Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

4 out of 5 stars 22 Reviews

Been here? Rate It!

hide
  • Main entrance
    Main entrance
    by PeterVancouver
  • Hoa Lo Prison
    by PeterVancouver
  • Hoa Lo Prison
    by PeterVancouver
  • Greggor58's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison…the “Hanoi Hilton”..

    by Greggor58 Written May 29, 2010

    4 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    As I mention earlier in my “intro” page of Ha Noi one of the first memories of hearing the name Ha Noi comes from seeing images of American pilots that were imprisoned here during the course of the “American War”.

    Making a visit here was kind of an obligatory “mission”.

    What remains of the structure, most of it has been demolished to make way for modern development, is yet ANOTHER frightening testimony to mans inhumanity to man.

    The prison was built by the French in 1896 and covered a land area of almost 13 000 square meters. When it was constructed it was one of the largest prisons in all of Indochina.
    The original intent was to incarcerate “troublemakers”, those who opposed French rule, so called political prisoners.
    Originally it was built to hold a population of about 450 people. This magic number was quickly exceeded and long story short…by about 1933 its population had swollen to about 1400 prisoners and by 1954 it held more than 2000 people.

    The conditions were barbaric by any standard and today when you visit you can see what a cell would look like; photographs of incarcerated people chained together, exhibits that leave nothing to the imagination, and finally the notorious guillotine that was used to execute prisoners.

    There are different sections that include Memorials to those that lost they’re lives here, there’s a section that lists the names of most if not all prisoners that walked through the doors here at one time or another, and there’s a separate section that covers the history of the prison during the American War when, shot down American pilots were incarcerated here. There’s a small shop where books can be purchased that outlines the French and American conflicts and other odds and ends.

    There is a Memorial situated in an outdoor area of the Prison where joss sticks are burnt. This Memorial is quite graphic in some ways and definitely is more than a small gesture of Honor, Respect, and “eternal” Gratitude.

    Entrance to the prison is only 10 000 Dong…about the equivalent of fifty cents USA…and there are no restrictions on photography.

    Hoa Lo Prison Hoa Lo Prison,Ha Noi,Vietnam. Hoa Lo Prison
    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo

    Hanoi Hilton Prison.

    by cachaseiro Written Mar 7, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Hoa Lo prison, or Hanoi Hilton as it was nicknamed by american prisoners during the Vietnam war is the leftovers of the prison that the french first build to host vietnamese who opposed the french occupation of Vietnam and later it was used for american pilots who were shot down during the Vietnam war.
    It's only a small piece of the prison that is left these days but it has benn turned in to a pretty interesting museum where you can get a fairly good idea of both the life of the vietnamese prisoners during the french occupation and the life of the american soldiers who were prisoners there in the 1960's and 70's.
    American politician John McCain was one of the americans who were imprisoned there and they have a few photos of him during his prison years exhibited in the museum today.
    Pretty good museum that is certainly worth a visit.

    Hanoi Hilton.
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • dancinbudgie's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

    by dancinbudgie Updated May 26, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This prison was built in 1896 by the French. It was originally used to detain Vietnamese 'dissidents'. It's holding capacity was 450, but by 1930 there were almost 2000 prisoners crammed into its cells. It was also used later by the Vietnamese to detain American POW's...it was those prisoners who gave it it's nickname, "Hanoi Hilton".
    We sent a lot longer here than we intended. It was horrible...but compelling. The photo's I have here are some of the less disturbing ones. I am still amazed at how cruel people can be to eachother.

    Open 8am-11.30am & 1.30pm-4.30pm. Closed Monday.
    Asdmission 10,000d

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

    Was this review helpful?

  • ValbyDK's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison

    by ValbyDK Updated Mar 2, 2013

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French colonists in 1896 and was named Maison Centrale (the original sign still hangs over the entrance). Originally used by the French for political prisoners, but later also used by North Vietnam during the Vietnam War for US pilots (U.S. Senator John McCain was one of the most famous inmates). They ironically nick-named the prison the Hanoi Hilton and in 1999, as Vietnam started becoming a more popular tourist destination, Hilton actually built a hotel in Hanoi, but carefully called it the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.

