Amsterdam is the cultural capital of the Netherlands. It lies on the banks of two bodies of water, the IJ bay and the Amstel river. Founded in the late 12th century as a small fishing village on the banks of the Amstel, it is now the largest city in the country and its financial and cultural centre. The medieval core boasts the best of the city's bustling streetlife and is home to shops, many bars and restaurants. Amsterdam has one of the largest historic city centres in Europe, dating largely from the 17th century, the Golden Age of the Netherlands, of which it was the focal point. At this time, a series of concentric, semi-circular canals were built around the older city centre, which still defines its layout and appearance today. Many fine houses and mansions are situated along the canals; most are lived in, others are offices, and some public buildings. Some of the houses are gradually sinking because they are built on piles to cope with the marshy subsoil.