While I was planning my trip to Lviv, nightlife was definitely a high priority for me.
I knew that Lviv was famous for having many themed drinking spots and restaurants, and I couldn’t wait to check them all out and see just how weird things could get.
As it turns out – very weird.
One of the first results that came up when I googled ‘nightlife in Lviv’ was a place called ‘Masoch Cafe,’ a bar dedicated to the so-called ‘founder’ of masochism, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (after whom the term ‘masochism’ is coined).
After reading a handful of reviews online, I decided I had to visit Masoch Cafe and see what all the fuss was about, but first, a bit of background…
Masoch Cafe – The Ukrainian Restaurant Where the Waitresses Have Whips
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch – the Legend Behind Masoch Cafe
Born in Lviv in 1836, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a writer, journalist and professor who was an advocate for women’s rights and worked against local anti-semitism, as well as writing history books about his homeland, Galacia.
However, what he is most known for is his private life, in which he had a strong desire to be dominated by women.
In 1869, he and his mistress, the Baroness Fanny Pistor, signed a contract making him her slave for a period of 6 months, with the agreement that she must wear furs regularly (this was depicted in his novella, Venus in Furs, which I discuss in more detail below).
They took a train to Venice together (with her in first-class and he in third), where she could treat him as cruelly as she wished without anybody recognising them.
His other predilections, which he made public in his famous letters and books, included pretending to be a bear and running away from a woman wearing furs and carrying a whip, who would inflict lots of pain upon him after catching him.
However, despite making his proclivities so public, he wasn’t impressed when Austrian psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing coined the term ‘masochism,’ naming Sacher-Masoch as the inspiration, so I am not surely sure how he would feel about Masoch Cafe being dedicated to his – ahem – preferences!
Venus in Furs
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch made part of his personal life public in his novella, Venus in Furs, which is possibly one of his most famous works.
Venus in Furs tells the story of an unnamed man who dreams about speaking to the Roman Goddess Venus about love while she wears furs.
The man confesses his fantasy to his friend Severin, who recommends that he reads a manuscript entitled ‘Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man’ in order to overcome his fascination with dominant women.
The manuscript tells the story of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who is so infatuated with a woman named Wanda von Dunajew, that he encourages her to mistreat and degrade him.
The two take a trip to Florence together (not Venice, as in Sacher-Masoch’s real life), where Wanda treats Severin as her servant, and recruits a trio of African women to brutally dominate him.
However, Wanda then meets a man that she would like to submit to, and, feeling humiliated, Severin loses his desire to submit to her, concluding that in the present day, a woman can only be submissive to men, and never his companion.
He says that women’s rights will have to improve in the spheres of education and the workplace in order for man to finally be able to submit properly to a woman.
Visiting Masoch Cafe Lviv
Whilst there, my friend Nadia and I wanted to make the most of nightlife and restaurants in Lviv, and so we went to Masoch Cafe a couple of times.
Outside Masoch Cafe is a statue of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (you can actually put your hand inside his pocket and feel something rude inside – something that parents were encouraging their kids to do while they laughed hysterically and took pictures), and apparently it is the only statue of him in the world!
Once you pass the statue and enter through the keyhole shaped door, Masoch Cafe doesn’t look that different to any other bar.
It is decorated in quite an old-fashioned, classical style, with some sensual artwork hung on the walls and a few skimpy bits and pieces hanging from the light fittings.
It isn’t exactly the most scandalous of places.
‘Is this is?‘ we thought.
I couldn’t believe that this was all there was to Masoch Cafe, and so I went off to investigate, startled as a handsome waiter with a flogger spanked me as I walked by (in a very PG way!).
Heading towards a winding red staircase leading down into a basement, my heart began to quicken.
This must be it.
Sure enough, as I began to descend the stairs, I heard a man yelling out in pain and what seemed to be crowds of people clapping and cheering.
So this was where the party was at!
Turning around, I hurried back up the stairs to grab Nadia, and we both made our way into the dungeon to see what Masoch Cafe had in store…
What happens in the basement of Masoch Cafe?
Downstairs in Masoch Cafe is definitely more risque than the ground floor, and definitely helped Masoch Cafe earn its stripes in terms of unusual things to do in Lviv.
Handcuffs are draped across red and black leather seats, heavy chains are tied to hospital-style beds, and softcore retro adult movies play on the televisions (as well as random footage of politicians fighting?!?).
The menus, thick black and red booked bound with chains, feature bull -ahem- appendage in minestrone broth, Bloody Mary soup with braised bull’s testicles, as well as cocktails with names such as ‘Submission’ and ‘Lady in Fur.’
Feeling glad that we’d already eaten, Nadia and I grabbed a drink and got comfortable in our seats as we watched four young Ukrainian women being made to bend over by the waitress as she flogged them, making them ask for more in between spanks and fits of laughter.
Later, a guy who was out with his girlfriend and a few friends volunteered for the same treatment, and so a blonde waitress wearing a corset and heels made him take his shirt off before blindfolding him and tying him to a wooden chair in the centre of the room.
As everyone watched and cheered on, she emptied a glass of liquor into his mouth, before dripping hot wax and ice onto his bare torso.
As the cocky guy grinned, enjoying his treatment, the waitress forced him onto his knees and proceeded to whip him, making him thank her for each spank, much to the delight and amusement of his friends.
However, despite how X-rated this all sounds, the atmosphere at Masoch Cafe is much closer to a burlesque or cabaret show than anything else.
The server’s costumes are like something you’d wear to a fancy dress party, and the people who volunteer for spanks and humiliation are only doing it for the free drinks and hilarity.
Moreover, the clientele at Masoch Cafe isn’t what you’d expect either.
Masoch Cafe attracts groups of students, couples on quirky first dates and BFFs catching up over cocktails.
It’s the kind of venue where you go to enjoy the novelty of such a naughty theme in a very safe and mainstream environment, and if you visit Masoch Cafe in the hopes of experiencing a seedy night then you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Masoch Cafe – Final Thoughts
When it comes to nightlife in Lviv, Masoch Cafe really is a must-visit. I really enjoyed the nights that I spent at Masoch Cafe, and whether you want to go for a cheeky afternoon tipple, or get tipsy in the basement at 4am, Masoch has you covered (sidenote: if you want to really have fun in Lviv then you may want to try a ‘tipsy walking tour’ of the city!’).
They have really honoured the naughty theme at Masoch, and I loved the attention to detail in the decor, the staff’s uniforms and the items on the menu (however unappetising some of them looked!).
The whole place really is an ode to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, with his portrait on the wall, his statue acting as doorman, and his quotes about female supremacy littering the menu.
Masoch Cafe is also incredibly cheap, which is surprising for such a gimmicky venue.
In addition to this, I feel as though Masoch Cafe is really good for Ukraine.
Ukrainian society is very conservative and serious, so this bar is kind of a big deal.
Masoch Cafe is a place where men and women alike can loosen up and enjoy the ride, and the fact that parents actually encourage their kids to pose with the statue of Sacher-Masoch makes it clear that they view Masoch Cafe as nothing more than harmless fun.
Perhaps this is because Lviv is no stranger to weird and wonderful restaurants. I already wrote about all the unique restaurants in Lviv, but if you want a local perspective, you may want to consider booking a traditional Ukrainian cuisine food tour or a special themed restaurants tour and tasting if you’re pushed for time and would like to sample a bit of everything in one night!
What did you think of my experience? Are you planning a trip to Masoch Cafe in Lviv? Let me know how you find it!
Until next time,