A Fearsome History
Built by the French in the late 1800s, Hua Lo Prison served as a jail well into the 20th century. While the French originally detained Vietnamese dissidents there, the Vietnamese later used the cells to imprison American POWs. Though the government has only preserved a small portion of the prison, visitors will still find many frightening artifacts from its past.
In the early days of Hua Lo, the French kept their Vietnamese prisoners in deplorable conditions. Leg irons used to chain the detainees, as well as a full-size guillotine, are still on display. Visitors will also see the small sewer entrance through which several Vietnamese communist fighters managed to escape.
In the 1960s and 70s, the Americans kept in Hua Lo referred to it sarcastically as the “Hanoi Hilton.” The prison museum displays pajamas, other clothing, and cigarettes issued to the Americans. There are also several photographs of seemingly happy American soldiers playing sports and celebrating Christmas–though the soldiers’ later accounts dispute their kind treatment. The prison is open every day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.