Cafe Pripyat


Standing proudly on the beautiful shoreline of a vast lake, Cafe Pripyat, or “the Dish” as it was affectionately known by locals, was naturally a popular destination. A place where young city dwellers (the average age in Pripyat was 26) would gather to chat and drink on the round sun drenched terrace that overlooked the water. From the stone clad terrace a wide stairway leads down to the boat dock and on to the water’s edge.

Sail boats would use the lake during the summer months and BBQs would be a common sight along the tree-lined shore. In winter when the lake froze children and families would ice skate and men would cut holes to fish.

Those wanting a 360-degree view could climb up to an observation platform located on the roof of the cafe. With the view now obscured mostly by trees, it was only when I returned home and read of its existence that I realised the intended function of what I had stood in.


Now the viewing tower is fully surrounded by trees but its purpose is clear in this early photograph

Prior to the disaster – The intended purpose of the viewing tower is clear in this early photograph from the archives of Vitaly Kozlov.

Cafe Pripyat as seen from above

Now – Surrounded by trees and outside the rusting barbed wire fence that surrounds the city.

On ground level, the striking stained glass of the windows remains largely intact and with the low afternoon sun breaking through the trees it was an impressive sight. The figures formed from slithers of coloured glass stacked side by side. Outside solid V-shaped columns follow the route of the covered walkway.

Compared to the uniform blocks that form the basis of much of the city the architecture of the cafe, a building designed purely for pleasure, is a radical joy and provides an insight into the forward thinking attitude and optimism of the city at the time.

26 years on from the disaster the cafe sits just outside what’s left of the barbed wire fence that now encircles Pripyat and while the city now crumbles the view across the lake retains its beauty.



Busy day at Cafe Pripyat

Busy day. The blue boat is rusting at the far end of the lake (


Cafe Pripyat

Walking the shoreline -From the personal archive of Igor Yegorov (


The lower levels by the lake are submerged in this shot from Vladimir Dzhaska

The lower levels are submerged in this shot from Vladimir Dzhaska (


Approaching Cafe Pripyat

Approaching the Cafe from the city side. Some of the 33,000 rose bushes planted throughout Pripyat.


The terrace. Image ©


Cafe Pripyat - View towards the city

Close to the city – from the archives of Nikolai Belekhova (


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.