Korean Spa: Experiencing a jimjilbang
찜질방: Jimjilbang: A unique aspect of Korean culture and a must-do to experience while living in Korea.
If you don’t know what a 찜질방 (jimjilbang) is, let me help you, it is a Korean spa that is separated by gender; men with other men and women with other women. Here is a breakdown of what to expect when going to a jimjilbang in Korea.
1. When you enter you take off your shoes and you are given a key for a shoe locker. You will have a second locker in the gender-separated bathhouse area to put your clothes and other belongings. You will also be given a pair of shorts and a shirt that you can wear in the common rest areas that lie outside of the bathhouse area.
2. Change, undress, shower, and soak: Before you enter the tubs, you will get naked (yes, bare-naked!) and shower. There are stools where you can sit and bathe or there are also standing showers if you prefer. The towels are the size of North American hand towels so even if you try to cover yourself with it you won’t be able to wrap it around your whole body. Just a forewarning in case you think that you can avoid exposing your body by covering up with a towel. I know that the idea of getting naked in public spaces is a taboo topic for many non-Korean people; you may feel vulnerable, embarrassed, and uncomfortable, but once you have stripped away the clothes and and embrace the fact that everyone is naked with you it becomes a liberating experience. No one will be staring at you and if you are nervous about getting naked that first time at a jimjilbang it is liberating when you overcome the vulnerability factor and find comfort in the uncomfortable. It is worth it, I promise. The bathhouse area will have various tubs that differ in temperature from ice cold, luke warm, to hot and uncomfortably hot. There are also saunas or steam rooms that you can go relax in. Some jimjilbangs offer massages and other relaxing amenities.
3. Relax in the common rest area: After showering and bathing go to the common rest area. Here you will be able to eat food, get something to drink, sleep, meditate, sometimes there will even be exercise equipment and you will be fully clothed.
Going to a jimjilbang is a relaxing way to spend the day and a bonding experience with friends. So, go and have fun getting naked with friends and strangers!
You can find jimjilbangs all around Korea in country towns and cities, but here are some noteworthy spas that are popular to visit.
Dragon Hill Spa:
Address: 40-713 Hangang-no 3-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Hours: Open 24 hours
Rates: Day rates: 5am~8pm: 6 years old and above: 10,000won
Night rates: 8pm~5am: 6 years old and above: 12,000won
Directions: Take Subway Line No.1 to Yongsan Station, and go out of exit in the direction of Yongsan Station Plaza (Gwangjang). Cross the small street on the right of Yongsan Station Plaza toward Yongsan Convention Hall (a wedding hall) and you’ll see Dragon Hill Spa next to the wedding hall.
Spa Land Centum City
Address: 35, Centumnam-daero, Haeundae-gu, Busan
Hours: 6:00-24:00 (midnight) **Spa Land is not open 24 hours, so do not plan to stay overnight here which is often available at other jimjimbangs
Rates: Adults: 13,000 won (weekdays) / 15,000 won (weekends & holidays)
Night time special (Admission after 20:00): 8,000 won (weekdays) / 10,000 won (weekends & holidays)
Directions: Take Busan Subway Line #2 to Centum City Station. Spa Land is attached to the department store that is connected to the station.
** This post was inspired by “Steven Yeun & Conan Visit A Korean Spa” viral video (over 8 million views!). It is hilarious, I hope it doesn’t shock you out of going to a Korean spa. If Conan can do it, so can you!
If you have any stories from your experiences at a jimjilbang, feel free to share them in the comments, I would love to hear about them!