Hoa Lo Prison


This provocative site (1 Pho Hoa Lo) on the corner with Pho Hai Ba Trung is all that remains of the former Hoa Lo Prison, affectionately referred to as the “Hanoi Hilton” by US POWs during the American War (one of whom, Pete Peterson, became the first US Ambassador to Vietnam following the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between USA and Vietnam in 1995).

The vast prison complex itself was built by French in 1896. Originally intended to house around 450 inmates, records indicate that the 1930s there were close to 2000 prisoners inside! The prison was recently razed to the ground to make room for a modern skyscraper, though the building at the front of the site has been thoughtfully preserved and restored as a museum.

The bulk of the exhibits relate to the prison’s use up to the mid-1950s, focusing on the Vietnamese struggle for independence from France. Some notable objects on display in the dark chambers include an ominous guillotine and other tools as torture.