Opening Hours: open daily from 08:00 until 17:00 and closed from lunch from 11:30 until 13:30
Location: 1 Hoa Lo Street, Hai Ba Trung district, Hanoi.
Entrance fee: 30,000VND
Hoa Lo Prison was a prison used by the French colonists in French Indochina for political prisoners, and later by North Vietnam for U.S. prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. During this later period it was known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. The prison was demolished during the 1990s, although the gatehouse remains as a museum. The name originated from the street name Hoa Lo, due to the concentration of stores selling wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street in 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, ‘Central House’, which is still the designation of prisons for dangerous or long sentence detainees in France. It was located near Hanoi’s French Quarter. Hoa Lo Prison today portrays a different side of the horror stories told by former inmates despite the prominently displayed shackles hanging on the walls. Much of the emphasis is on the Vietnamese revolutionaries some of whom were executed at the prison. The American POWs have well documented their own experiences, little of which is available at Maison Centrale today. These campaigners were captured and usually shackled to the floor where they could easily be beaten by guards. Vietnamese prisoners were also executed here by use of a guillotine which today is displayed near the prisons infamous death row.
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