The pages of Hello! reveal a traditional view of life in Monaco; an alluring mix of yachts, sports cars, casinos and designer bikinis. Combine these with the Grand Prix circuit that snakes through the capital and the fairytale story of the monarchy, and you have a place of legend?but not necessarily a place you?d consider making your home.

Perhaps surprisingly, 1,500 Brits (the official number living in Monaco) would not agree. A successful business man in his thirties who moved to the principality in 2000 admits that he imagined Monaco to be a place where older people went to retire, but on arrival discovered a healthy population of people in their twenties, thirties and forties. They had made money early in life and chosen to move there. He insists that it is not the place it appears to be on the pages of celebrity magazines: ?In July and August, it is very much like a holiday resort with all the attendant pleasures, but for the rest of the time, it really is quite quiet and businesslike.?

So what is left when you take away the glamour? Monaco is small?at 0.76sq miles, it could fit comfortably into New York?s Central Park a couple of times, but despite its diminutive size, it bustles with 32,000 people. The population is 19% Monégasque, 32% French, and 20% Italian, the remainder being northern Europeans who speak English as a default language. The result is a cosmopolitan mix barely matched by world centres such as London and New York, with a sophisticated range of restaurants, nightlife and cultural life to accompany it. The major advantage is that these things come with none of the negative aspects of a huge city.

Speaking from his office in Monte Carlo, one businessman I spoke to said Monaco is run like a country club: ?It?s clean, manicured, secure and efficient.? After work, he will walk out onto a street lined with Ferraris and Rolls Royces that have been there all day with little danger of being broken into. He adds: ?The Monaco government does everything it can to look after its citizens, and this includes taking a tough line on crime.?

This sentiment is echoed by William Easun, head of a British law firm in Monaco??the security in the principality is unmatched,? he says. And this is particularly reassuring for families for whom risk of kidnap presents a real danger. Those with families can also move to Monaco secure in the knowledge that there is a good range of private and state schools, and although the state schools are French-speaking, the high number of international students means they are well equipped to deal with children from other countries.

Clare Crawford and her husband moved to Monaco 18 months ago with their five children, three of whom are of school age. Mrs Crawford notes that her children have settled into their new schools well, but it is the youngest, aged 11, whose life has changed the most. ?He can take the bus to school on his own and go home via a cafe with his friends, and I don?t need to worry about him?, she says. The schools also generate a good social life for parents: ?Because it is a transient place, people are very inclusive and the schools have very strong parent organisations.?

For new arrivals intent on plunging into the social scene there is the British Association of Monaco (BAM), an organisation whose purpose is ?to assist the members of the British community and promote the relationship with the Principality.? This bland mission statement belies an extremely motivated group (600 in total) who organise a huge number of parties and events throughout the year. President of BAM, Rob Rutter, who moved to Monaco five years ago to work for Merrill Lynch says: ?They say that there are 1,500 Brits here, but I think there are more like 5,000 dipping in and out.? He is a well-known advocate of life in the principality and believes that its position in the centre of Europe is one of its biggest attractions to the business community. It is less than half an hour?s drive to Nice, which holds France?s second biggest airport and offers 40 flights to the UK each day.

When it comes to recreation, there is no shortage of sporting activities in a place that has historically been a popular playground for the rich. Most residents will tell you that it is one of the few places in the world where you can happily swim in the sea in the morning and within an hour and a half enjoy the fine powder of the Alps. Summers are long and beach life continues well into October. You don?t need to be a 20-year-old Formula One driver to see the advantages of that.