Efficient synthesis of stable two-dimensional (2D) noble metal catalysts is a challenging topic. Here we report the facile synthesis of 2D gold nanosheets via a wet chemistry method, by using layered double hydroxide as the template. Detailed characterization with electron microscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy demonstrates that the nanosheets are negatively charged and  oriented with thicknesses varying from single to a few atomic layers. X-ray absorption spectroscopy reveals unusually low gold–gold coordination numbers. These gold nanosheets exhibit high catalytic activity and stability in the solvent-free selective oxidation of carbon–hydrogen bonds with molecular oxygen.