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Seven Hot, Warm, Naked Bathhouses for Winter. And Beyond

Japanese sento, Korean jimjilbang and Chinese hot pools.
2020-11-25 14:00:00

I love a good hot bath. Too bad there's fewer bathtubs than Wagas in China. But there's a solution: the bathhouse! Fun, adventure grounds where it’s acceptable — encouraged! — to strut around as naked as the day you were born, bouncing from sauna to pool and back.

The origin of bathhouses is debatable. Some say it was the Romans (who found a hot spring in Britain, now called "Bath"), others the Finnish (who invented the sauna). The Turkish have a claim as well. Their popularity died off in Europe with the Plague.

Not in Asia! In Japan, public bathhouses have been a central part of the country’s culture for thousands of years. Nowadays, there are more than 5,000 sento across Japan, and the experience is almost meditative. South Korean spas, jimjilbang, are more for having fun. Twenty-first century Korean bathhouses are elaborate, known for giving you the scrub of a lifetime and crammed with entertainment and food.

In China, public bathhouses and hot springs really took off about 800 years ago, though the public bathing tradition took root much earlier among Buddhist monks and Tang dynasty royalty. Even back then, there were add-ons like back rubs and hairdressing.

Today, the bathhouses in Shanghai are pretty international. There are Japanese, Korean, and Chinese versions out there in the city, serving the heaving, naked masses of Shanghai. For 100-200rmb (or cheaper if you check on Dianping), you can spend hours soaking some heat into your frigid bones. Especially in winter.

Here are seven!

(You may have noticed that our typically high standard of photography is looking a little more generic than usual. That's because the bathhouses wouldn't let us take photos inside for some reason. Imagine that! Instead, enjoy this steamy stock photography we picked out just for you.)

* For our full list of bathhouses in Shanghai plus the latest on spas, beauty and more, visit the SmSh Health & Wellness Directory.