Friday, November 20, 2009

Busan, Centum City, Shinsegae Department Store - SpaLand

Unfortunately for them, Spa Land has no English website.  Unimaginable, I know.  I mean, after all Shinsegae is one of the world's largest department stores.  Whatever guys, don't worry about it...

Actually that's one of the few complaints I had about this place.  5 to be exact; shall we get them out of the way, in a classic bad-news-first way?
1.  The aforementioned lack of a comprehensive English website.
2.  Not enough showers.  Maybe 30 sit-down and only 12 standing ones.  Even on a Thursday evening, there was a short queue at times to rinse off.
3.  Sauna is well-lit...  A little too well.  It's like a doctor's exam room in there! Though I've heard this varies- some have had a similar experience, and I have friends who go often and report sometimes it's your normal dimly-lit bath area.
4.  A couple of times while in the jjimjilbang rooms, I heard water rushing through pipes somewhere.  Not so relaxing.
5.  Minor, but there's nowhere in the jjimjilbang to fill up a water bottle.  Get yours filled in the sauna.

OK, there.  The band-aid's off.  Now for the good stuff.  This place is (as expected) gorgeous.  What I didn't expect was for it to be so different from any other jjimjilbang I'd been to.  Instead of being just an up-scale version of a nice jjimjilbang, this is like stepping into a 5-star, ultra-modern hotel.  Cool, flat stone; glass partitions; restrained decorative appearance; and plentiful meditation areas distinguish both the sauna and jjimjilbang from others I've reviewed.  An open floor plan and high glass ceilings also lend themselves to the modern aesthetic.

At first, you'll notice the grand lobby welcoming you to buy a ticket.  It will cost you 12,000 won for a visit on a weekday, 14,000 on Saturday or Sunday (4 hour limit).  You may notice the lack of screaming, running rugrats.  The first real advantage of this spa: no children under 13 are allowed in.  This most certainly improves the overall peace.  As a side note, there's no sauna-only ticket option, so everyone gets 3 extra fluffy towels and a set of clothes. The locker room isn't really much different from another nice sauna's locker room.  The lockers are full-size, and have shelves and a jewelry rack inside.

In the bathing area you'll start to notice the stark beauty and opulence of the place: lots of small baths, each of a different temperature.  In the center of the room are the naturally-fed hot springs.  One is sodium chloride (salt, benefiting the muscles and joints, as well as other body systems), the second is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda, said to "improve beauty of the skin").  Both have the added benefit of reducing the amount of water absorbed by the skin due to higher concentrations of salts in the water, so you don't prune up!  Now that's nice-uh!

There are also a massaging tub (around 38* with varied positions and a cave), a cool tub (~25*), a cold tub (18*), 2 dry sauna rooms, and an outdoor spa (women's sauna only).  Outdoors are two more naturally fed pools.  They are pretty hot - welcome this time of year, though.  The outdoor area is covered by a slatted wood dome to maintain privacy.  Hint 1: Next to the entrance from the locker room, they provide soaps and natural sea salt to scrub or soak your skin with, and all showers are stocked with shampoo and body wash.

Hint 2: You can pay for anything in the jjimjilbang with your locker key, so don't bother bringing any money up.  Once you venture down the hall towards the jjimjilbang you'll be transported to the hotel I was talking about before.  Let me just list the rooms available to you here, with some description.
Charcoal Room -참숯방
Ice Room - 아이스방 / 어름방
Yellow Ocher Room - Hwang-to / 황토방.  Hot, but comfortably dry.
Hammam Room - 하맘룸, meant to replicate a Turkish-style bath sauna.
Bali Room - 발리룸, an open area with soft floor-mattresses where you can congregate with your friends and loved ones and talk freely.
Pyramid room - angled walls for a relaxing mood, or something.
Roman Room - 로만룸, replicates the feeling of a traditional Roman sauna room.  Warm and very humid, like Korean summers.  Stand over the steamer in the center with your towel over your head for max effect.
Body Sound Room -raised platforms which vibrate with the bass in the calming background music.  Bonus fake bamboo along the walls.
Wave Dream Room - places to lay along the sides, and from the middle lights are reflected through water waves for a meditative, colourful view on the ceiling.
SEV Room - therapeutic ions emitted into semi-private, wooden 2-seater benches lit by dim coloured lights.
Relax Room - an amazing 3-tiered arc-shaped space with reclining leather chairs together by two's, each one equipped with it's own mini TV!
Outdoor foot spa - In the chilly months, don one of the quilted jackets at the entrance to this patio with various temperatures of walking- and soaking-foot-tubs with seats for small or large groups, singles, or couples.
Massage & Therapy, nail shop, cafe & beverages, restaurant, DVD, PC, business rooms.
Turkish Hammam Room - smells A-mazing in here

