face”. The founder, Ivan Meetin, chose this name to reflect the idea that guests pay based on the elapsed time on the clock, not the quantity of food or drink consumed. The cafe tracks your time in and time out with an alarm clock, which is all you pay for.
Where Can You Visit a Ziferblat Cafe?
The Ziferblat is a Russian cafe concept at heart, but it has since spread to a few other countries. There are several Ziferblat cafes in Russia, including in St. Petersburg, Moscow (the original Ziferblat cafe on Tverskaya St.), Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, and Rostov-on-Don. There is also a Ziferblat cafe in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and there was one in Kiev, Ukraine before the war.