Referred to ironically as the 'Hanoi Hilton' by American POWs, Hoa Lo Prison was built by the French in 1896 and used to house Vietnamese political prisoners. The prison was just one in a series of northern incarceration centres. By 1954 there were over 2000 inmates within the cold, damp walls of Hoa Lo and the jail had become, in the eyes of the Vietnamese, an emblem of colonialist abuse and betrayal. Chilling displays include nasty instruments of torture and restored prison cells.
In 1996 bulldozers levelled most of Hoa Lo Prison so that a Hanoi hotel and office complex could be built. Today only a small section of the jail remains and this is what has been preserved and made available to the public as a tribute to the many prisoners who died under horrifying conditions. Displays are presented in both Vietnamese and English languages. Find Hoa Lo Prison in central Hanoi near the junction of Hoa Lo and Hai Ba Trung.