How to Enjoy a Traditional Korean Jjimjilbang or Bathhouse
Your travel to Korea is not complete without visiting a traditional Korean bathhouse or 찜질방 (Korean Jjimjilbang). Jjimjilbang literally means heated room and 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). There are many Jjimjilbangs in every city. But most of them are quite hard to find and are not touristic yet, which is great if you want to have a more traditional experience.
Jjimjilbangs are relatively cheap places to take a break during a rainy day or even to spend a night. Entrance fee will vary from 8000-12000won and for most places you are allowed to spend 24h without paying extra.
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. So this article will give a step by step breakdown on how to enjoy a Jjimjilbang like a pro.
At the reception desk, after payment, you will receive a couple of towels and a pajama looking outfit, these outfits have different colors depending on your gender. After payment 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 exciting. For some places the shoe locker room will already be gender segregated. Watch out for the symbols (남) for men and yeo (여) for women.
After locking your shoes away you will continue to the changing and 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.
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 crucial 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 000kw.
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.
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 24 hours; this place is the best option to sleep if you’re travelling on a budget.
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, 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).
Recommended Korean Jjimjilbang
Gyeongju Spalux (경주스파럭스)
Address: 14-1 Wonhyo-ro,Gyeongju-si
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. And the best thing about spalux is that is easy to find because it is conveniently located near Gyeongju Intercity Bus Terminal. Aside from that, Spalux is open 24 hours.
Address: 1518-1, Jangseong-dong, Pohang-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Andong Spa Land
189, Daean-ro, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do
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