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Hoa Lo Prison: one of the best Hanoi places to visit to rewind the hung past

The special thing about Hanoi is that while being in the center of a modern, busy capital, always entwined with old places, historical monuments evoke strong emotions in each person and cause a range of ups and downs in nostalgia. Such a site is Hoa Lo Prison. Hoa Lo Prison was once a place of pain and an unyielding and courageous spirit in the face of torture and the deaths of Vietnamese patriotic youngsters more than 120 years ago. During the grueling battle, Hoa Lo Prison was compared as “hell on earth” along with Con Dao Prison, Phu Quoc Prison, and others. In addition to the cultural and historical importance of the Vietnamese country, this location has emerged as a landmark of French architecture from the final decades of the nineteenth century.

General information

Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo Prison – Source: Internet

Hoa Lo Prison is located at No. 1 Hoa Lo Street in the Tran Hung Dao Ward of the Hoan Kiem District in Hanoi. In 1896, the French colonialists built Hoa Lo Prison to hold thousands of Vietnamese revolutionary patriotic soldiers. After the Capital was liberated on October 10, 1954, the government of Vietnam employed the Prison to hold criminals in custody. American pilots were detained at the prison from August 5, 1964, to March 29, 1973.

The majority of the area of the Prison was used to build the Ha Noi Twin Towers in 1994. The remaining area of 2,434m2 is preserved as a relic area. The retained works include 3 2-storey buildings built in French architecture, 2 rows of male and female collective prisons, 4 death cells, 2 guard houses and a part of the stone wall surrounding the Prison.

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The precise address of Hoa Lo Prison is No. 1 Hoa Lo Street, Tran Hung Dao Ward, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi City. It is situated in a land area bordered by the streets Hoa Lo, Hai Ba Trung, Quan Su, and Tho Nhuom.

Operation time  

Hoa Lo Prison welcomes visitors from 8:00 to 17:00 weekly, including holidays and Tet. Therefore, you only need to arrange a suitable schedule to visit Hoa Lo Prison. Particularly, Hoa Lo Prison also offers a sightseeing and experience program every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 19:00 to 19:45..

Ticket price

Hoa Lo Prison Memorial Area stipulates the ticket price as follows:

  • Persons 15 years of age and older: 30,000 VND/person
  • students, 60 years of age and older; and those covered by social policies: 15,000 VND/person.
  • Individuals under the age of 15, those with infirmities, and those who meritoriously contributed to the revolution: Free

The distinctive design of Hoa Lo Prison

With a total area of 12,908m2, Hoa Lo Prison had the largest and most well-established scale in all of Indochina when it was finished. This space included the following constructions: a guardhouse, two infirmaries, an almshouse, two accused prisons, a factory, and five prisoners’ prisons.

In order to prevent defection, the exterior architecture has a very continuous and solid form. A sturdy stone wall with bottle pieces and high voltage wires surrounds the prison’s four corners, which function as watchtowers to monitor activity both inside and outside the walls. A patrol road is located at the base of the wall. Significantly, building supplies were meticulously chosen and imported from France to satisfy the highest standards by the French colonial authority. Only roughly 2,400m2 of the original land has been preserved for conservation and sightseeing today.

Inside Hoa Lo Prison

Hoa Lo Prison is separated into four distinct zones: Areas A and B are for convicts under investigation, misdemeanors, or breaches of prison discipline; Area C is for French or foreign prisoners; and Zone D is for dangerous criminals who are awaiting death.

Through the symbolic pictures at Hoa Lo Prison Memorial Area, you will see tools used for torture, specialized door designs, locks, shackles, and pictures of the harsh prison life of prisoners in the past. Hoa Lo Prison, one of the top five most terrifying tourist places in Southeast Asia, and home to the world’s most severe guillotine, is among the ten most notorious jails in the world, according to CNN’s 2014 poll.

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Guillotine in Hoa Lo Prison

Guillotine in Hoa Lo Prison
Guillotine in Hoa Lo Prison – Source: Internet

A horrific fixation of Hoa Lo Prison is the enormous guillotine, which is one of the instruments used to torment and force the bow. The guillotine is made of two 4 m tall wooden poles with sharp blades raised aloft, two semicircular planks coupled together below to save the head of the death row inmate, an iron chest in front to receive the deceased person’s head, and then a clouded barrel below to hold the head. This vicious weapon was moved from one prison to another across Tonkin from 1986 to 1954 in order to behead the Nationalist Vietnamese soldiers.

The dungeon

The dungeon
The dungeon – Source: Internet

The dungeon is likened to hell, where inmates are shackled, tortured, and tortured in a narrow and dark space, causing those locked up there for a while to suffer from edema scabies due to lack of hygiene and sunshine.

Female inmates, although they are not shackled, are subjected to cruel electric shock torture tricks aimed at their weaknesses. Not only were the prisoners tortured, but they also had to do hard labor under the harsh detention of the correctional officers. Death row inmates were segregated in the basement of the prison compound, where they had to enter through three iron doors.

The eagle trees of Hoa Lo Prison

The eagle trees of Hoa Lo Prison
The eagle trees of Hoa Lo Prison – Source: Internet

The enormous eagle trees in the yard, some of which are about a century old, are the only source of sunshine in Hoa Lo Prison. These are claimed to have been created from stray almonds on the court by revolutionary soldiers. The prisoners here have a place to rest and cool off thanks to the trees in the yard. Almond leaves and kernels are also utilized as priceless treatments to treat the ill and weak body or to mend wounds. The dry branches are also used as pen handles with the nib of tigon flower buds. The eagle trees in the yard hold special significance for the convicts at Hoa Lo.

Observations when touring Hoa Lo Prison

Please be aware of the following guidelines when visiting Hoa Lo Prison:

  • Do not smoke.
  • Do not carry explosives or explosives.
  • Do not move artifacts.
  • Incense and flowers are allowed at the memorial.

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