Hoa Lo Prison All Things Need To Know Before Traveling

Monday, 04/09/2023

Hoa Lo Prison – Attraction you must visit in Hanoi

Overview of the Hoa Lo prison, along with Con Dao Prison and Phu Quoc Prison, Hoa Lo Prison is one of the third symbols of patriotism and the indomitable spirit of patriotic Vietnamese. The French built this Prison in 1896 and it was called Maison Centrale, which means the central Prison. This place used to lock up political prisoners and patriotic compatriots who fought for independence and freedom in the Vietnam War.


The Vietnamese name of this Prison is Hoa Lo, comprised of "Hoa," which means "Fire" and "Lo" which means "Kiln". Therefore, people consider this place as an extreme prison. This destination in the past also belonged to Phu Khanh village – a famous handicraft village specializing in making earthenware casseroles and heater stoves. That's why the Prison is now called "Hoa Lo". Hoa Lo Prison All Things Need To Know Before Traveling to Hanoi.

Location and direction to get to Hoa Lo Prison


Address: No. 1 Hoa Lo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

Hoa Lo Prison Relic is located in an area bordered by four streets: Hoa Lo, Hai Ba Trung, Quan Su, and Tho Nhuom. This Prison has a prime location in the center of Hanoi. Therefore it is easy to find this place, get a ticket, and stroll around to learn more about Vietnam's History.


Direction to get to Hoa Lo Prison

Located in the heart of Hanoi's capital, from Hoan Kiem Lake, it takes you 5 minutes by motorcycle and 16 minutes by walking. You can follow Le Thai To Street towards Hang Trong and go straight through Ba Trieu Street. Then turn right to Hai Ba Trung Street and go straight for more than 500 m. Finally, turn left to Hoa Lo Street. Here you are, "Maison Centrale".

If you are away from the center of Hanoi, it is easy to move here by booking Be or Grab motorcycle. But catching a bus is your best option if you want to save money. You can take buses No.32, No.02, No.38, and No.41. From the nearest bus stop, you can easily walk to the Hoa Lo Prison.

This Hanoi Hilton is also one of the thirty attractions around Hanoi by double-decker bus tour.

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Time opening and entrance fee

Time opening: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day

Especially on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Prison's close time is longer. There are also some night tours open from 19:00 to 19:45.

Entrance fee: 30.000 vnd/Adult

For the elders over 60 and students, the ticket will cost 15.000vnd

Learn about the dark history of Hoa Lo Prison Hanoi?

At the end of the nineteenth century, to deal with the struggles of the Vietnamese people, the French strengthened the repressive apparatus by adding a police force, completing the court system, and especially building a prison network. Hoa Lo Prison Museum became the central Prison of Annam and Tonkin and was one of the largest French prisons in Indochina then.

After the north of Vietnam gained independence, the Government of Vietnam took over Hoa Lo Prison and used it as a detention of crime. From 1964 to 1973, Hoa Lo prison was also used to arrest American pilots who were shot down in a bombing mission in North Vietnam and this place is called "Hanoi Hilton".


In 1993, The Hoa Lo prison's function was changed by the Vietnamese government to adapt to the needs of the development of the capital. A part of the South East region has been saved and refurbished. In the next 4 years, Hoa Lo prison was recognized as a National Historic Site.

Explore the unique structure of Hoa Lo Prison

The Prison is surrounded by a solid stone wall 4 meters high and 0.5 meters thick with a high voltage electrical system to prevent prisoners from escaping. Inside the solid wall, there is a 3-meter sidewalk system for the guards to patrol. All iron doors and locking systems were bought from France.

In particular, the Prison has four guard towers to observe the entire campus both inside and outside, to ensure that no prisoner can escape.


In 1994, most of the Hoa Lo Prison area was used to build the Hanoi Twin Towers. The remaining area is about 2.434 square and is being preserved as a relic. In the present time, the remaining buildings include:

  • A house for guarding
  • A place used as a hospital
  • A place used as a hospital for alms
  • Two places used to lock up inmates
  • A place used to make workshops for carpentry, iron, sewing, leather
  • Five places used to lock up convicted prisoners
  • Four cell camps to hold death row inmates, dangerous prisoners, and prisoners who break prison rules

Hoa Lo Prison is divided into four separate areas, including:

  • Areas A and B: For inmates who are under investigation, breaking the regulations of the Prison
  • Area C: For French and foreign prisoners
  • Area D: For prisoners who are waiting for capital punishment

What to explore in Hoa Lo Prison nowadays?

