Other than tasting quality kimchi and BBQ, one of the staple cultural experiences to include on your South Korean bucket list is to visit a jjimjilbang. A jjimjilbang is a public Korean bath house spa that features medicinal hot tubs, saunas, ice rooms and massage rooms. It’s a common spot for locals to unwind and revive from an exhausting day. Jjimjilbangs have become a huge attraction point for tourists as well. After all, these beautiful spas cost less than 12$ for a 24hr visit!
If you’re looking for cheap accommodation, staying at a jjimjilbang overnight is a great alternative. Whether you have a layover at the airport or you are exploring cities in South Korea. Curious to know more about this wonderland for all your body’s needs and a list of the best jimjilbangs in South Korea? With pleasure Next Reveal will share this info with you.
In Korean, Jjimjil derived from the words meaning heating.
In addition to the hot saunas, baths and steam rooms, jjimjilbangs have heated floor for lounging and sleeping. Yes, that’s right! You can actually stay overnight at these spas for 24 hours. Just keep in mind the sleeping areas have thin mats (about 2cm thick) in a large common space, so bring a pair of ear plugs or earphones to block out the snorers. Also, your usual feather pillow is substituted with a cork block. Be prepared for the biggest sleepover of your life. Some luxury jjimjilbangs will include private rooms you can rent for an additional fee, but remember you want to have the ULTIMATE experience during your visit.
There are different types of saunas and baths to satisfy guest preferences. Temperatures vary from -10C to 100C.
- salt baths and pools
- Himalayan salt saunas
- charcoal saunas
- ice rooms
- pine saunas
- firewood saunas
- cold pools
- jade stone rooms
- hot spring baths
- medicinal baths
- mud baths
- snack bar
- exercise room
- TV room
- meditation room
- outdoor hot tubs / pools
- arcade rooms (some locations)
- karaoke rooms (some locations)
The process is super simple. As arrive at a jjimjilbang you will place your shoes in a small locker, then take the key and proceed to the front desk. After paying the entrance fee, you are provided with a towel and special clothing. Some jjimjilbangs give a robe, others a set of shorts and a t-shirt. You’ll also receive a rubber bracelet which helps avoid cash transactions. To pay for food, drinks or any treatment, you provide your bracelet to the staff. At the end when you leave the jjimjilbang, you settle your tab.
Subsequently you will proceed to your gender specific changing room and find your locker number that corresponds with your shoe locker key. Majority of pools and hot baths are in the gender specific rooms. Now this is the fun part – get naked. Yup, completely naked. It might seem intimidating at first, but honestly don’t worry because that’s exactly what you’re suppose to do.
Prior to entering the bath area you will rinse your body. Afterwards, you pop into a hot bath or sauna and cool down in an ice room or a cold pool. The number of baths and saunas depend on the size of the jjimjilbang. One of the suggested treatments is a full body scrub. A middle aged Korean woman or man, (also known as an ajumma or ahjussi) will exfoliate your body on a massage table. Prepare yourself for the most vigorous scrubbing experience. Body scrubs can cost as cheap as $10 for 45 minutes to $35 depending on the spa.
Majority of jjimjilbangs also have common gender areas with saunas and other facilities. There you would wear the clothing provided to enjoy the gender-neutral space. You can also visit the snack bar to grab a beer or a small snack. If you’re feeling hungry (which usually happens) enjoy a delicious Korean meal full at the restaurant. Usually at the restaurants Koreans will have some fried chicken with a beer, miyeok-guk, (seaweed soup) kimchi Jjigae, (stew) or bibimbap (rice dish) After your taste buds are satisfied, relax in one of the lounging areas and score yourself a spot with a mat for the night.
K-Spas really do wonders on the whole entire body, mind and soul.
- improve blood circulation
- remove dead skin cells
- leave skin purified and soft
- release muscular tension
- get rid of arterial stiffness
- dilate blood vessels
- calm the nervous system
- boost immune system
- target anti-aging
- eliminate toxins
So now that you know all the key points about a Korean bath house, here’s a list of the best jimjilbangs in South Korea
Dragon Hill Resort and Spa // Seoul
Dragon Hill is one of the most popular spots for travellers because it’s “tourist friendly.” In additions, it’s one of the largest bath houses in Seoul with several amenities that other jimjilbangs don’t have. For example, there’s an arcade and karaoke room. Dragon Hill has 7 floors with over 4,000 sq.ft to explore. It’s located in the city centre and is easy to access by public transit.
Admission fee: $11 USD
Spa Lei // Seoul
Spa Lei differs from other Korean bath houses because a female-only jjimjilbang. In my opinion, this is the most cheapest-luxury spa in the world. It’s a lot smaller in comparison to other jjimjilbangs, so you really get to enjoy time to yourself. Spa Lei has an hot open-air bath, a cold sea-salt water bath and medicinal baths. Their pine and fire wood saunas are the hottest saunas which reach up to 85 degrees C. The red clay and salt rooms are the best as they are like a “treasure trove of minerals”
Admission: $12 USD
Spa Land // Busan
Once you enter Spa Land you’re in heaven. The fee is higher in comparison to other jjimjilbangs, but I have to include it on this list because it’s an absolute paradise. The large outdoor patio has baths for your feet. It’s a mix gender area with varying pool temperatures that help relieve tension on the lower body. There are over 15 saunas in the common gender areas, with rooms reaching up to 100 degrees C. In the gender separate changing rooms you’ll enjoy heavenly hot spring baths. As Spa Land is considered to be the top luxury jjimjilbang in South Korea, complimentary toiletries are provided. The only minus – each ticket only allows you to use the facilities for 4 hours.
Admission : $15 USD
Spa La Qua // Jeonju
Spa La Qua in Jeonju is known for the natural hot spring baths. It’s also one of the cheapest luxury bath houses in South Korea. There are a wide range of amenities, with different types of saunas and baths. The sleeping areas are also very comfortable in comparison to other jjimjilbangs as the common areas are more spaced out.
Admission: $ 5 USD
Songdo Haesoopia // Busan
During two of my trips to Busan, I stayed at Songdo Haesoopia because the panoramic view from the sleeping lounge is absolutely breathtaking. At night you will witness the colourful lights of the Namhangdaegyo Bridge reflect on the lake. Waking up to the sunrise, the panoramic view of the rugged mountains will have you at awe. In addition, the baths in the gender separated changing rooms, also have jaw-dropping views.
Admission: $ 7 USD
The further you are out of the city, the cheaper and more “Korean” these jjimjilbangs will be. No matter where you go in South Korea, you’ll find one. It’s a cool experience to visit a jjimjilbang in a small town because the locals are so amazed by your presence. If you’re planning a hiking trip, consider staying at a jjimjilbang. It will be a great way to heal your body after a long day of trekking. Don’t be surprised if you become addicted to this Korean ritual because it’s truly an irresistible experience! Plus, have you ever paid less than 12$ for a 24hr visit to a spa?