Wash away the winter blues at Seoul’s best saunas


 W-Hotel Walkerhill Seoul

Written by Mimsie Ladner

Winter in Korea can be ruthless. Harsh winds and subzero temperatures are conducive to dry, itchy skin and chapped lips. Shorter days create a sense of loneliness and depression. The hustle and bustle of the holiday season leaves Seoulites feeling fatigued and stressed. Contrary to popular belief, there is a cure for the winter blues and it comes in the form of a day at the spa. Fortunately for those residing in Seoul, there’s a spa for just about everyone; SEOUL looks at three of them.


Yongsan Dragon Hill Spa (Yongsan Area)

Dragon Hill Spa isn’t only Seoul’s most famous jjimjilbang (Korean sauna), but is also one of the city’s largest. With seven floors of entertainment facilities and attractions, it’s easy to spend an entire day exfoliating in the spa’s heated tubs, watching Hollywood blockbusters in the cinema room, lounging in the common area, or snacking on classic jjimjilbang treats: boiled eggs and sikhye (a traditional sweet Korean rice beverage).

The spa boasts a nice variety of saunas, each of which offers a different healing property and temperature. The traditional hardwood charcoal kilns are a good way to sweat out toxins after a long night out on the town, while aromatherapy rooms set in a Vegas-like pyramid soothe the mind. Still, the highlight of Dragon Hill is the salt room. Here, patrons lie on heated stones that contour to the body’s curves, allowing for maximum relaxation and alleviation of achy muscles.


 FYI> T. 02-792-0001, www.dragonhillspa.co.kr

GO> Yongsan Station (Line 1 and Jungang Line), Exit 1. Head to My Wedding Hall Buffet—the sauna is right next door.


Polaris Spa (Gangnam Area)

Although relatively new on the spa scene, Polaris in Gangnam is already gaining a great deal of attention from domestic media and among the city’s young lovebirds.

Unlike most spas, Polaris targets couples seeking to heat things up, and the staff has taken great care to ensure that every detail—from the tea candles that spell out “I LOVE YOU” to the gorgeous city views—creates the perfect environment for a romantic and memorable date.

The couple program consists of a foot soak, jacuzzi bath with wine and cheese, back massage, brief nap, and paraffin hand treatment. Throughout the duration of the program, couples are encouraged to participate in fun games and write sweet messages to each other to really get the full romantic effect. Because let’s face it, it wouldn’t be Korea without a heavy dose of cheesy selfie-opps.

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FYI> T. 02-536-4853, www.polarisspa.net

GO> Sinnonhyeon Station (Line 9), Exit 9. Swing a right at Dunkin Donuts, and then enter the road between the Geumgang Jehwa and NB Club buildings. Keep going 60 meters until you see the building with the Chongchu Jjim Dak restaurant on the second floor. The spa is on the 10th floor of that building.


Spa On Air (Incheon International Airport)

Many residents of Korea use the winter vacation, however short it may be, to escape the cold and head to warmer locales. Traveling during peak holiday periods, however, often means inconvenient departure times and pain-inducing long haul flights.

Spa on Air, conveniently located in the main passenger terminal of Incheon International Airport, is an oasis for the weary traveler needing a dose of R&R after a tiresome trip. This small-scale jjimjilbang doesn’t have as many facilities as those in the city, but the hot tubs and saunas are rejuvenating and the comfortable leather lounge chairs are a very much welcome change from cramped airplane seating.

For those with early flights, private rooms can be reserved for a fraction of the cost of nearby hotels. A quick soak, a few minutes in the steam room and a foot massage promises a more relaxing flight, no matter the layovers or delays that could await.


FYI> T. 032-743-7042

GO> B1, Incheon International Airport.

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SEOUL recommends these two spas, too:

W Hotel’s AWAY Spa (eastern Seoul)

With 17 treatment rooms and jaw-dropping views over the Hangang River, W Hotel’s AWAY Spa bring’s the W’s renowned sense of style to the spa experience. Its signature “Awayssage” blends Eastern and Western massage with lavender petals and warm salt. If this isn’t for you, you’ll find yin Yyang therapy, ancient Ayurvedic treatments, Turkish hammam ceremonies, super anti-oxidant facials and detoxifying Korean red clay mask treatments, too.


FYI> T. 02-2022 0450

GO> Gwangnaru Station (Line 5), Exit 2.


OCELAS (Gangnam area)

Bringing together the OCean, Land, Air and Sun, OCELAS is part gallery, part garden, part wedding hall and all spa. Particularly recommended is the LaStone therapy using hot and cold stones.

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FYI> T. 02-567-5631, www.ocelas.com

GO> Seonjeongneung Station (Bundang Line),  Exit 4. Walk straight and hang a right at Gyeongbok Apartment Intersection. The spa is in the basement of the Raum Building.