Also known as Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi Hilton, or Maison Centrale in Hanoi is a place to house Vietnamese revolutionaries, soldiers, and American POWs during the Vietnam war. The fort was once a sizeable colonial-style prison, most of which was destroyed in the 1990s.
The prison is still a famous tourist attraction in the Hanoi French Quarter for those on the war history path. Official records stated that the prisoners were numbered hundreds of people despite not knowing as many as 2,000 prisoners were crammed into a space reserved for 600 prisoners.
About 200-300 American pilot prisoners were arrested and taken to the Hoa Lo Prison for interrogation and torture. However, the prominent display shackles hang on the walls. Much of the emphasis is on Vietnamese revolutionaries, some of whom were executed at the prison. In addition, American prisoners recorded their own experiences, very few of which are at the Hoa Lo Prison today.
Hanoi’s Hoa Lo Prison Highlights
Situated in the center of Hanoi close to the French Quarter and completed in 1913, Hoa Lo Prison was French-built to house Vietnamese political campaigners for independence. These activists were arrested and often shackled to prison floors, and guards could even beat them. Vietnamese prisoners were also executed using a guillotine, now on display near the notorious prison.
The prison was later used for American prisoners of war (POW), often pilots captured when their aircraft crashed. However, a great deal has been written about the survivors’ experiences with the feared “blue room” during the notorious war. The blue room was used to interrogate and torture new prisoners, and visitors can still see the room today. However, there is nothing on display here about the horror stories told by American POWs, including former US presidential candidate John McCain. (Read: How John McCain’s Years as a Vietnam POW Shaped His Life)
Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi
Because Hoa Lo Prison is accessed through a gate on Hoa Lo Street with the sign Hoa Lo Prison at the entrance, taking a taxi is the easiest way to get to the prison. Simultaneously, you can pay a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake nearby.
The French Quarter itself has plenty of remnants of the times you will learn about in this museum. Explore Hanoi on your own or on a tour to learn even more beyond the museum walls.
Open daily from 08:00 until 17:00 and closed from lunch from 11:30 until 13:30
Adult: 30.000 VND (approx $1.30)
Student/child/senior: 15.000 VND (approx $0.65)
You can buy tickets online here.
Maison Centrale in Hanoi
Because Maison Centrale is accessed through a gate on Hoa Lo Street with the sign Maison Centrale at the entrance, therefore taking a taxi is the easiest way to get to the prison. simultaneously, you can pay a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake nearby.
Opening Hours: open daily from 08:00 until 17:00 and closed from lunch from 11:30 until 13:30
Location: Hoa Lo Street