    Most of the prison complex was demolished in 1997, but a part of the old prison was preserved to create the Hoa Lo Prison Museum. The exhibitions are primarily from the French-colonial period and show the cells, a guillotine, and several torture instruments. Only a smaller section of the museum is devoted to the American period, but still very interesting and absolutely worth a visit.

    Hoa Lo Prison Hoa Lo Prison Hoa Lo Prison Hoa Lo Prison - John McCain
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • victorwkf's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison

    by victorwkf Written Apr 4, 2007

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Hoa Lo Prison (also known as Maison Centrale during the French colonial period) is opened daily from 8.30-11.30am and 1.30-4.30pm. This place was opened in 1896 and it was the largest French prison in Northern Vietnam Two-thirds of it was demolished in 1993 to make way for an office and apartment and a small section now remains as a museum. The Hoa Lo Prison is located along Hoa Lo Street (in between Hai Ba Trung Street and Ly Thuong Kiet Street of the French Quarter area, south of Hoan Kiem Lake).

    Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale), Hanoi, Vietnam
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • DennyP's Profile Photo

    VISIT HOA LO PRISON THE "HANOI HILTON"

    by DennyP Updated Oct 9, 2011

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This particular site in Hanoi was on my list of places to visit and what a place of torture and degradation it must have been for all that entered its doors...
    Known as the Hanoi Hilton by American POW's many saw the darkness of life within during their confinement. One famous American that spent many years here was Senator John McCaine..an American Air force pilot who captured and transferred here after being shot down over North Vietnam..The tortures that were inflicted upon him were so severe that he can no longer lift his arms above his shoulders..
    There are many items on display here and a detailed History of the Prison when controlled by the Frech Occupiers of north Vietnam..Not every thing is explained in English

    MAISON CENTRAL   THE HOA LO PRISON   HANOI OUTSIDE THE ENTRANCE TO THE ONE OF MANY COMMEMORATION PLAQUES TO PRISONERS THE GARDEN AND MONUMENTS OF REMEMBERANCE PRISONER   (SENATOR) JOHN MC CAINS FLYING SUIT
    Related to:
    • Photography
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • Designerartgirl's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison (aka Hanoi Hilton)

    by Designerartgirl Written Feb 24, 2005

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This prision is one of hanoi's more interesting museums and it takes you on a walk around tour (following a map, although a guide can be arranged for a few extra Dong.

    Inside you can see what it was like for the american POW during the vietnamese/american war. There are also bits and bobs you can view from torture instruments used on both the vietnamese under french rule, and against the americans during the war. (Including a french guillotine- which is worth visiting just to see the magnificence of it)

    Its open most days except monday, from 8am til 11am, then 1pm till 4 pm

    Entry is 10,000 Dong.

    (ignore the motorcycle touts trying to take you, as its a quick walk there and back and this can save you some dollars or dong)

    old execution device
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • Tattugran's Profile Photo

    HOA LO PRISON

    by Tattugran Written Jul 7, 2009

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Since my husband is a corrections officer he was interested in going to this museum to see what it was like " back then". I walked in and straight away got a really eerie uneasy feeling. I didnt like it at all. I would not recommend talking children here as I think it could upset them

    Was this review helpful?

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Apr 28, 2004

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Hoa Lo Prison was known as the "Hanoi Hilton" during the Vietnam War, but it wasn't due to their great hospitality. This prison was famous for its gruesome conditions and legendary abuses against the POWs. Unfortunately, about 2/3 of the prison was demolished to make way for the Hanoi Towers Hotel (thankfully, not a Hilton!), but the area of the museum that was preserved is very interesting.

    The prison was originally built by the French Colonists as a fortress, then it became a prison for Vietnamese dissidents. During the Vietnam War, up to 300 American pilots were held here at any one time. For five years, US Senator John McCain was held at Hoa Lo experiencing frequent torture and two years of solitary confinement in leg irons.

    When you walk through the prison it is interesting to note that it is divided into two sections. To the right of the entrance, the museum focuses on the history while the French were in power. They beat and abused the Vietnamese prisoners remorselessly. To the left of the entrance there are displays covering the era when the American POWs were held here. The displays all talk about how great the prisoners were treated (but we know the real history!).

