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Whether due to the 2012 Olympics, Harry Potter, or One Direction, chances are your kids know something about London, sight unseen. And what they will learn by visiting is that the city’s fame isn’t limited to fleeting pop culture. Royals still dwell in Buckingham Palace. They once imprisoned traitors in the Tower of London, and still stow their crowns there. Historic figures from Charles Darwin to Sir Isaac Newton lie interred in Westminster Abbey, while the spirit of Charles Dickens seems to haunt the historic streets from Little Venice to the East End.

Amid all the grandeur, London’s scale — generally short, if sprawling — appeals to kids. Add in crowd-pleasing pub fare, a network of inviting parks, and no language barrier, and London emerges as a top choice for culture- and history-fan clans.

London seems to invite you to stretch your mind as well as your legs. West End theater isn’t just The Lion King but director Sam Mendes’ Charlie and The Chocolate Factory opening in May. Unsure about museums? Chance it; admission is free at top stops like the British Museum and the National Gallery. There’s always Potter — subject of the new Warner Bros. Studio Tour nearby — to fall back on.  — E.G.  

TAKE AWAY: History is not the stuff of dusty books and date memorization. In London, it inspires.     

TIPS: Spare your legs and take advantage of London’s often-entertaining transit options, from the River Thames boats to black cabs.
• Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and St. James’s Park offer central and gloriously green spots to run around.

STAY: The ornate Victorian landmark St. Pancras Station stood in for Harry Potter’s King’s Cross Station and now, thoroughly renovated, stands as a preservation victory, home to the elegant St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel. Book in the historic wing for rooms filled with gold leaf, leaded glass, and soaring ceilings befitting an enchanted stay.  Rooms from £325 ($425)