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Hoa Lo Prison Museum

The harsh difficulties of French colonization and the Vietnam War are somberly remembered in one of the most brutal prisons in Vietnam.

The Hoa Lo Prison Museum, also known as Maison Centrale, played a significant role in the French colonial expansion of Vietnam. Many of Vietnam’s political prisoners were tortured and killed here. Afterward, during the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese used it to imprison American soldiers.

Established in the late 19th century by the French Colonial administration, the building's faded yellow façade and opal green shutters mask the horrors of imprisonment that occurred behind the walls. Many of Vietnam’s leading revolutionaries were imprisoned here, including five of the Communist Party’s future General Secretaries: Do Muoi, Nguyen Van Cu, Truong Chinh, Le Duan and Nguyen Van Linh. Recall that U.S. Senator John McCain was a captured pilot during the Vietnam War and was imprisoned here for 5 years. A 6-year prisoner, Douglas Peterson, became the first post-war ambassador to Vietnam in 1997.

View the small cells, 6 feet by 6 feet (1.8 meters by 1.8 meters), and see the bed frames and straw mats where prisoners slept. Window shutters were kept closed and the prison was usually overcrowded. In 1916 it had a capacity of 600 people yet there were up to 730 prisoners many days. By 1933, this figure rose to 1,430 and in 1954, over 2,000 people were held captive.

See gruesome leg-irons and other artifacts and photographs of Vietnamese prisoners locked in wooden headlocks with their legs shackled at the ankles so they could not stand or move. Inmates were routinely starved, tortured, beaten and isolated. Read the quote from a prison guard, saying “it is easy to die but hard to live.”

During the Vietnam War, American soldiers sarcastically dubbed the prison the “Hanoi Hilton.” Look for the volleyball net that inmates used to maintain their strength. An area here is dedicated to John McCain.

Information is available in Vietnamese and English. Access Hoa Lo Prison Museum by taxi; it is located near the French Quarter. Open daily, operating hours are from morning until afternoon, with a closure for lunch. An entrance fee is charged.


Guide to Exploring around Hoa Lo Prison Museum


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Melia Hanoi ¥11,309
Melia Hanoi

Melia Hanoi

44b Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
     
    5.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Located in Hoan Kiem, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Hoa Lo Prison Museum, Hoan Kiem Lake, and St. Joseph's Cathedral. Hanoi Opera House and Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre are also within 1 mi (2 km). Hanoi Railway Station is 10 minutes by foot and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 25 minutes.

    Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi ¥5,423
    Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi

    Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi

    83A Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
       
      4.5 out of 5.0 Stars

      Located in Hoan Kiem, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of St. Joseph's Cathedral and Hoan Kiem Lake. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Hanoi Opera House are also within 1 mi (2 km). Hanoi Railway Station is 5 minutes by foot and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 24 minutes.

      Mercure Hanoi La Gare ¥3,984
      Mercure Hanoi La Gare

      Mercure Hanoi La Gare

      94 Ly Thuong Kiet Street Hoan, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
         
        4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        This family-friendly Hanoi hotel is located in the business district, within a 10-minute walk of Train Street and Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Temple of Literature and Imperial Citadel of Thang Long are also within 15 minutes. Hanoi Railway Station is only a 2-minute walk and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 25 minutes.

        JM Marvel Hotel & Spa ¥1,694
        JM Marvel Hotel & Spa

        JM Marvel Hotel & Spa

        16 Hàng Da Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Oldquater
           
          4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

          Located in Hoan Kiem, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Vietnamese National Tuong Theatre, Hoan Kiem Lake, and St. Joseph's Cathedral. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Hanoi Old City Gate are also within 15 minutes. Hanoi Railway Station is 14 minutes by foot and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 15 minutes.

          Imperial Hotel & Spa ¥2,358
          Imperial Hotel & Spa

          Imperial Hotel & Spa

          44 Hang Hanh Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
             
            4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Located in Hoan Kiem, this spa hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Hoan Kiem Lake, Hang Gai Street, and Hanoi Old Town Night Market. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and St. Joseph's Cathedral are also within 10 minutes. Hanoi Long Bien Station is 15 minutes by foot and Hanoi Railway Station is 22 minutes.

            Dal Vostro Hotel & Spa ¥1,757
            Dal Vostro Hotel & Spa

            Dal Vostro Hotel & Spa

            12 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Located in Hoan Kiem, this spa hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Hoan Kiem Lake, Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, and Ngoc Son Temple. Hanoi Opera House and Hanoi War Museum are also within 1 mi (2 km). Hanoi Long Bien Station is 16 minutes by foot and Hanoi Railway Station is 21 minutes.

              O'Gallery Premier Hotel & Spa ¥2,959
              O'Gallery Premier Hotel & Spa

              O'Gallery Premier Hotel & Spa

              122 Hang Bong Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
                 
                4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Located in Hoan Kiem, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Hang Da Market and Vietnamese National Tuong Theatre. Hang Gai Street and Ly Trieu Quoc Su Pagoda are also within 10 minutes. Hanoi Railway Station is 11 minutes by foot and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 17 minutes.

                Splendid Holiday Hotel ¥3,642
                Splendid Holiday Hotel

                Splendid Holiday Hotel

                16 Tho Xuong Lane, Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi
                   
                  3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Located in Hoan Kiem, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of St. Joseph's Cathedral, Hoan Kiem Lake, and Hoa Lo Prison Museum. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre and Ngoc Son Temple are also within 15 minutes. Hanoi Railway Station is 15 minutes by foot and Hanoi Long Bien Station is 19 minutes.