    Front wall of Hoa Lo Prison
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

  • tampa_shawn's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison Museum

    by tampa_shawn Updated Feb 24, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The Hoa Lo Prison Museum is definitely on the “must see list”

    I knew several of the former POWs and have read dozens of biographies of former American POWs and found it quite eerie to be in the prison itself.

    The Hoa Lo Prison got its name “the Hanoi Hilton” from the American POWs (Prisoners of War) during the “American War”. In America its name was synonymous with torture, starvation, inhuman treatment and torture.

    Biographies of the former POWs document the horrible abuse and deprivation our POWs suffered during their stay in the Hanoi Hilton and I was quite surprised to see most of the museum dedicated to showing just how WELL the American POWs were treated.

    You can enlarge the pictures on this page by clicking on them if you wish to read what the Vietnamese government is now saying about their “wonderful” treatment of the American POWs. This Propoganda was tacked on the walls of the prison itself.

    I devoted an entire page to the Hanoi Hilton at:

    Was this review helpful?

  • AKtravelers's Profile Photo

    See Hoa La Prison: The Wartime "Hanoi Hilton"

    by AKtravelers Written Oct 6, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Hoa La Prison is better known to Americans as the Hanoi Hilton from the Vietnam War days, but is more famous to the Vietnamese for its role in their resistence to colonialism. Here they had a great deal of exhibition space devoted to the atrocities perpetrated by the French, who built this to be the largest prison in Indochina during the late 1800's. Of course, the theme was the depravity of the French and the heroic revolutionary spirit of the imprisoned locals, none of whom ever committed any crime except patriotism. Finally, the last few rooms were devoted to its role housing prisoners from the war, to include John McCain. Since McCain was the son of the four-star admiral at the U.S. Pacific Command when he was shot down, the Vietnamese were always aware that he was a star prisoner, so they kept photos and relics (including his flight suit) from his five years there. They have since updated the exhibit to note that he is the Republican nominee in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election, good captalists that they now are.

    The outside of Hoa La Prison Looking into a squalid, dark, dirty cell Statues mimickinng the condition of prisoner/heroe John McCain's flight suit from his
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • PeterVancouver's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison (Maison Centrale) (Hanoi Hilton)

    by PeterVancouver Updated Jul 18, 2014

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    The name Hoa Lo, commonly translated as "fiery furnace" or even "Hell's hole", also means "stove". The name originated from the street name "Pho Hoa Lo", due to the concentration of stores selling wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from pre-colonial times.

    The prison was built in Hanoi by the French, in dates ranging from 1886–1889 to 1898 to 1901, when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina. The French called the prison Maison Centrale - a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France. It was located near Hanoi's French Quarter. It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners agitating for independence who were often subject to torture and execution. A 1913 renovation expanded its capacity from 460 inmates to 600. It was nevertheless often overcrowded, holding some 730 prisoners on a given day in 1916, a figure which would rise to 895 in 1922 and 1,430 in 1933. By 1954 it held more than 2000 people; with its inmates held in subhuman conditions, it had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French.

    Known widely by the nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’ given to it by the Americans during the Second Indochina War, Hoa Lo Prison was originally established by the French colonial government in 1896 for the purpose of detaining political prisoners and formed part of a northern network of ‘unjust and cruel prisons’ which included Cao Bang, Son La, Lai Chau and Hai Phong. Many leading revolutionaries were incarcerated here during the French colonial period, including Phan Boi Chau, Hoang Trong Mau, Luong Van Can, Nguyen Quyen, Nguyen Luong Bang and five future General Secretaries of the Communist Party - Nguyen Van Cu, Le Duan, Truong Chinh, Nguyen Van Linh and Do Muoi. Between 1964 and 1973 the prison’s inmates included several captured American pilots, notably Senator John McCain and Douglas 'Pete' Peterson, America’s first Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

    Most of the original prison was demolished in 1996 to make way for the Somerset Grand Hotel Hanoi and is overlooked by another The Melia another modern Hotel in Hanoi, but the southernmost corner has been preserved and reopened to the public as a memorial to the revolutionaries who died here in atrocious conditions. Visitors can view the original cells, complete with leg-irons, along with a selection of bilingual (Vietnamese and English) displays illustrating the horrors of life in the prison during the French colonial period.

