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Hoa Lo Prison: A place well worth a visit on your trip to Hanoi Vietnam

10/01/2024 33.977

Hoa Lo Prison, one of the most brutal prisons with extremely cruel punishment, is a historical place that has witnessed the strong determination of Vietnamese revolutionaries and their sacrifice for the country.

Hoa Lo Prison

During your Hanoi travel journey, besides enjoying exquisite Vietnamese traditional food, visiting Hoa Lo Prison should be one of the top activities on your bucket list. Coming to this historical relic, you will have an opportunity to gain a greater insight into the life of Vietnamese revolutionaries during the First Indochina War. This article will provide you with interesting information about this significant Hanoi historical site.

1. Where is Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi Vietnam? How to get there?

  • Address: No. 1, Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi

Having a prime location in the heart of Hanoi, Hoa Lo Prison is just about a 15-minute walk away from Hoan Kiem Lake. Thus, tourists can easily reach this attraction from any part of the city. There are some popular means of transportation to choose from, including public bus, motorbike, taxi, and car. 

If you want to take the bus, you can catch buses number 2, 9, 40, 49, which all make a stop near the prison. In case you have a vehicle, parking is available at the entrance of Hoa Lo Prison.

  • Hoa Lo Prison opening hours: From 8.00 am to 5.00 pm every day (including holidays)
  • Hoa Lo Prison entry fee: 50,000 VND/ person
Hoa Lo Prison

2. Learn about the dark history of Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi

When Vietnam was still a part of French Indochina, the French began constructing Hoa Lo Prison in 1896 and finished it in 1901. The prison was initially named Maison Centrale, which was a common euphemism for French prisons. The prison was used to lock up political prisoners fighting for independence in the war. By 1954, it housed almost 2,000 inmates, who were shackled to walls by the dozen and lived in appalling conditions. Several Vietnamese revolutionaries were put under the barbarous guillotine, which the French had used throughout the region.

Hoa Lo Prison

After the French were driven out of Hanoi in 1954, the prison was converted into a Vietnamese facility. From 1964 to 1973, several American pilots captured during the Second Indochina War were held here, including senator John McCain and Douglas Peterson, the first ambassador to post-war Vietnam. The inmates of Hoa Lo were gradually released when the war was coming to an end. 

For the next 20 years, the prison kept political insurgents in custody. In 1990, it was closed and mostly demolished to make way for high rise construction in the growing Hanoi.

3. Explore the special structure of Hoa Lo Prison

Once regarded as an unbreakable prison in Indochina, Hoa Lo Prison was surrounded by walls of 4 meters high and 0.5 meters thick, which were encrusted with broken glass and barbed wires powered by high voltage electricity. There are four watchtowers placed at four corners of the prison, so the wardens could monitor every single action of the prisoners.

Hoa Lo Prison

Covering an area of 12,000 square meters, the inside of Hoa Lo Prison was divided into different areas, including a guard house, a medical house, an iron and textile making house, and seven houses for accused prisoners. There was also a terrible place known as the cachot, which was used to confine those with opposing behaviors or violent criminals. The cachot was regarded as the worst of hell due to its lack of light, air, and space. It was truly a nightmare to all Vietnamese prisoners at that time.

4. What to explore in Hoa Lo Prison nowadays?

Visitors to Hoa Lo Prison will have an opportunity to see exhibits that show the prison's history in two different periods. The first period is from when French colonialists erected the prison in 1896 until the liberation day of Hanoi (October 1954). The second period is from 1964 to 1973, when the Vietnamese government used a section of the prison to house American pilots.

Hoa Lo Prison

Inside the prison, you will see an ominous French guillotine, horrifying iron shackles, brutal torture instruments, as well as statues of captives wearing leg chains. The Vietnamese prisoners were mercilessly tortured and beaten on a daily basis by the guards here. Tortures included electric shock, upside-down hanging, and bad rice feeding. This prison will enhance your perspective, understanding, and appreciation for the revolutionary fighters' spirit, as well as the Vietnamese people's humane approach toward American prisoners during the war.

5. Regulations for visitors taking Hoa Lo Prison tours

  • Do not bring weapons, explosives, or flammables
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not touch or move the exhibits
  • Burn incense and leave flowers at the memorial area only

Besides Hoa Lo Prison, there are many other famous cultural and historical sites in Hanoi that you should take time to visit, such as Presidential Palace, Turtle Tower, Ngoc Son Temple, Ba Dinh Square, Bach Ma Temple, But Thap Pagoda, Tran Quoc Pagoda, etc.

Moreover, you should also visit VinKE & Vinpearl Aquarium, which are both located in Vincom Mega Mall Times City and widely regarded as the most appealing attractions in the city for young families and teenagers. At Vinpearl Aquarium, you can immerse in a colorful world of the mysterious ocean. This place has set numerous records and is now home to almost 30,000 sea creatures. Meanwhile, VinKE is an ideal place for children to try their dream jobs while having fun with their parents.

Hoa Lo Prison


Hoa Lo Prison

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In addition to Hanoi, Vietnam has a lot of other attractive destinations like Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, Da Nang, etc. For each destination that you intend to go to in Vietnam, plan where to stay in advance to have the best experience. Among a wide variety of available accommodations, it is highly recommended that you stay at the hotel and resort system of Vinpearl - the top-rated brand of accommodation with high-class services in Vietnam. Vinpearl is present in most touristy spots, offering top-notch accommodation and all sorts of amenities, such as outdoor swimming pools, children's playgrounds, babysitting services, restaurants, bars, gyms, and so on.

Hoa Lo Prison

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Hoa Lo Prison is an exceptionally important historical site in Hanoi, having witnessed the fierce tenacity and selfless sacrifice of Vietnamese people for the country. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam's capital city, make sure to include this location in your itinerary!

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