How to Enjoy a Traditional Korean Jjimjil bang or Bathhouse
Your travel to South Korea is not complete without visiting a traditional Korean bathhouse or 찜질방 (Korean Jjimjil bang). Jjimjilbang literally means heated room. These are places where Koreans come to relax, hang out and go through a whole lot of cleaning or health rituals (you can compare these with western Spa’s). Read this guide to find out what is a Korean sauna and how to enjoy a Jjimjil bang.
Jjimjilbangs are traditional Korean bathhouses that are popular among locals and tourists alike. These bathhouses offer a unique experience that combines relaxation, culture, and health benefits. Jjimjilbangs typically feature hot and cold baths, saunas, and various types of massage services. The most distinguishing feature of jjimjilbangs is the use of traditional Korean medicinal herbs and minerals in the baths, which are believed to have healing properties.
In addition to the bathhouse facilities, jjimjilbangs also offer a variety of amenities such as restaurants, snack bars, sleeping areas, and entertainment rooms. Visitors can spend hours or even overnight in a jjimjilbang, enjoying the various amenities and services available. Some of the larger jjimjilbangs even have multiple floors and can accommodate hundreds of visitors at a time.
Jjimjilbangs are not only a popular place to unwind and relax but also offer various health benefits. The hot and cold baths are believed to improve circulation and promote detoxification. The saunas, which are usually heated with different types of wood, are believed to have different therapeutic effects on the body. For example, the pine wood sauna is believed to help with respiratory problems, while the charcoal sauna is believed to have detoxifying properties. Overall, jjimjilbangs provide a unique and relaxing experience that combines Korean culture, traditional medicine, and modern amenities.
If you enjoy having this experience because of the many health benefits, why not consider doing a Korean style medical checkup? These can include a General Korean Health Checkup, Korean Anti-aging Checkup or a Korean DNA Checkup.
A 24 Hour Korean Spa Or Jjimjil bang
Each Korean city is filled with these traditional spa, some harder to find that other. In the big cities like Seoul, Busan or Daegu you can find massive spa complexes but if you’re looking for the more traditional unique experience, why not go to a tiny local Jjimjil bang. This is especially great in winter or after a long day of skiing.
Korean bath houses are relatively cheap places to take a break during a rainy day or even to spend a night. Entrance fee will vary from 8000 – 12000 won and for most places you are allowed to spend 12 to 24 hours without having to paying extra.
First Time Jjimjil bang Experience
I remembered my first Jjimjilbang visit as a very confusing and overwhelming experience as there are so many unspoken rules I wasn’t aware of. This article will give a step by step breakdown on the jjimjilbang etiquette and how to enjoy a Jjimjilbang like a pro.
1. Shoe Lockers
At the reception desk, after payment, you will receive a jjimjilbang towel and a pajama looking outfit, these outfits have different colors depending on your gender. Next you will continue to the small locker room, these are meant for your shoes, so slip them inside and don’t forget your locker key.
Most places have electronic keys, so everything you will spend inside (like food, massage,..) will be charged to your key and has to be paid when leaving. For some places the shoe locker room will already be gender segregated. Watch out for the symbols (남) for men and (여) for women.
2. Changing Rooms & Lockers
After locking your shoes away you will continue to the changing & locker room which is connected to bath rooms. These are again gender segregated. First you will arrive in a big room with long lockers. The number of you locker will be the same as your shoe locker previously. Completely undress and put all your stuff inside your locker, except towel and toiletries.
3. Showers Rooms
When you’re ready, find the door to the bath and shower room. Once inside, you will see many washing stations, plastic stools and bidets. Choose one to take a shower and wash your hair. This is a crucial Korean bath house etiquette before getting in one of the baths. You might feel very uncomfortable being naked around strangers, but keep in mind Koreans come here on a regular basis, so this is very normal for them.
Koreans, especially women, really like to give themselves intense scrubs, so if you want to have the ultimate jjimjilbang experience you can buy a scrubbing towel. You can also choose to have this done professionally by an ajumma (older Korean woman) or ajussi (older Korean man), this will cost you approximately 20 000 won.
