Ziferblat – The next big thing? + exciting news!

After the surprising success of my article on study cafés – thanks to everyone who shared it – I have been looking for more places other than the library to work on my dissertation/assignments and to share with you guys. But before I tell you about my latest discovery, let me tell you the exciting news, because I am sure you cannot wait to find out what it is (please curb your enthusiasm). Well, here it is, I am now a contributor for Spotted by Locals, a travel website based on the contributions of the locals of cities around the world. After more than two years in Manchester, I felt like it was time to start sharing what I know of the city, and I will be posting regular contributions about my favourite spots on there. Of course I will also still write on my own blog, but the posts for Spotted by Locals will be shorter, and of a different style. You can buy PDF city-guides from the website for 2,99€ (about 2£), which can be handy when you go travelling this summer, or simply read the Spotters’ tips online, or download the app for 3,59€. Spotted by Locals was founded by Dutch couple Bart and Sanne van Poll, who wanted to create a network of local Spotters sharing tips about their city, to make travelling and visiting easier and more authentic. I think that Spotted by Locals is an excellent initiative, because I believe that a big part of travelling is experiencing local and community life, apart from visiting museums and touristy places. So there you go, have a look at it, and I will let you know when my articles are published in the Manchester section.

Anyway, on to today’s topic, Manchester’s NQ newest spot, Ziferblat. I have to give all the credits to my friend Marianne for this discovery, as she is the one who dragged me there last Sunday, having been to a similar place when in Paris for her semester abroad. Ziferblat is a Russian chain where all you pay for is the time you spend. You give your name upon arrival, and pay 5p per minute you spend there, or 3£ per hour. This gives you access to the kitchen, where you can make tea, coffee, and toasts, as well as the cupboards where you can find biscuits and cakes. You can then sit down in one of the couches or armchairs for a chat with your friends or to read a good book; or at a table to do some work or play board games. Cookie jars are spread around the room, and you can go refill your mug whenever pleases you without paying anything extra. And of course, free wifi. Seems like a pretty good idea, right?

Well, I think it is if you are a professional snacker. When I went I wasn’t particularly hungry, so I basically ended up paying 6£ for a cup of tea and two toasts. However, there is more to Ziferblat than just basically an all-you-can-eat buffet. In France, if you spend more than the time you need to drink your coffee at your table, you will get dirty looks, and will be pressured to reorder, or leave. Although the situation isn’t that bad in Manchester, it is difficult to legitimately stay in a café for 6 hours having only ordered a coffee. In Ziferblat, you can stay for as long as you want (or as long as you are willing to pay) without getting kicked out. It is indeed more expensive than going to the library, but it is a good alternative to it, and you won’t have to worry about getting hungry (or use it as an excuse to go home early). Moreover, it is a group-friendly place, as the main room is spacious, with big tables, as well as cosy couches and coffee tables. You won’t get anything served to your table though, and it is common, and expected, that you clean up after yourself and wash your dishes. This might be unsettling at first, as you don’t expect to have to do that in a café, but think of it as a space that you rent, and that you have to return in its original condition. It is also a place where you interact with other people, something that is rare in our increasingly individualistic society.

I did not really know what to think of Ziferblat after my first time there, however, after I suggest you go see for yourself and decide whether it is worth it or not. The concept seems to be spreading across Europe and beyond, and we might see more of them soon. You can find Ziferblat in London, Moscow, Ljubljana, Kiev, and New York. In Paris, L’Anti-Café is based on a similar concept.

Ziferblat – 23 Edge Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, open 10am-10pm

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