December 13. 2017
Updated: Sadly, this cafe closed down on May 27, 2018
I don’t know how much passing traffic Ziferblat needs or gets, because it seems to have built a vibrant community from word-of-mouth, but if you step in without knowing the concept you might be a little confused. Is it an all you can eat buffet with a limited selection, or the first step on the way to a cult, an experiment in living?
The system is simple. You come in and choose a clock at the counter, each with a different appearance and a name from Slovene history or literature. The clocks themselves don't work, but function as a marker that you take to your table and return at the end of your visit, with the name entered into the system to keep track of your stay. The cost is 5 cents a minute or 3 EUR an hour, up to a maximum of 7 euros a day, one of the reasons why it attracts loungers, students, freelancers, and backpackers looking for a cheap way to spend a long time in a good place, with lots of tea and coffee. And if you fall in love with Ziferblat you can even buy weekly and monthly tickets, at 35 and 100 EUR, with plenty of power points to keep your devices charged.
An L-shaped hive with spaces and nooks suitable for every level of discretion or public display, there's an appealing mix of sofas, armchairs, bean bags, and wooden chairs among the varied coffee tables, side tables, card tables and so on, plus a small library, piano, guitar, sound system and stacks of board games, all of which you can use during your stay, making it, among other things, a great space for families, especially with no alcohol being served.
All the snacks and drinks are self-service, although since espresso machines heat water to a high temperature and pressure whoever’s working at the counter will be happy to show you what levers to move and when, and how to avoid showering the kitchen area with scalding milk, which I was told is much more dangerous than hot water. I nodded and watched the man heat the milk, used cold from the fridge for all my later cups.
There were also some eggs, butter and things to put on toast in the fridge, but this isn't really an all you can eat deal, more a place for a nibble and natter, with cookies and crackers to give your mouth something to do rather than fill your belly. The coffee is great though, and you can load up on hand-pulled espressos and cappuccinos for as long your stay there, and I always leave buzzing like a high-tension wire.
But Ziferblat is more than a place to get some work done or drink non-alcoholic beverages to excess with friends, as it’s also a dynamic centre for a huge number of activities, organized by users. If you’re in Ljubljana and want to meet people with similar interests just check the website, Facebook or sign near the clocks for details of the many and varied events that have sprung up in the Ziferblat community, including language nights, yoga, movies, talks, music, stand-up and more, and if you have any ideas you’re always welcome to suggest them. Such events are charged at one hour's time, unless unusually long.
Overall, Ziferblat is a fantastic space that'll reward your visit, with longer stays being even more rewarding. Although right in the heart of the centre it’s a little tucked away, in a courtyard marked with a small sign on the road between Kongresni trg (Congress or Zvezda Square) and Trg francoske revolucije (French Revolution Square, which also contains Križanke and the City Museum).
You can find Ziferblat at Vegova ulica 8, Ljubljana. Monday to Saturday it’s open 09:00–22:00, and Sunday 16:00-22:00. Events can be checked here.