In the bath room you can enjoy a couple of different baths, all of them have different temperatures, try out all of them to find out which one works the best for you. Some Korean bathhouses might even have a couple of steam rooms. When you’re finished get dressed in you jjimjilbang outfit and go to the next room, this is where men and women come together again. You will arrive in a big room with many sleeping mats, here you can relax and take a rest. These places are great as you are allowed to stay for 12 to 24 hours. If you want to save some money while travelling, then this is the best accommodation!
Korean Day Spa Sleeping Rooms
There will be a couple of 한증막 rooms connected to the resting room, these are stone or clay kilns that have different features. These rooms will have different temperatures (ice room, steam room,…) or will have different themes (wood room, stone room,.. ). These rooms are quite pleasant as you will slowly start sweating after 15 to 20 minutes.
Most Korean Jjimjilbangs will also sell food or drinks in the changing rooms and resting rooms. Make sure to try sweet sikhye (식혜), this is a traditional fermented cold rice drink. You can also buy sauna steamed eggs, called maekbanseokgyeran (맥반석계란).
Best Spa In Seoul
Seoul, is home to many exceptional jjimjilbangs that are worth visiting. Among the best jjimjilbangs in Seoul is Dragon Hill Spa, located in Yongsan-gu. This massive spa complex features a variety of indoor and outdoor baths, saunas, and relaxation areas. It also has a food court, a cinema, and a shopping center.
Another noteworthy jjimjilbang is Siloam Sauna, located in Jung-gu. It is known for its hot stone beds, where visitors can relax and unwind. Siloam Sauna also offers various saunas, including a salt sauna, an ice room, and a charcoal sauna. The spa also provides a range of massage and beauty services.
For those looking for a luxurious jjimjilbang experience, Spa Lei is an excellent choice. Located in Gangnam-gu, this high-end spa features various hot baths, saunas, and beauty treatments. It also has a restaurant that serves healthy Korean cuisine.
In summary, Dragon Hill Spa, Siloam Sauna, and Spa Lei are among the best jjimjilbangs in Seoul. Each of these spas offers a unique experience, ranging from a massive spa complex with various amenities to a luxurious spa experience. No matter which jjimjilbang you choose to visit, it is sure to be a memorable and relaxing experience.
- Sealala ~ This is my personal favourite sauna in the whole of Seoul! The big Jjimjilbang can be visited for free with the Discover Seoul Pass and is a great activity after a whole day of visiting places.
- Spa Lei Seoul ~ This Korean spa is a woman-only traditional Hungarian style sauna.
- Siloam Sauna Seoul ~ This sauna uses high-quality Germanuim water pumped from 300 meters underground.
- Dragon Spa Seoul ~ This jjimjil bang is heating with traditional charcoal techniques. Check foreigner discount prices here.
- Myeongdong Traditional Sauna ~ A traditional jjimjilbang in the center of Myeongdong, an area that is famous from the best restaurants and street food. This sauna offers different packages including a chocolate massage! Find more info here.
- Korean Bathhouse in Insadong ~ A traditional Korean bathhouse in Insadong. Day and night admission and other spa sets are available here. Find more info here.
- Myeongdong Women’s Bathhouse ~ This is a bathhouse for women only! Also known as Mogyoktang, this bathhouse offers different packages to local and foreign travelers. Find more info here.
Spas In The Rest Of Korea
- Gyeongju Spalux (경주스파럭스) ~ Spalux is the largest jjimjilbang in Gyeongju City. It is a fancy bathhouse equipped not only with jjimjilbangs but also male/female saunas, fitness facitilies. It also has a restaurant. The best thing about Spalux is its convenient location near Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. Aside from that, Spalux is open 24 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
A jjimjilbang is a traditional Korean bathhouse that typically includes various sauna rooms, hot tubs, showers, and relaxation areas. Jjimjilbangs are popular in Korea as a place for relaxation, socializing, and self-care.
Most jjimjilbangs provide visitors with a uniform or “pajamas” to wear while inside the facility. These pajamas are typically a shirt and shorts made from lightweight, breathable material. Visitors are also provided with towels to use while inside the jjimjilbang.
When visiting a jjimjilbang, you can expect to spend time in various sauna rooms of different temperatures, ranging from cool to hot. You can also enjoy soaking in hot tubs or pools, taking a shower, and relaxing in a common area. Some jjimjilbangs also offer additional services such as massages, facials, and nail care. It’s also common to see people socializing, eating, and even sleeping inside the jjimjilbang.