Moscow’s Anti-Cafe Movement

Moscow has an increasing number of anti-cafes, but what exactly are they? What you need to remember is that in Moscow as a young person, finding space to socialise  can be difficult. Apartments are generally quite small and expensive – many university students and young professionals are forced into sharing with multiple people just to make ends meet. Constantly living in a small space, surrounded by others can be tiring and luckily Moscow has a large number of parks so you can escape into the outdoors. Of course, in the winter, parks become less of an option for relaxing and serene contemplation. What Moscow needed for a long time was an affordable option for indoor entertainment and it has found it with the anti-cafe idea.

The best way to describe an anti-cafe is a public living room. In ‘normal’ cafes, you are expected to order food and drinks during your visit and you will be given short shrift if you want to hang out all day without buying anything. But anti-cafes are completely different. These innovative spaces generate revenue on a timed basis – you are charged for how long you use the space, rather than for food and drink. In fact, most don’t even mind if you bring your own snacks! As these cafes are aimed at the younger crowd, the cost is quite small. Right now, the going rate is around 2RUB/min, capped at 5 hours. So if you really wanted, you can have a comfortable and warm space to use – from opening to closing time – for around 600RUB. Sounds good right? Well it gets even better.

Moscow’s very first anti-cafes in  offered very little in the way of amenities – just comfortable chairs, a Wi-Fi connection and some instant coffee in the corner. However, with increased competition, anti-cafes are upping their game and offering a full range of recreation services. The most popular anti-cafes now offer fully stocked board game cupboards, have space for clubs and groups to meet, a selection of books, light snacks and a whole host of other amenities. They are transforming from just a place to relax that isn’t your apartment, to a community hub – the neighborhoods living room and recreation space.

Before the Anti-Cafe Phenomenon

This Moscow Times article draws parallels between anti-cafes and the Soviet era ‘Pioneers Palaces’, which served as a youth group center and indoor recreation facility right until the end of the Soviet Union. During the 90’s most of the Pioneers Palaces were closed and the buildings sold, with just a few remaining in use as paid youth centers. Anti-cafes are the modern version of the palaces, or at least the capitalist, post-Soviet version of them.

Pioneer Palace

A former Pioneer Palace in Sevastopol, the precursor to modern anti-cafes.

Europe Adopts the Anti-Cafe Concept

The anti-cafe movement is not confined to Russia and more and more of these businesses are popping up all over Europe. They provide a great indoor venue for youth that doesn’t involve excessive exposure to drugs and alcohol like bars and clubs do. Modern youth all over Russia and the rest of Europe seem to be really taking to the idea. Given this quick rise, it will be interesting to see how anti-cafes develop in the next few years.

If you would like to visit an anti-café here in Moscow, check out our latest article on some great Moscow anti-cafes. If you have any thoughts about anti-cafes and this article, please leave them in the comments section below or head over to our forums and join the conversation.


Photo credits: Pioneer Palace licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license and Calm place via photopin (license).

Moscow’s Anti-Cafe Movement
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Jason Berkeley

Jason Berkeley

Jason is a history teacher and freelance writer, currently living in Moscow.
Jason Berkeley

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Jason Berkeley

Jason is a history teacher and freelance writer, currently living in Moscow.

1 Comment on "Moscow’s Anti-Cafe Movement"

  1. I love this concept, my favourite is Ziferblat and I am not surprised to see that this idea has now spread throughout Europe to the U.K.

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