Maison Centrale, or Hoa Lo Prison, is often called the Hanoi Hilton by American prisoners of war, in sarcastic reference to the upmarket hotel chain. The name Hoa Lo means “fiery furnace” in Vietnamese. The French called the prison Maison Centrale – a usual term to denote prisons in France. The prison was built in 1896 by the French to house up to 450 opponents of colonialism, however, in reality more than 4 times this number were imprisoned in appalling conditions.
Within Maison Centrale are the various torture instruments used on its Vietnamese prisoners. Here the French incarcerated, tortured and guillotined many which the state considered revolutionaries. The prison is still a popular tourist attraction for those on the war history trail.