Many of the buildings date from late Medieval times. It was a well-to-do quarter during 13th–15th centuries, when it really was by the sea shore, and the area that today is named Barceloneta was still an island. Notable buildings are the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar and the palaces along Carrer de Montcada, including the Museu Picasso, the Museu Barbier-Mueller d'Art Precolombí, and part of the Textile Museum. Another place of interest is the Fossar de les Moreres, the site of a mass grave of Catalan soldiers fallen during the siege of 1714, which ended with the fall of Barcelona and the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. Part of the quarter of La Ribera was demolished after the War of the Spanish Succession to build a military citadel to punish the defeated city.
The lower section of the La Ribera district, just below Carrer de la Princesa, and leading to Barceloneta is referred to as El Born after the 19th century market on carrer del Comerç that dominates the area. This is one of the trendiest and most touristic districts in the old city. It is a popular place for expats and contains many art boutiques, bars and cafés.
The northernmost part of the quarter, La Ribera proper and Sant Pere, in contrast to El Born, is not frequented by tourists so much, even though it is between Arc de Triomf and Via Laietana, and actually constitutes a much poorer area with a larger number of migrant workers. It is being revitalised, but as with many other instances of urban development in Barcelona, the process has been ethically contested. The Forat de la Vergonya area, near Santa Eulàlia Cathedral, is such an example. The Biblioteca Francesca Bonnemaison is a cultural institution of the neighbourhood.