Tour Visiting Hoa Lo Prison

Visiting Hoa Lo Prison, you can choose day or night tours depending on your time, budget and preferences to explore this historical site. Each Hoa Lo Prison tour will bring you its own exceptional experience. Still, if you have a chance, you can book both times to have a more multidimensional view of this famous historical destination.

Hoa Lo Prison Day tour

With a day tour around Hoa Lo prison, you could book a tour guide who will accompany you and explain everything there. But if you want to experience this historical Prison alone, you can hire a pair of headphones and immerse in your own journey. At first, you will be introduced to a general briefing on the history of Hoa Lo Prison then, you will enter the main gate and visit each area of the Prison with prisoners' artifacts on display.

Hoa Lo Prison night tour

At night tour, you will see the other side of Hoa Lo Prison and learn more about the Vietnam wars. This tour is called Sacred Night, combining sound, light, and actors. You will definitely have an incredibly realistic and vivid experience of the glorious time when patriotic soldiers stood up for their national independence.

The night tour entrance fee is 300.000 vnd, and you will be served tea and some dessert made from the last remaining almond tree in Prison.

Highlights of Hoa Lo Prison

To explore Hoa Lo Prison, you must visit the highlight site. Here are all things you need to know about Hoa Lo Prison 2024:

The Guillotine – The terror of every prisoner

Inside the Hoa Lo Prison is a guillotine – a murder tool invented by the French doctor called Guilotane. This Guillotine was used as a maximum sentence of death for political prisoners and patriotic Vietnamese who stood up against the French colonists.

When executing a prisoner, the executor will press the latch and pull the rope so that the knife will shoot down from above with a force of 60kg from the blade. The prisoner's head will fall into the corrugated iron box below and the body is put into the rattan basket. That will be awfully scary when you see it directly.


Behind the D areas is the road leading to the Cachot. This is the place to punish inmates who are accused of violating prison rules or engaging in disobedience. Cachot is considered as a "hell in hell" place with awful conditions.

The Cachot's cell is exceptionally murky, stuffy, cramped, and lacking oxygen. Imagine being confined in this poor-conditioned cell is such a nightmare. The prisoners will be shackled to the wall around the clock, beaten, punished to eat light rice, or even starved.


The cement floor is designed upside down so that the prisoner's head will be lower than his feet, causing blood to rush to his head. That's why many prisoners held here, when coming out of the Prison, could not see clearly, their eyes were blind, their legs were limp, and their whole body was sore and swollen.

More than a 100-year-old tropical almond tree

You may wonder, being locked up in that filthy Prison how could prisoners stay alive every day? They must have a friend or something as a friend to confide all their writhe and anger, right? That is an ancient tropical almond tree.

According to some former political prisoners at Hoa Lo prison, whenever they were allowed to go out, they would gather around the almond tree to enjoy the fresh air and discuss measures against the colonial prison regime. Why not sit here and chill out, this experience must be one of the most fascinating things to do in Hoa Lo Ha Noi, Vietnam.

Regulations for visitors taking Hoa Lo Prison tours

You must pay attention to the safety and fire prevention instructions when visiting Hoa Lo Prison. In particular, do not touch or move any objects in the Prison. You also can see the memorial area to burn incense sticks and remember not to use them in prohibited areas.

What clothes should you wear when visiting Hoa Lo Prison?

When visiting a historical place, you should wear formal clothes. Remember no shorts, no off-the-shoulder tops or short skirts. This is one way to show respect for Vietnamese history and this historical site.


Surrounding attractions Hoa Lo prison

Hoan Kiem Lake – The beautiful heart of Hanoi

From Hoa Lo Prison, it takes you only 5 minutes by motorcycle and 14 minutes by walking to visit Hoan Kiem Lake. Hoan Kiem Lake is also known as Sword Lake with a famous legend. Strolling around the lake you will feel the atmosphere of Hanoi, and see how magnificent the lake is. Remember to visit Ngoc Son Temple and Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc Square.

The Old Quarter

The Old Quarter is 1.5 km from Hoa Lo Prison, and you can reach here by walking to see the beauty of Hanoi Street. The Old Quarter is well-known as one of the central commercial districts in Hanoi. The Old Quarter is a collection of 36 streets, each dedicated to a particular trade, and many are still named after what they specialize in. You had better try street foods around the Old Quarter!

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In Conclusion

Hỏa Lò Prison stands as a stark reminder of the struggles endured by the Vietnamese people during colonialism and the Vietnam War. The Hoa Lo prison is historically significant, preserving the stories of those who suffered within its walls and providing a platform for you to reflect on the broader implications of war and human rights.



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