Dragon Hill spa is a well known jjimjilbang among tourists in Seoul. It is also the biggest in Seoul and as it is right next to our house, it is obviously there that we relax once a week
For more practical tips and addresses of jjimjilbang and spas in Seoul, go to the end of the article
What is a jjimjilbang
In Korean, bang means room. There are so many words ending in bang but which designate spaces where one comes between friends and family, that thisn’tion has broadened and we even talk about the “bang culture”: it is true that Koreans often do things between friends or family. Going to the jjimjilbang is one of them
Jjimjilbang looks like a Japanese onsen, it is a non-mixed public bath where people come to wash and relax thanks to the many hot baths, saunas and hammam. It is like going to a popular spa
Unlike the Japanese onsen, the Korean jjimjilbang has a large mixed space (where people are in pyjamas) where all the family (or friends) meet to go to the sauna together, or sleep on the floor together
It isn’t uncommon to see Koreans spending the night here (as several generations live under the same roof, from time to time they come here to have a little privacy and more space). Indeed, the ticket is valid for 14h ! The jjimjibang are open H24 and we have the right to spend a night here if we wish
How’s it going?
- First we pay the entrance fee (15,000won/person on weekends and 12,000 won on weekdays). We each get pajamas (in our size) + two towels each + a numbered bracelet with a key hanging on it. We must never lose this bracelet. All additional purchases will be made with the bracelet in question. There are also packages available if you wish to have treatments in addition to the entrance.
- We enter by scanning the bracelet.
- Then, you leave your shoes in a small locker with the number written on the bracelet
- Men go to the 5th floor, while women go to the 3rd floor. The space is really huge. 8 floors in all!
- You must store all your belongings in a second locker with the number written on the bracelet. One undresses completely (bathing suits forbidden!) then takes a small staircase to go down to the interior floor where the baths are. It is also necessary to take one of the two towels with you and try to keep it dry by tying it on your head. If the idea of being naked bothers you, know that nobody is staring at anybody and moreover, you are with people of the same sex.
- If you have your own products (shower gel, shampoo), take them as they only provide soap. Otherwise, there is a lady who sells samples of shampoo etc. for 1000won/bag.
- Before going to the baths, there is a space to wash yourself (where you see small chairs + mini-showers). Sit down and wash yourself well, really well!
- Only when you are clean can you go to baths (wash your feet before entering the baths, tie up your hair and never put your head under water, for hygienic reasons), saunas and hammams. Attention, the baths have different temperatures, check the temperature via the digital display before you burn/cool you down
- There is a space with several beds, it is the scrubbing space (paying). You can pay for a scrub + shampoo (30,000won), and other massages. I strongly advise you to opt for the exfoliation (even if it is energetic) because you realize afterwards that you have a lot of dead cells.
- When you are finished, dry yourself with the small towel, before going upstairs to change (with the pyjamas provided) and go down to the 1st floor
- There, you can just sleep on the heated floor, or go to large sauna areas to sleep on Himalayan salt or in the “ovens” between 38° and 110°C ! (again, the temperature is marked on the outside of the “oven”), or cool down in a fridge at -6°C. There are playgrounds, restaurants… to relax.
JB in the fridge at -6°C 😀
- If you are sporty, you can put on your swimsuit to enjoy the outdoor pool on the 1st floor, or go up to the 6th floor to explore other restaurants and spas.
- You can take a bath afterwards if you want and then dry yourself with the 2nd towel. Then get dressed and pay for any extra expenses by giving your bracelet at the exit.
- It is also possible to eat snacks (like these rather special eggs) or complete meals (like this bibimbap).
If cleanliness leaves a little to be desired, I find the concept really nice. The baths aren’t very varied (compared to what we are used to in Japan for example), but the saunas are of quality and the common space is really a big plus
Even if everyone agrees that this spa is very touristy, I think that Koreans don’t ignore this place either. We see many families hanging out in the common area and sleeping together
What I find funny is that this spa is mostly a place for dating. So the Korean girls don’t spend much time washing and relaxing but they get dressed up and then they go down to the first floor to have lunch/dinner with their date
Services I have tested
I’m a fan of spas/beauty institutes etc. so it’s only natural that I test a lot of services here. First of all
The body scrub
I’m used to getting exfoliated in the steam room but Korean exfoliation is really at a higher level. It’s not very pleasant because beauticians go to great lengths to do it. You feel like a poor chicken waiting to be plucked. You have to put yourself on your back, then on your ribs, then on your belly and the slightest centimeter is erased. TWICE!
The shameful part comes from the fact that we see dead cells leaving like noodles
After the exfoliation, I am quickly given a shampoo + small lymphatic massage. And I feel very clean
Price : 30,000won
After the scrub, the beautician tells me that my skin is too dry (hence the dead cell “noodles”) and offers me an oil massage right here on the wet table. And it costs a total of 60,000won with the scrub. I say yes, without really knowing what to expect
The massage will also be super strong, plus, she hits me. Well, with the combination of oil + water, my skin can stand it all. And I feel that it has released all the tension in my shoulders and neck. I feel very light afterwards
Price: 60,000won (including scrubbing)
Face care + back care
The second time, I decide not to go to the beauticians on the bath level, but on the 3rd floor, on the lockers level. This time, we’re no longer on the bath level, I go there in my pajamas
The treatment lasts more or less 1h10. The first part is the back massage. Ohlalal she goes hard! I have a lot of tension in my shoulders and neck and she didn’t miss me, pressing very, very hard where it hurts. I admit that I didn’t complain, thinking that it will release the tension and I will feel better afterwards. The massage is centered on my back but I had a little massage of both arms as well
Then, I turn around and the facial treatment goes SUPER WELL. First, the facial scrub is done with an ultrasonic cleaning machine. I’m not a big fan of this machine because it still removes a small layer of skin, but it’s the machine used in almost all Korean spas. They don’t do grainy scrubbing like we do
Then she only gives me manual massage. Super strong but it feels good because a lymphatic + anti-aging massage that gives firmness to the skin (basically, she hits me on the cheeks ahahha). As it is the case in other Korean spas, the massage here is also for the neck and décolleté. It’s a bit surprising at first, but the lymphatic massage must indeed include the décolleté (in order to release toxins from the face). I don’t have tension in my face so I’m in relaxation mode (unlike the back massage)
We end up with a huge mask, which she leaves on my face for a long time, so long that I almost fell asleep
And in the end, faithful to the Korean layering, she spreads I-knows-how many layers of moisturizing creams. And here I am with a super glowy complexion
Results: The facial treatment was great, I feel like my face is less puffy and my features are more relaxed. I think that if I do this type of massage twice a week, my skin will really be firmer. The only snag is the appearance of two small pimples the next day, which is quite normal because massages stimulate the skin and detoxify it. Overall, I’m happy, my complexion is clearer
There is another facial at 70,000won just to get the V-line (redefining the oval of the face). Already, my treatment is energetic enough to release toxins from the face, so I don’t dare to think about the violence of a V-line facial. You won’t have jaws anymore !
However, for back massage, it is catastrophic! It hurts more than before the treatment. The next day, I discover with horror bruises on my shoulders. She massaged me so hard that I am “hurt” now
Price: 70,000won for the back + face care. 40,000won for face care only
Where to find a Jjimjilbang
Dragon Hill is only one of Seoul’s jimjilbangs, but it is the most foreign-friendly. To test more local Jjimjilbangs, type “spa” or “fomentation” on the Naver Maps application
Just remember to inquire about Tripadvisor beforehand because we’ve seen quite a few negative opinions about these local spas, about the theft of stuff (in locked lockers!).