A trip to South Korea isn’t complete without an authentic Jjimjilbang experience. The public baths or saunas are a common spot for locals to pass time, and a paradise for weary travelers to unwind and revive from physical exhaustion after a whole day of shopping.
How do you pick a Jjimjilbang from so many options, and what is the difference among them? Here, we compare seven of the best South Korean saunas for you to pick from during a trip to Seoul, Busan or Jeju Island.
Located near Myeongdong and Dongdaemun in Seoul, LK Spa is the biggest Jjimjilbang around the main shopping districts. The two-story spa has a pleasing bright and clean environment, and it’s a perfect place to try the body scrubs. A dedicated ahjumma will help you slay away dull, dry skin from all over your body (don’t worry, it won’t hurt). Then, she will message your softer and smoother skin with hot fragrance oil for a real treat.
LK Spa is equipped with three kinds of sauna rooms—maifanshi, loess, and fire, with temperatures ranging from low (50°C) to high (100°C). The hot springs are also infused with ginseng, jasmine and red wine flavors, dissolving all your exhaustion from walking and shopping in various ways.
This bathhouse is also conveniently situated in Myeongdong, Seoul’s shopping hotspot. It is particularly popular among Japanese visitors, and you’ll notice this from all the Japanese signatures on the wall located by the reception.
Choose a combo and simply lie down and relax for the following 60 to 80 minutes. The staff will pamper you with a massage, exfoliate your facial skin and apply a mask on your face. There are four types of masks, each boasting great benefits for your skin. Choose chocolate for an anti-aging effect, pearl for silk-like skin, or collagen for anti-wrinkle care. This place is no doubt your best choice to get your glow on.
Praised by CNN as one of the best three saunas in Seoul, Dragon Hill Spa & Resort is an irresistible option to destress in the most glorious way. Why? To start, it’s the biggest sauna in Seoul, and well-equipped with a series of facilities— spa, sauna, golf, KTV, cinema, you name it. If you come here, you might even have a chance to bump into a local celebrity, since Dragon Hill is a popular shooting spot for K dramas and TV shows.
There are eight themed sauna rooms with different healing effects. Relax in the beautifully decorated sauna and spa rooms for up to 12 hours. The resort operates round the clock, so if you come late in the evening, you can also choose to stay overnight and save on a room in a hotel.
If you’re not interested in more touristic Jjimjilbangs like those around Myeongdong, then try Itaewon Land Sauna, which is frequented more by the locals. Here, you’ll enjoy the largest traditional oak wood sauna in Korea and spring water from 300m underground. The sauna uses FIR (far infrared) and high temperature to produce the steamy heat. Such heat encourages sweat to come out of your body, eliminating toxins.
After the sauna, enjoy a body scrub, or entertain yourself in their DVD theater, comic book room, or karaoke room. This is a paradise for you to throw all your worries away.
This Jjimjilbang in Seoul is located at the heart of the city center, despite its pastoral name. Not only is it easily reachable, but it also has the outdoor charcoal kilns which you can’t find in other bathhouses.
Purify both your body and soul in the traditional saunas heated by natural oak wood-fired heating. The female-only sleeping room is also equipped with a salt room. The best part? You can chow down on hearty Korean BBQ in their canteen too.
When it comes to Jjimjilbangs in Busan, Spa Land is definitely on the top of the list. It’s the biggest one in the city, located in the Centum City department store. It’s famed for their top-notch facilities, including 13 themed saunas with various temperatures, contents, and effects. Have fun hopping around and figuring out your favorite.
Besides the basic sauna rooms and hot springs, there are several services available: face massages, sitz baths and even haircuts. The cafes and restaurants on the ground floor offer an array of dining options. Since it’s located in the Haeundae district, it’s best to enjoy the relaxing spa session after a full day by the seaside.
If you’re traveling to Jeju Island, don’t miss out the Sanbangsan Hot Spring. From the indoor hot spring, you can gaze out from the glass windows and roofs to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the nearby mountains and islands.
This Jjimjilbang is well-known for its carbonated hot spring. Aptly nicknamed the Beauty Spring, this type of hot spring moisturizes your skin, as if you’re soaking in a warm tub of toner. It also helps lower your blood temperature, blessing you with both beauty and better health. Other features worth mentioning include their outdoor springs, sauna rooms, body scrub, swimming pools, and restaurants.
A version of this story first appeared on KKday.