Yeah, that's all.  Ha!  I only got lost a couple of times.  The restaurant is opulent and offers some great cuisine other jjimjilbang don't (udon with fried Japanese things, bulgogi stew, even the simple Korean foods are high-quality) the therapy room looks top-notch, and the DVD theatre is also fitted with reclining chairs.  Premium.  I highly recommend this place for a special treat - best enjoyed with friends, guests, or in a couple.  Off you go!

                Below: Resting areas in the connecting hall              Relax room's individual TV chairs
Lounging beds in Bali Room                                  Steamy Roman Room                     

Shinsegae Spa Land - right outside the Centum City subway stop on line 2, exit 12.
부산광역시 해운대구 우1동 1495 센텀시티, 1-3층
Busan, Haeundae Gu, Woo 1-dong, 1495 Centum City, 1st-3rd floor
6:00 - 24:00  **Not open 24 hours - closes at midnight - cannot sleep overnight here!**

Basic: weekday - 12,000 / weekend* - 14,000
Early Bird (before 8AM): weekday - 7,000 / weekend* - 9,000
Night Owl: after 8PM Sun-Thurs -7,000 / after 10PM Fri, Sat - 9,000
* means Sat, Sun, & holidays

CNN article about SpaLand (updated 2015)
Sweet Forest: Korean blog entry about SpaLand (start from pic #6, then continue down to see photos of the jjimjilbang)
Shinsegae Department Store (Centum City location) - English, basic, but has a cute map.

Wikimapia of Shinsegae Spa Land


  1. If you want to save a little money, go early in the morning. 12,000 won is reduced to 9,000 won and lines for anything will be much less frustrating. I've been twice during the week and there were no lines for showers, rooms or any other feature. Arriving at 9pm also gives you a discount as you have fewer than 3 hours to enjoy the facilities. Should you stay longer than 3 hrs, you can expect to pay an extra 1,000 won or more. I've been twice and I'll be back again.

  2. I've been there and the outdoor hot springs were amazing! but I heard there's no outdoor spa for guys, is there?

  3. Yes, this is totally true ~ the outdoor springs are only on the Women's side. Unfair, but honestly, so many more women go to the sauna in Korea than men that there are bound to be some differences in amenities.

  4. Hey! This review is fantastic!!

    I just wondered if you would be open to us featuring it on our Korean travel website ?

    We think our users would love it - and we would feature you as a contributor and link to this blog for you.

    Let us know if you'd be up for that!

    Good job again on the review - I really wanna go there now!


  5. Hey,

    Thanks for the info. Can't quite work out if the bathing areas are mixed sex (ie swimwear wearing), or the traditional Korean naked single sex type.
    Is there a lot of areas to use as a couple?

  6. The bathing areas are not mixed. You have no need for swimwear at this sauna as there is no swimming pool and all baths are the typical nude & gender segregated.
    The only exception to this is the foot bath outside of the co-ed clothed area which you can use with your opposite-sex partner.

    There are plenty of other wonderful mixed-sex places to enjoy as well. This jjimjilbang is really my favorite because of the rooms and less so the baths. There are several floors of gorgeous modern and traditional-styled relaxation rooms to enter together, so enjoy!

