Visiting A Korean Bath House (Jimjilbang)—All you need to know and more

Authored by:
Barritt R.

Barritt R.




Today I am going to give a brief crash course on Korean spas—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Or in other words, what I wish I had known before I entered a Jimjilbang, completely nude and confused, for the first time.

But first, let's give a little historical background on the topic. Jimjilbangs (찜질방) , jjimjil = heating, bang = room, began in 1992 with the first establishment located in Seoul. Korean spa culture has roots in Buddhist religious practices centered around bathing and spiritual purification and has gradually transformed into the Jimjilbang culture of today with the incorporation of modern entertainment facilities and meals. Jimjilbangs are also an all-nude event, and therefore may come as a shock at first for foreigners. They are divided by gender and are often open 24/7, offering a variety of wet and dry saunas, cold plunges, massages, skin-exfoliating services, and meals. So basically,  the best thing ever if you are looking for some quality relaxation.  Jimjilbangs are also usually pretty cheap, ranging from around $10-$15 on average for the entrance fee.  

My first Korean spa experience was a bit overwhelming, mostly due to the fact that I was unfamiliar with many of the cultural norms surrounding the event until later on. The most surprising thing to me was the amount of emphasis put on scrubbing your body down. This was something I had never seen or experienced in spas in the US, and something that took a moment to learn to do. 

Once you enter the Jimjilbang you will be expected to take off your shoes, undress, and shower. You will be given a snazzy bracelet to carry around that acts as both a key to unlock your locker and a way to keep track of purchased food and other items within the spa without having to reach for your wallet. During the initial shower time, your can either stand up and wash yourself off, or sit on a small plastic stool at the washing station and scrub yourself down. Most spas offer both plastic bowels to rinse yourself with and exfoliating scrubs to help remove the dead skin from your body after you begin to soak. You can also buy a variety of vanity products such as body exfoliators, shampoo, and lotion at the spa store.

Once sufficiently clean, the fun really begins. Depending on the spa you are at, you will find a variety of different soaking pools and saunas to enjoy. My all-time favorite spa, Heosimcheong Spa in Busan, even had tea-baths, beer-baths, and aromatherapy dry saunas to enjoy. If you are in Busan, I would HIGHLY recommend this spa. It is located in a large and luxurious hotel and the Jimjilbang itself is extravagant as well as architecturally beautiful. It is also considered the biggest bathhouse in all of Asia and only costs 12,000 Won to enter!

If you are interested in heading to the co-ed section of the Jimjilbang, you can check out the fomentation rooms (찜질방). To enter these rooms you will be given a snazzy pajama-like outfit to wear and will enter a large domed room where your can sweat out your problems. Around this area, you can also find a meal to eat, and maybe even a fitness room, arcade, cinema, karaoke studio, and massage chair (depending on the spa you are at). Once you are all finished, you can head back to the changing room, pay your dues, and be on your merry way—more relaxed than you were before. Jimjilbangs also have a sleeping area to stay the night, providing a great overnight option for when you don't have a place to stay or just want to stay somewhere new and convenient.  

Overall, Jimjilbangs are the If you get the chance, I definitely recommend you get your steam on. 

That's all for now, thanks for tuning in.

-Barritt :)



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