Tag: Maison Centrale

Most of the original parts of Hoa Lo prison was demolished in 1996 to make way for the Hanoi Towers serviced office complex and apartment, but the southern most corner has been preserved and reopened to the public to memory the revolutionaries who died in atrocious conditions. People come here will have chances to complete with leg-irons, view the original cells, along with a selection of bilingual displays which illustrate the horrors of life in prison during the French colonial time.

Hoa lo prison

Hoa Lo Prison

Conditions in Hoa Lo prison In the past were very appalling; food was bread and watery soup. Prisoners were differently isolated, beaten, starved, tortured for countless hours and paraded in anti-American propaganda. When there is one new arrival, the prison guard would tell them that it was easy to die but hard to live and then he would people come here just how hard it is to live. Hoa Lo prison is real “A Hell on Earth”.

A cell in hoa lo prison

A Cell In Hoa Lo Prison

The Hanoi Hilton or Hoa Lo prison was depicted in the eponymous 1987 Hollywood movie “The Hanoi Hilton“. Hanoi Tower, built on the site of the infamous prison “Hanoi Hilton“. The entrance to the other parts of this famous places of Hanoi visible in the foreground. By 1996, most of the walls of the Hoa Lo prison had been torn down to make way for new construction. Some parts of the walls were retained for historical reasons. The Vietnamese people also have bitter memories of the prison, for numerous communist revolutionaries were kept and tortured there. In 1998, the old front of The Prison was painted and restored and the remaining portions of the prison were turned into a tourist site. Several cells are opened and considerable information about Vietnamese prisoners is available. The information about the USA prisoners of war is unreliable. Nowadays, there is a Hilton Hotel in Hanoi, called the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel opened in 1999. It was built decades after the Vietnam War was over. However, Hilton carefully avoided reusing the dreaded name, Hanoi Hilton.

If you have chances to go to Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. You should pay a visit to Hoa Lo prison to experience the history with your own eyes.


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Hoa Lo Prison is a historical attraction to a plenty of local and foreign visitors. It was built in Hanoi by the French, in dates ranging from 1886–1889 to 1898 to 1901 when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina. The French named the prison as Maison Centrale – a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France. Hoa Lo prison was near Hanoi’s French Quarter.

History Of hoa lo prison

Hoa Lo Prison In The Past

It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, especially political ones agitating for independence who were always subject to torture and execution. A 1913 renovation made its capacity from 460 inmates to 600. However, it was often overcrowded, holding some 730 prisoners on a given day in 1916, a figure would rise to 895 in 1922 and 1,430 in 1933. By 1954 it held more than 2000 prisons; with its inmates held in subhuman conditions, the prison had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French.

History of Hoa Lo Prison

History of Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo prison also has the nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’ which was given by the Americans during the Second Indochina War, this prison was first established by the French colonial government in 1896 to detain political prisoners and it is a part of a northern network of ‘unjust and cruel prisons’ including Son La, Cao Bang, Hai Phong and Lai Chau. A lot of leading revolutionaries were incarcerated here during the French colonial period such as Hoang Trong Mau, Phan Boi Chau, Nguyen Quyen, Luong Van Can, Nguyen Luong Bang and 5 later general secretaries of the Communist Party such as Le Duan, Nguyen Van Cu, Do Muoi, Nguyen Van Linh and Truong Chinh. Between 1964 and 1973 the prison’s inmates included a plenty of captured American pilots such as Douglas ‘Pete’ Peterson and Senator John McCain, America’s first Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.


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