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Hoa Lo Prison, Hanoi

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. Find out how to plan Hanoi trip without stress by asking Inspirock to help create an itinerary.
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Hoa Lo Prison reviews

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  • A very sad moment in Vietnamese History, of the events of the war and what went on in Hoa Lo Prison. Arrested US pilots called it the 'Hilton Hanoi'. You can see how prisoners were treated and how...  more »
  • At only 30k VND entry (50k VND for the audio guide, which is very good) this is definitely worth a trip to experience some of the horrors faced by Vietnamese prisoners during colonial rule. I say...  more »
  • Seeing first hand the Hanoi Hilton was very eye opening. You experience the brutal lifestyle of the people serving their time in Hoa Lo Prison makes you realize how much better life in the modern...  more »
  • Decided to be touristy and try this place out, thought it was going to be small trek and for us to be in and out in half an hour but I was pleasantly surprised at the interesting history and wealth of information and exhibits provided, we spent 2 hours here! 30,000 dong entrance fee and would recommend paying the extra 20,000 for the little info booklet (we just bought one between the two of us) as it puts a lot in context and is a good read in itself! The exhibits were well laid out and informative as well as quite emotive, not to be a sad sap but I had tears in my eyes at a couple of points! Felt this has been one of my favorite excursions in terms of learning about Vietnamese history and brilliant value for an afternoon out. Would definitely recommend a visit!
  • Really enjoyed this visit. It’s well set out with good exhibits and it wasn’t too crowded. Entry was 30000 dong. I did the audio tour which made it so much better. You get to hear the stories behind the pictures you see. Really good. Of course, there is the odd bit of communist distortion of the truth/events so be open minded about what you hear regarding the war because not everything told is historically accurate. There is no mention of the extreme torture the captured American pilots were subjected to. In fact according to the prison narrative the prisoners were treated like it was home away from home. It's the biggest, most obvious lie presented by Vietnam in all the museums I've been to. The audio tour costs 50000 dong plus the same as a deposit which you get back at the end.
  • Place takes you back in time when Vietnam was under French occupation. A must visit for tourists to appreciate what the country has gone through. If you go through all the rooms and read the material carefully then it might take a good part of half a day for you otherwise couple of hours are sufficient. A good place to visit in Hanoi.
  • Excellent museum. Well curated, well laid out, easy to navigate. Plenty of information in English. The audioguide is outstandingly good, with a lot of extra information. It takes two hours to see the place in detail. The subject matter is of course grim, occasionally harrowing, but also inspiring about the resilience of the prisoners. The tone of the commentary is occasionally communist-propagandist, but less strident than at some other Vietnamese museums. As a bonus, there is currently a special exhibition about the global anti-war movement during the American war, which was actually quite moving in its message of reconciliation.
  • Being able to experience "hell on earth" is very special and a must-see in Hanoi. Be aware that some of the information is not for the squeamish, and seeing one of the real, used guillotines with pictures of beheaded prisoners is also one of the exhibitions. The way the museum is made, I would definitely recommend getting one of the audio guides which you can borrow for only 50k VND per guide for English or French, because then you get to hear first hand witness experiences about what happened at the prison. Almost all information is in Vietnamese, English and French, which makes it possible to "enjoy" the museum as a foreigner and understand what happened there. Definitely recommend going.

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