The Singel Canal looks like many of the other waterways in Amsterdam but it is the most historic canal in the city. From its construction in the early 15th century until the late 16th century, the Singel marked the city’s limits. The former city belt (originally called Cingle, meaning belt) was the city’s defensive moat. Then in 1586 the city council decided to build quays along the west bank and converted the moat into a canal for large ships. Thus it became the first of Amsterdam’s concentric canal and its curved shape established the horseshoe layout of the city. Once the railways came along, canal transport became less important and the Singel Canal began to take on a residential character. Today many of the city’s canals are lined with houseboats.