Hoa Lo Prison Museum

Built and named Maison Centrale by the French administration in 1896, the notorious Hoa Lo Prison was Hanoi’s main jail complex keeping political prisoners, regarded as the gruesome French guillotine. A host of Vietnamese revolutionaries were beheaded in this gory prison. During Vietnam War, the prison was used to detain US POWs and obtained its iron nickname of ‘Hanoi Hilton’ in this period.

Hoa Lo Prison Museum
Photo by Clay Gilliland
Most of the prison complex was torn down in 1997 so as to make way for the Hanoi Central Tower building, yet enough of the old prison site was preserved to establish the Hoa Lo Prison Museum.
Exhibitions in the prison museum mostly display historical items related to the Vietnamese struggle for independence from the French colonists. Collections of torture instruments comprising whips, terrifying array of shackles are on display. 

A humble section of the museum is devoted to showcasing the sanguinary reality of the prison in Vietnam War. Famous inmates housed by the prison in this era were Senator John McCain (the Republican running for US presidency in 2008) and Pete Peterson (the first US ambassador visiting Vietnam in 1995). McCain was a pilot shot down in 1967 and rescued from Truc Bach Lake by Hanoi locals. His flight suit is on display in Hoa Lo Prison Museum. US prisoners were treated with substantial mercy under Vietnamese administration.

The guillotine used to be operated at the back of the prison. It was the inmates who dubbed it Hoa Lo, which means ‘fiery furnace’.

The prison capacity was 450 prisoners; however, by the 1930s, nearly 2000 prisoners were recorded to be detained at the site. Hoa Lo often failed to be a security prison as hundreds made it to the other side of its walls and many squeezed out through sewer grates over the years.

Address: No. 1 Hoa Lo Str. (between Hai Ba Trung and Ly Thuong Kiet Str.), Hanoi. 
Opening  on weekdays, except Monday at 07:30am – 11:30am & 1:30pm – 4:30pm.

   If you want to discover other wonderful places other than Hanoi, here we offers some best tours from Hanoi as references to help you to have great time in Vietnam. 

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