  7. Hi Sonja!

    I was just wondering if you could provide some of the better mixed saunas over in South Korea?
    Thanks a lot!

    1. What do you mean by "mixed saunas?" The saunas are all gender segregated - I've only heard rumors of so-called bubutang that are for married couples or families to share a bath. I don't think they exist anymore since everyone would abuse the, um... privilege! :D

  8. I've visited this sauna twice and its definitely a good place to start if you have never been to a jjimjilbang before. Make sure to to the information desk in the department store (1st floor) and get a coupon book for foreigners (bring your passport or a copy of it with you). You get 20% off your entrance fee, as well as other coupons like 10-20% off of a spa treatment and 10% of of an exfoliation scrub. I did the "Wellbeing treatment" (using the coupon) for 27,000 won, which consisted of a facial treatment/mask, body scrub, and massage.

    The baths in the women's section are awesome (especially the outdoor baths in the winter!) and there's a variety of rooms for you to try. All in all, Spaland may be a bit pricier than other jjimjilbangs, but it's certainly worth the trip!

  9. Can you wear bathing suits or do you have to be naked?

    1. The etiquette dictates that you should use the baths naked, and I would say it's just best to abide. Of course you can certainly ask the front desk or bathing area staff.
      I do see a lot of people holding their towel in front of them while walking around the locker room and bath area for a bit more modesty. This is perfectly acceptable. I always say that you would honestly feel more out of place and draw more attention with your suit on. You'll be surprised how normal you'll feel just doing what everyone else does :)

  10. Hi I will be in Busan in a few days and I would like to visit this place, however I have a couple of concerns one is that I am a female that is 5,9" and a size US 20. I know korean women are petite and I am not sure if they will have a spa outfit in my size. Do you think they will let me go in my shorts and a t shirt?

    1. Sorry for my late reply. I hope you had a good time in Busan and visited the sauna!
      For other readers, if you're concerned about sizing it's always worth asking. I know the tops at least come quite large, like XXL and XXXL at most places. The shorts would be more of a concern, but if you have plain cotton shorts that are around knee-length that should be fine to bring. If you'll be bringing both tops & bottoms to wear into the sauna, make sure they are plain and both of the same color (brown/tan/white/pink/blue are common ones). Scrub tops are perfect, or heavy cotton tees.

  11. Went here a few days ago, after reading your review, so thanks for the info! The saunas are no longer brightly lit. It was a nice experience, however after experiencing Japanese onsen, I was surprised how loud people are in this facility, lots of groups of people talking loudly in the relaxation rooms and horsing around in the pools, and there were lots of kids running around wild. Also, OMG do people EVER put their phones away - even in some of the very hot, humid rooms. Crazy! The pamphlet said that no one under 18 is allowed after 10 pm, but when we left at 11, there were still lots of kids around. Overall we enjoyed the experience, and it helped to get the 8pm discount.

  12. Hi, my friends and I are planning a visit to Busan. We do plan to visit a jjimjilbang. However, is it advisable to be wearing our contact lens, especially high temp hot rooms?


    1. I don't wear contacts, but my friends who do recommend you wear glasses if possible. Your contacts will be very uncomfortable in the heat, and some rooms are quite dry as well. (If you can do without your glasses, that's definitely the best, since they will likely fog and be annoying also.)
      Hope you guys have fun in Busan! Spaland is not to be missed!

    2. Thank you for your advice. ;)

  13. I've been to 5 different jjimjilbang while in Korea and overall I have to say Spaland is my favorite. Their bath area indeed is a bit on the small side and thus a bit crowded, but their jjimjilbang area is absolutely supreme. I went on a rainy afternoon and there is truely no better place than to spend it in a lounger chair under the glass roof of the jjimjilbang area.

  14. Hi Sonja.
    This may sound like a silly question, but is it possible to skip the bathing naked in front of people and just enjoy the clothed section of the spa?

    1. Not a silly question at all, and definitely you may choose to do that. Especially at Spaland, the clothed spa area is so worth it!! Have a good and comfortable time!