How to enjoy a Korean bathhouse

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 07 Feb 20

Visiting a traditional Korean bathhouse, or jjimjilbang, is one of the must-do cultural activities when visiting South Korea, as they are such an important part of contemporary Korean culture.

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More than just somewhere to have a cleansing soak, a jjimjilbang offers a well-rounded relaxation experience.

Let’s look at the traditional process during a visit to a jjimjilbang:

  1. Strip down
    While being naked in front of strangers might not be the norm in the west, this is a normal, and expected, part of visiting a jjimjilbang. As long as you’re not covered in tattoos (you may not be permitted if you have tattoos) nobody is going to give you a second look.
  2. Lather up
    If you want to soak in the baths, you’ll need to be clean first. Use one of the showers or washing stations provided using the toiletries you’ve brought in, or purchase some in the changing rooms.
  3. Enjoy a soak
    Now that you’re clean, make your way to the baths (segregated by gender). Each bath has a different temperature, which is clearly marked. You’ll notice many Koreans will switch back and forth between hot and cold tubs, a practice believed to benefit the skin and circulatory system, but the order is up to you!
  4. Exfoliate
    You’ll notice some of the jjimjilbang visitors scrubbing themselves pretty vigorously. South Korea is the beauty capital of the world, after all, and exfoliation is vital. You can scrub yourself, or you can pay one of the attendants standing by the plastic tables to do it for you. They are generally merciless and will exfoliate you to within an inch of your life, but the end result is well worth it.
  5. Sweat it out
    Now that you’re soaked and scrubbed, put on your pajamas and head to the common area. Korean saunas are a bit different to what we’re used to here in Australia. They’re typically kilns made from stone or clay that feature hemp mats, salt crystals or jade crystals to lay on and gradually warm your body. Just be careful you don’t relax too much and fall asleep!
  6. Enjoy a treat
    Part of the jjimjilbang experience is to continue relaxing after you’re done with the baths and saunas. This usually involves sitting around in the common area and snacking on traditional jjimjilbang treats, such a sikhye, a sweet beverage made from cooked rice and pine nuts, and some boiled eggs cooked in the saunas, while you watch TV, relax in a massage chair or take a nap.

During our South Korea in Depth and Discover South Korea & Japan small group tours, we visit Jinan Red Ginseng Spa, which allows you to experience this important part of the Korean way of life.

Unlike some Korean spas, however, Jinan Red Ginseng Spa combines genders and swimwear and bathing caps are required.

You will have the freedom to experience any of the themed rooms, including herbal bed therapy, bubble therapy, aromatherapy, mud therapy, stone therapy and floating therapy. There is also a sauna and indoor and outdoor pools to enjoy (with amazing views). This is an experience not to be missed!