One of the best things to do in South Korea, especially after spending a few days or weeks exploring, is to spend a few hours at one of the best Korean SPA in Seoul.
There are plenty of great options in Seoul, Incheon, or Busan, and offering yourself a few hours of pampering is always a good idea. If you are traveling during winter in Korea, the rainy season, or you just love a good SPA, you should not skip this experience.
However, the jimjilbang has some specific rules worth knowing before you choose to go there. And in today’s post, we will help you navigate them, based on our experience in Seoul.
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The best Korean SPA in Seoul – a day at a jimjilbang
Things to Know about Jjimjilbangs in Seoul and Korea
A jjimjilbang is a typical Korean spa and bathhouse with traditional saunas, hot tubs, and massage tables.
The smaller ones are fully segregated by gender, but some of the large ones can be enjoyed by couples with children, except for the hot tub area.
We first experienced a jjimjilbang in a Seoul hotel known for its spa facilities to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was a charming experience.
Vista Walkerhill Seoul might not be located in the best area to stay in Seoul especially if you are visiting for the first time. However, the hotel’s facilities will make it worth it for you to go out of your way for a night or two.
Apart from the rooftop indoor pool, the hotel offers a luxurious SPA and one of the best and fanciest Saunas.
Unfortunately, these facilities are open only to the hotel’s guests, thus don’t come all the way here if you don’t book a room in advance.
If this is your first time at a Korean SPA, here are a few things worth knowing:
Admission – You pay an admission fee to enter a jjimjilbang, which often includes access to various facilities like saunas, hot tubs, and common areas. Additional services or treatments may have separate fees – such as the full body scrub, chair massage, and other SPA treatments.
Separation by Gender – Most jjimjilbangs have separate facilities for men and women. Each gender has its own bathing and sauna areas, but the common areas, like rest zones and food courts, are usually co-ed. So basically, the area where you are expected to be naked is separated by gender, while the areas where you can use the special suit and/or bathing suit, are mixed.
Nudity – Jjimjilbangs are communal spaces, and it is customary to be nude only in the gender-specific bathing areas. However, common areas and some saunas may require the use of a uniform (provided by the facility).
Saunas & Baths – Jjimjilbangs typically offer a variety of saunas with different temperatures and themes. There may also be various baths, such as hot, cold, and medicinal baths. Take your time to explore and enjoy the different experiences.
Rest Areas – Jjimjilbangs have common areas with heated floors where visitors can relax, nap, and socialize. Some also have entertainment facilities like TV rooms, game rooms, and snack bars.
Sleeping rooms – Some jjimjilbangs have sleeping rooms equipped with heated floors and mats where visitors can spend the night. This is a budget-friendly option for travelers or locals who need a place to stay.
Tattoos – While attitudes are changing, some jjimjilbangs may have restrictions on individuals with visible tattoos. If you have tattoos, it’s a good idea to check the policy of the specific facility beforehand. I have 2 small tattoos and didn’t have any problems at the Korean SPAs we went to, but it is better to check ahead of time.
Our Korean SPA experience at Vista Walkerhill
After we had split up by gender, I left my shoes in a special compartment at the entrance of the men’s changing room. Then, I undressed fully and donned a Korean robe offered by the attendant. Finally, I was ready to enter the spa area reserved for men.
The spa consisted of several hot tubs ranging from ice-cold water to searingly hot.
The guests are supposed to use each of them in a row (totally naked, in case I wasn’t clear), repeatedly heating themselves up and then suddenly cooling down.
The tubs offered a panoramic view of the Han river through its floor-to-ceiling glass wall, but you could also go out on the balcony and enjoy a jacuzzi and some fresh air.
In addition, you could book a Korean body scrub to help your skin regenerate and stay smooth and shiny. Or, maybe you prefer a Korean hot stone massage.
Lastly, there were a couple of North European-like saunas and a Turkish steam room.
The only drawback of our experience was that we couldn’t enjoy it together.
Koreans are ok with same-gender nudity, unlike the more prude South Europeans, but are not open to mixed-gender nudity, unlike the North Europeans. On the other hand, as one Korean friend told me, the jjimjilbang is the best place if you desire some high-quality time alone.
Aquafield jimjilbang experience
The second time, we visited a gigantic jjimjilbang in one of Seoul’s suburban mega-malls. The admittance drill was similar, but instead of a robe, we were handed a loose-fitting shirt and shorts. After changing, we met again in the family-friendly spa area, clothed.
