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Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

(7,000+ reviews on the web)
Historic Site Tourist Spot
Nicknamed the "Hanoi Hilton" by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War, Hoa Lo Prison has seen generations of Vietnamese revolutionaries who fought against French colonialists. The prison was built by the French in 1896. By the 1930s, nearly 2,000 political prisoners were incarcerated in the cells originally constructed to hold no more than 450 inmates--in fact, hundreds of prisoners broke away over the years through the sewage system. During the 1990s, most of the prison was torn down, leaving only the gatehouse for the museum. See the notorious French guillotine, a ghastly relic of French colonial presence in Indochina. The exhibits include U.S. Senator John McCain's flight suit, which he wore when he was shot down and rescued by locals in 1967. Make Hoa Lo Prison part of your personalized Hanoi itinerary using our Hanoi trip builder.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Interesting place with a very sad history. Would have loved the opportunity to have paid for a guide or an audioguide as I think we would have gotten more from the experience  more »
  • Interesting to see the other side of the stories - the truth is probably somewhere in the middle but a good example of the eventual winner writing the history.  more »
  • This is one of the must do things in Hanoi. Stepping inside the prison is stepping back into time. It's simple but well presented. Not the entire prison but a well preserved wing of what must have bee...  more »
Google
  • It's worth a visit but don't expect to learn much, or much truth anyway. As you walk through you go from reading how the French supposedly made it hell on earth for Vietnamese resistance fighters to how the ever so kind and generous North Vietnamese then practically converted it to a holiday camp for US pilots. Lots of pictures and footage of Americans celebrating Christmas, playing basketball and stuffing their faces with piles of food (although they were all so skinny, strange that). Funnily enough no mention at all of the systematic abuse, torture and interrogations. Come on, that's the interesting stuff I'd like to learn about. They're doing them a disservice by ignoring that in favour of propaganda. Coming from the UK I like to think our museums generally present unbiased information with the sole aim being to educate. So it's disappointing to find somewhere like this where it seems the aim is to deceive. Although on the flip side I'm now thinking ..maybe our museums are deceitful too?
  • Informative museum on the history of the infamous Hanoi Hilton. The actual building is beautiful and more like a villa that a prison. Museum is well laid out and multi lingual displays..I bought the English guidebook, which I didn't use at all during my visit..but it's a nice souvenir that'll I'll read again. Felt the info on good treatment of US to be slightly over the top an suspect biased, definitely left wanting to read into the prison more. Well worth a visit 30k dong entry
  • The famous 'Hanoi Hilton' prison. Built by the French to detain political prisoners and later by the NVA for American POW's. A large part of the prison has been demolished for an apartment building and what remains are the gate and the main building. Republican senator John McCain was detained here during the war after his plane went down and he happened to be visiting the prison when I got here. The museum has information panels as well as some artifacts on exhibit, including the guillotine used by the French. Most surprising was a room showing staged pictures of how great the American prisoners were treated while in fact they were treated terribly (I'm aware the US did horrible things as well and had no business being here). And while I was in this room, a Vietnamese woman, around 23 years old, entered with two tourists she was giving a tour to, pretty much telling them the same ******** that was on the panels. I looked at her surprised and asked "are you kidding me?". But she actually believed what she was telling them.
  • A glimpse into the dark past of Vietnam. This prison was used by the French to cage and torture communists and later by Communists to imprison Americans. It was eery inside, with all the spine-chilling displays of torture devices and how the Vietnamese prisoners, including their families, were treated. The Americans, in comparison, were treated so much better (but that may be propaganda, too). There are also exhibits showing how the prisoners attempted to escape and some of them succeeded to tell the tale. There's a guillotine inside. Highly recommended when in Hanoi.
  • The famous Hanoi Hilton. Half the museum is about how terribly the French and their collaborators treated the communist patriots. The other half is about how wonderfully the communists treated the Americans. Pictures of the US servicemen celebrating Christmas and getting care packages. A bit one sided but definitelt worth the visit. Tiger cages. Yikes.