Hoa Lo Prison Travel Information


Hoa Lo Prison Description:

Hoa Lo Prison, often sarcastically referred to as “The Hanoi Hilton” by American prisoners during the Vietnam War, was built in the early 19th century as a central prison by the French during the colonial era of French Indochina.

Thought to have been originally constructed sometime between 1886 and 1898, Hoa Lo Prison originally housed political decenters accused of agitating the general population of Vietnam against French colonial rule. Called Maison Centrale - literally Central House - by the French, the prison had a reputation for inhumane treatment of inmates and severe overcrowding. By 1954 more than 2000 people had been crammed into a space designed to hold 600 people.

The prison was turned over to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam after the 1954 revolution, and was used for a brief time as an education center for revolutionary doctrine.

The first U.S. prisoners of war were moved to Hoa Lo Prison in 1964. The American POWs are credited for giving the prison its sardonic moniker “The Hanoi Hilton.” The first U.S. prisoners faced cramped quarters, poor sanitation, lack of food, and were subjected to many of the same extreme methods of torture the French used on Vietnamese prisoners during the colonial era.

In the mid-90s the prison was mostly demolished after the last of its prisoners, mostly domestic agitators and political opponents, had been moved to other facilities. The remaining structures inside the original compound were converted into a museum that displays some of the prison’s more nefarious devices like the French guillotine.

Best Time to Visit Hoa Lo Prison:

Hanoi’s temperate weather makes it an excellent destination year-round for sightseeing. The spring, March to April, is usually humid with light rains. Temperatures steadily rise between May and August, but the city cools considerably between September and November. Between December and February the city is cool and dry.

How to get to Hoa Lo Prison:

The Hoa Lo Prison is in Hanoi’s Old Quarter not terribly far from Hoan Kiem Lake. The museum is best reached by guests enjoying our luxury tours of Vietnam using our chauffeured vehicle service to navigate the city’s busy streets.

Hoa Lo Prison Highlights:

Vietnam has been filled with conflict for most of the last century, and visiting the small museum can lend insight and perspective to our guests while they travel through the country.

Appropriate Attire :

Western style clothing is acceptable while visiting the monument, but keep in mind that Taoist or Buddhist temples usually require shoulders, arms, and knees to be covered upon entry and to dress appropriately when planning to visit multiple destinations in a single day.