Hoa Lo Prison | Hell on earth | All you need to know 2023/24

Hoa Lo Prison or Hanoi Hilton hotel is a famous destination in Hanoi for visitors who wants to learn more about the history of Vietnam and the wars with French and American. Let's Go Viet Trip give you more information about this destination.


1. Hoa Lo prison history - Hanoi Hilton history

Hoa Lo Prison was built in 1896 by the French colonialists as the Maison Centrale, in French, meaning the central prison. With 12,000 square meters, this is the largest highest security prison in Indochina at that time.
This is designed to follow four zones: A, B, C, D with 4m high walls, 0.5m thick, reinforced with glass pieces and electric wires.

Zone A, B: are areas that hold detainees under investigation, unimportant prisoners, or those who violate prison discipline.

Zone C: For French and foreign prisoners.

Zone D: For prisoners who have died sentenced

Many Vietnamese leading revolutionaries were incarcerated here during the war, including future General Secretaries of the Communist Party – Nguyen Van Cu, Le Duan, Truong Chinh, Nguyen Van Linh, and Do Muoi. Between 1964 and 1973, the prison's inmates included several captured American pilots, notably Senator John McCain and Douglas 'Pete' Peterson, America's first Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In 1993, due cater to the economic development needs of the Capital. The Government decided that a part of Hoa Lo prison was used to build a commercial named "Hanoi Tower."
Today, only a part (more than 2,000 square meters) is still preserving and embellished into Hoa Lo Prison Memorial Monument.


hoa lo prison

Hoa Lo prison main gate

hoa lo prison 2

>>> Must read: Hanoi city tours and visit Hoa Lo prison

2. Hoa Lo prison opening hours

Address: No 1 Hoa Lo street - Hanoi
Phone number: 024 3934 2253
Opening every day for visitors from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day,
Close from lunch, 11:30 until 13:30.


3. Hoa Lo prison entrance fee in 2024

From 1st Jan 2024 the price is
Adult: 50.000 VND for Vietnamese and foreigner's
Disabled people, the elderly (> 60 age): 15.000 VND
Children under the age of 15: Free


hoa lo prison entrance fee ticket

Hoa Lo prison entrance fee


4. Highlight in Hoa Lo prison

4.1. The middle-age guillotine

During the period of French colonial rule, many tortures were used. The most famous and terrible is the middle age guillotine, it's designed by two wooden pillars 4m high with a blade held high up by a pin, the bottom designed little basket for header of the victim.

This guillotine brings Hoa Lo Prison into "hell on earth," ranked in the top 10 most feared prisons in the world and the top 5 most feared destinations in Southeast Asia.

In January 1930, the guillotine was transported to Yen Bai to execute 13 Vietnamese Nationalist soldiers captured during the Yen Bai revolutionary. Then used many other prisons throughout Tonkin.


hoa lo guillotine

Hoa Lo guillotine 


4.2. Escape stories from Hoa Lo prison - Escape from Hanoi Hilton

You will hear many stories about Hoa Lo Prison when visiting. You can realize the miraculous and brave escapes of Vietnamese prisoners.

In 1932, 7 prisoners pretended to be in serious illness and successfully fled on the way to being transferred to the clinic with help from friends.

In March 1945 have 150 patriotic prisoners escaped. Taking advantage of the disorder between the Japanese and the French in World War II, political prisoners mixed with common criminals, then exchanged prison uniforms with daily clothes from visitors, walking out decently and escaping.

In 1951 - 17 political prisoners under death sentence managed to organize an escape from the sewer tube.
When they went all the way to the sewer and saw the police sirens rumbling, and they run to Nha Dau Xao (now Viet-Soviet Friendship Cultural Palace). Zip's car approached soldiers black and white west and west on all sides, jumping down, using batons, continuously beating the prisoners. Five people escaped, 12 people were arrested.
After being arrested, the French colonists were tortured, executed and the remaining people were exiled to Con Dao Prison.


4.3. Senator John McCain

The prison still has many artifacts and images of the US senator during his detention there from 1967 to 1973
On October 26, 1967, the Vietnamese army shot down the A-4E Skyhawk bomber controlled by pilot John McCain fall down to Truc Bach Lake, then captured by Vietnamese soldiers.

This also displays some important artifacts about the US senator. Pictured is the suit worn by American pilots like John McCain, which the army and people of Vietnam confiscated. The glass box is an entirely stored hat, shoes, clothing, umbrellas, and life jackets.

After the Paris Agreement was signed in 1973, Mr. John McCain and other American prisoners of war came back home from Gia Lam airport


4.4. New tour visit Hoa Lo prison start July 2020 name Sacred Night — Glorious Vietnamese Spirit

Using light and sound effects, the 45-minute tour, called "Sacred Night - Glorious Vietnamese Spirit," visitors will travel back in time to the past through the journey and listen to the story of the prison, once called "hell on earth."
Visitors also hear explanations about prison architecture and emotional stories about the struggles in prison of political prisoners.

The program will bring visitors deep feelings and impressions. During the journey, visitors will experience a range of emotions, from startling, grieving at the harshness of the colonial prison regime to admiring the heroes' resilient will, heroic sacrifice. Martyrs whose names have become a part of national history.

Night tours of Hoa Lo Prison will be held at 7 pm every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The tours are not recommended for children under 16 years old.


hoa lo prison sacred night glorious vietnamese spirit

Sacred Night - Glorious Vietnamese Spirit 


5. Hoa Lo prison dress code and other notes

Visit any spiritual place in Vietnam. You should wear long clothes
When visiting, please do not bring explosives. Luggage must be left to the right place.
Do not smoke and do not touch and move objects without permission.
There will be a separate area at the monument where visitors can burn incense so it cannot be used arbitrarily in prohibited areas.
If you want to learn about the history of Vietnamese or understand more about Vietnamese wars (with French and American), this is definitely should not miss when you visit Hanoi. Besides that, you can read more best things to do in Hanoi.
Here is detailed information about the monument. We hope you will have a meaningful trip with lots of valuable experiences and knowledge.

Click here to check out free walking tour with local students and visit Hoa Lo prison.


You might want to visit some attractions nearby:

>>> Ho Chi Minh mausoleum complex - Complete guide
>>> One pillar pagoda - Symbol of Hanoi millennium
>>> Temple of Literature - First Imperial Academy of Vietnam

>>> Read more Hanoi tours with the best prices, services, and itinerary
Go Viet Trip hope this article will help you understand more about Hanoi if you need any more help. Please feel free to contact us: Email: or hotline +84968667589. We are guarantee about quality and prices. Get a full refund if you do not feel happy with our services.

Author Hoan Nguyen

He has over 10 years of experience working in the tourism sector and operator. He has traveled to many places in Vietnam and around the world.

Photos: Go Viet Trip & Internet


author hoan
My name is Hoan and I come from Hanoi, with more than 10 years working in the tourism industry (both as a tour guide then tour operator). I am very proud to say that I can give you the best advice for your trip to beautiful Vietnam.

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