    Conditions were appalling; food was watery soup and bread. Prisoners were variously isolated, starved, beaten, tortured for countless hours and paraded in anti-American propaganda. "It is easy to die but hard to live," a prison guard told one new arrival, "and we will show you just how hard it is to live." The prison is really “A Hell on Earth”.
    The Hanoi Hilton was depicted in the eponymous 1987 Hollywood movie The Hanoi Hilton. Hanoi Tower, built on the site of the infamous prison "Hanoi Hilton"; the entrance to the remaining parts of the prison visible in the foreground. By 1996, most of the walls of the Hanoi Hilton had been torn down to make way for new construction. Portions of the walls were retained for historical reasons. The Vietnamese also have bitter memories of the prison, for many communist revolutionaries were kept and tortured there. In 1998, the old front of the prison was painted and restored and the remaining portions of the prison were turned into a tourist site. Some of the cells have been opened and considerable information about Vietnamese prisoners is available. The information about the U.S. prisoners of war is unreliable. There is now a Hilton Hotel in Hanoi, called the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel, which opened in 1999. It was built decades after the Vietnam War was over, but Hilton carefully avoided reusing the dreaded name Hanoi Hilton.

    Main entrance Picture from the 70's inside the compound Modern development right up to the walls
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Family Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • TheTravelSlut's Profile Photo

    "Hanoi Hilton" for American POW's-a travesty

    by TheTravelSlut Updated Apr 17, 2013

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I was originally hesitant to enter the Hoa Lo Prison (known to most Americans as the "Hanoi Hilton" due to personal reasons but as I was one of the first Americans to be able to experience this place, I could not resist. What remains of the original prison is now a Museum,

    Much of the original prison was destroyed in the mid-1990s but the "Maison Centrale" and some of the original French colonial walls remain within the museum.

    The exhibits focus on the prison during the French colonial period and include a guillotine room and the prison cells used for Vietnamese political prisoners.

    As for anything related to American Prisoners of War (1964-1974), I was acutely aware of the false propoganda about the "humane" treatment provided to the POW's. I've met more than one POW that spent time in this prison and their lingering and permanent injuries inflicted during their incarceration are evidence that the North Vietnamese Army captors tortured American POW's on a large and longterm scale. I also saw the interrogation room and cells where American POW's were questioned and even though it looks innocuous now, it still appears to be someplace no one should ever be.

    Some of the displays even go so far as to say that the name "Hanoi Hilton" proves the prison was more like hotel than a prison.

    After seeing this prison, I have nothing but respect for the men who survived their ordeals in this place during the Vietnam War including U.S. Senator John McCain whose book "Faith of my Fathers" details the horrific events inside Hoa Lo prison..

    The address: Hoả Lò, Trần Hưng Đạo, Hoan Kiem District, Hà Nội,

    Inside a cell in the Entrance to the prison Diorama of the prison interior Guillotine inside the U.S. Senator John McCain's cell inside the prison
    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

    Was this review helpful?

  • kenningst's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison

    by kenningst Written Apr 13, 2008

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    I enjoyed this place quite a bit as it used to be a prison but now turned into a tourist spot where you can go in and see how the inmates used to live, survived, tourtured or executed. This prison used to house John McCain, now a Senator in the US Senate.

    There is an entrance fee but I don't remember how much.

    Was this review helpful?

  • yock's Profile Photo

    Hoa Lo Prison Museum

    by yock Written Jun 24, 2005

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    This is one of the more interesting museum in Hanoi. Inside this museum you will see the cells that are used to accomodate vietnamese during their fight for freedom against the french and the japanese. American POW are also kept here during world war two. However the entrance of this museum is a bit hard to find but its worth the trouble.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits

    Was this review helpful?

Instant Answers: Hanoi

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

33 travelers online now

Comments

View all Hanoi hotels