I live and work in Dublin. I walk and cycle and occasionally drive down these streets. I've done so for years. I'd like think I know the place like the back of my hand (no matter how directionally challenged I am).

But what about the interior of some of the buildings on them streets? The buildings which often have queues of tourists outside them? The ones those who call Dublin home never bother to go inside?

Here, then, is the challenge: check out some of the most visited tourist sites in the town and report back. Oh and stay in a hotel and have a few dinners too.

I toured the capital city as part of Fáilte Ireland's 'Keep Discovering' campaign, which encourages Irish people to explore and discover many of the amazing hidden gems and experiences that Ireland has to offer.

St Patrick's Cathedral. Photo: Ireland Content Pool

An afternoon in St Patrick’s Cathedral is time well spent as there seems to be a story to be told about literally every stone, window and wall in the place. We may know the Church Of Ireland’s national cathedral as the backdrop for public ceremonies and Christmas choirs, but this is a building with deep roots to the city and the nation.

It's one of thousands of sites on the island associated with the life and work of the national saint. In this case, he’s said to have baptised people into Christianity close by during his travels.

The first documented record of a church here dates from 890 AD and, a little over 300 years later, the small wooden church then situated outside the city walls was promoted to a cathedral by Archbishop John Comyn. Today’s cathedral owes much to a major construction job paid for by Benjamin Guinness in the 1860s when the building was in danger of imminent collapse.

An excellent guided tour by Laura has the FYI on so much associated with St Patrick’s. Those tattered flags flying from the ceiling of the nave? They’re the regimental colours of disbanded Irish regiments in the British army and were traditionally hung within a church to fall into decay. The Door of Reconciliation? That was used to settle a 15th century dispute between the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare and which is where the expression 'chance your arm’ comes from.

One of the most famous figures associated with the cathedral is Jonathan Swift. The author of Gulliver’s Travels served as dean for 30 years and had a unique way of dealing with church-goers who fell asleep during his lengthy sermons. Swift had casters applied to the pulpit so he could push himself around and loom over the poor snoozers in his Swiftmobile until they woke up.

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The walls of the Mayson Hotel on Dublin’s North Wall Quays, which was where we stayed, are also noteworthy for what’s on them. The hotel has an admirable collection of Irish art with work from such artists as Patrick Scott, Joy Gerrard, Colm Mac Athlaoich, Aoife Scott and many more decorating the hallways and walkways. There’s also a superb view from the top floor restaurant, an eaterie well known to fans of TV show Kin.

There was a hotel on the Mayson site in the 1860s and 1870s, but it was its turn as a cocktail bar in the 1910s, catering to a growing cruise ship trade, which sounds worthy of further exploration. Like, who’d say no to a North Wall Opener or the Zentith Gunrunning Cocktail? But by the early 1920s, the cocktail experiment was over and the bar had reverted to being a typical Dublin auld lads’ pub before it was sold and turned into the swanky Mayson.

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For dinner, we headed to Sprezzatura in Portobello, which is the kind of restaurant every neighbourhood should have. A place where Irish ingredients and the Italian touch come lovingly together, it’s where to go for fresh, tasty, simple, comforting pasta dishes.

Kilmainham Gaol is a place thousands of Irish people have stayed in over the years, but not always of their own volition. Built in 1796, the Gaol was where debtors and common criminals were sent to serve their sentence, spend time before being shipped off to Australia or prepare for a public hanging, which was a feature of the prison’s early days.

The cells, as you could imagine, were fairly brutal and primitive, with up to five people sharing a room (a bit like some modern Dublin lodgings). Men, women and sometimes even children – records show the prison housed a five-year-old boy and eight-year-old, amongst other juveniles – were coralled here, causing huge overcrowding and the spread of disease.

Kilmainham Gaol. Photo: Ireland Content Pool

While the Gaol was used to house many political prisoners over the years (including Irish leaders in the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848 and 1867), its most significant entry in the history books came in 1916. The leaders of the Easter Rising were imprisoned here and 14 of them executed by British firing squad over a couple of days.

When the fascinating tour of the gaol concludes at the Stonebreaker’s Yard, where the executions were carried out, there’s a noticeable silence amongst the group. Perhaps it’s because of the recent focus on various revolutionary centenaries, but you really do feel as if you’re standing at a significant historical site.

All in all, it's a remarkable place, full to the brim with history and compelling stories. It’s also very familiar to the visitor, thanks in part to its use as a location in such Irish films as The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Michael Collins and In the Name of the Father – and The Italian Job - as well as music videos by The Fontaines DC and U2.

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Situated in Newman House on Stephen’s Green, the Museum of Literature Ireland may be a relative newcomer on the city’s culture trail – it opened in 2019 – but the building itself has a chequered past.

What used to be the home for the Catholic University of Ireland (which became UCD) was originally built in 1765 as a gaff for Richard Chapel Whaley. This chap was a wealthy Wicklow property owner who became known as 'Burn-Chapel’ Whaley owing to his frequent burnings of Catholic chapels.

Today’s tenants are thankfully a little more sedate. The Museum’s centrepiece is a permanent James Joyce exhibition – apt as Joyce studied at Newman House from 1898 to 1902 – including the first copy of the first edition of Ulysses. This was Joyce’s own copy, which was presented to the National Library of Ireland in 1952 by Harriet Weaver, Joyce’s friend and benefactor. There are also a collection of various Ulysses translations – including one in Finnish so you too can actually finish the great book.

Our second night was spent in the sumptuous Marlin Hotel, a slick and modern hotel located just off St. Stephen's Green.

Our final port of call on this whirlwind trip around the capital is Brother Hubbard on Capel Street for dinner. The Middle Eastern influence in the kitchen results in a fine, tasty feast of kofkas, hummus, falafel, zaalouk and more.

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The details

I travelled as a guest of Fáilte Ireland, whose 'Keep Discovering' campaign is encouraging people living in Ireland to experience the joy of discovering the many hidden gems that Ireland has to offer. If you need inspiration on where to go and what to do, visit discoverireland.ie

We stayed in The Mayson Hotel, North Wall Quay, Dublin as invited guests for one night. Rates for a Warehouse Super Room start from €229 per night or €249 per night including breakfast. Rates for the Marlin Hotel start at €414.

Entry to St Patrick’s Cathedral is €8 per person (€7.50 if booked online). Admission to Kilmainham Gaol is by guided tour only and prices range from €8 for one person to €20 for a family ticket.

A guided tour of the Museum of Literature Ireland is €15.

More information on what to explore in Dublin can be found on VisitDublin.com.