You are requested to leave your shoes at the entrance, and you are expected to walk barefoot.
If you need to use the toilet, you are provided with slippers, and you must leave them where you found them.
The spa hall was enormous, with countless rooms, each with its uniqueness.
Some rooms were ice-cold, and others were built out of salt bricks.
There were rooms with high-tech special effects, relaxing music, or 3D projections. And there was a very Korean room with comfy armchairs, individual TV screens, and headsets where people could watch movies or sporting events away from nagging spouses or children.
Since we wanted to make the best out of our experience, we tried also the massage chairs. You do have to pay extra for using them, but the price is not so high and a good massage is definitely worth it.
Obviously, the place also had a nude, gender-segregated area with hot tubs, massages, and scrubs. The main difference was that guests could take their children inside (boys with their fathers, girls with their mothers).
For ladies, one thing you should not miss is the Korean scrub. Depending on how crowded the SPA is, you might need to book it in advance.
Be aware that you will be requested to be fully naked, and a Korean ajumma (lady) will scrub away all your dead skin. It is not painful, only a bit strange if you are not used to the sensation. But it is totally worth it, I’ve never had such smooth skin in my life!
The Jimjilbang in Hanam also had a rooftop-covered swimming pool, with designated areas for children, but also an outdoor heated pool with a stunning view.
The Aquafield SPA has 2 branches in Seoul, and neither one is really close to the city center. However, in our opinion, taking the time to get there was totally worth it, and we had an extremely relaxing day.
Read also: The best things to do in Seoul at night
Other options for the best Korean SPA & Bath Houses in Seoul
Popular jimjilbangs to try in Seoul:
LK SPA near Myeongdong and Dongdaemun;
Hwanggeum Sauna in Myeongdong;
Dragon Hill Spa & Resort in Yongsan.
If you are looking for a more traditional and very local SPA, you can also try Paragon Spa (목동파라곤스파) on Mokdongseo-ro, in Yangcheon-gu.
Only want a facial and massage in Seoul?
If you don’t want to go through the whole jimjilbang experience, there are plenty of SPAs offering massages and facials with some of the best K-beauty products.
Sulwhasoo Flagship – one of my favorite luxury skincare brands, their flagship in Gangnam is over the top! They have a SPA, a museum, and a rooftop terrace. You can book facials or body treatments at their SPA and pamper yourself.
Address: 18 Dosan-daero 45-gil, Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu
The O Hui & Whoo SPA in Myeongdong is very close to some of the main tourist attractions in town. It is easily accessible, and it offers treatments with some of the best Korean beauty products.
Address: 41 Myeongdong 10-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
retreat SIGNIEL Spa in Lotte Hotel has 7 treatment rooms, an Oil Atelier, a Tea Atelier, and a resting lounge.
Address: LOTTE WORLD TOWER 76F-101F, 300 Olympic-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Korea
Address: 69 Nonhyeon-ro 175-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Address: B2, KT&G Tower, 1002, Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
SPA Lei –
Address: Entrance on B1 level, .5, Gangnam-daero 107-gil, (Jamwon-dong, Cresyn Building), Seocho-gu, Seoul, Korea
FAQ about visiting a jimjilbang in Korea
Are you expected to go naked in the Korean SPA?
As long as you are using the hot tubs, yes. However, if you only want to use the communal areas and saunas, you will be provided with some traditional clothing.
Can a person with a big tattoo enter into Jjimjilbang?
Unlike Japan, South Korea is not so restrictive with regard to big tattoos. However, some SPAs might ask you to cover your tattoos and might also provide special patches for that.
I do have 2 smaller tattoos and nobody cared.
What to bring to a Korean Jjimjilbang?
To be honest, at the 2 Korean SPAs we visited, we only had our bathing suits and slippers with us.
However, at the more local jjimjilbangs you might want to bring with you a few things:
a bathing towel
What not to bring to a Korean Jjimjilbang?
It’s advisable not to bring valuable items such as expensive jewelry or large amounts of cash. Use the locker provided to store your belongings securely.
Some jjimjilbangs may have policies against bringing outside food and drinks. Check the rules of the specific facility you’re visiting to avoid any issues.
Additionally, many jjimjilbangs do not allow the consumption of alcohol. Drinking alcohol in a jjimjilbang can be disruptive to the tranquil atmosphere and may not be permitted.
Are Jimjilbangs kid friendly?
Yes, children can use both the common areas and the hot tub areas together with their parents.
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