Colloquially known as the Hanoi Hilton, the museum offers a thought-provoking and moving look at a site of much suffering and trauma. Though the infamous prison has mostly been razed, the area offers an opportunity to look at Vietnam’s 20th century history, including time under colonial rule, struggling for independence, communism and the Cold War era.
The prison held many political prisoners during the French colonial period, and later soldiers during the American war including, famously, late U.S. senator and military officer John McCain.
The museum does not pull any punches, showing the tiny cells where prisoners were held, their shackles and even instruments of torture and death (a mobile guillotine stands near the prison’s death row), a simultaneous testament to human cruelty and endurance.
For those that want to go a little deeper, an excellent audio tour is also offered, though the museum can be comfortably visited in under 2 hours. It is certainly not a fun day out, but we feel it essential for anyone to begin considering the fundamental horror and visceral madness of war.
1 Hoa Lo St., Hoan Kiem, Hanoi.
8 a.m – 5 p.m. (every day with a lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)