Gold, silver, platinum and palladium typically crystallize with the face-centred cubic structure. Here we report the high-yield solution synthesis of gold nanoribbons in the 4H hexagonal polytype, a previously unreported metastable phase of gold. These gold nanoribbons undergo a phase transition from the original 4H hexagonal to face-centred cubic structure on ligand exchange under ambient conditions. Using monochromated electron energy-loss spectroscopy, the strong infrared plasmon absorption of single 4H gold nanoribbons is observed. Furthermore, the 4H hexagonal phases of silver, palladium and platinum can be readily stabilized through direct epitaxial growth of these metals on the 4H gold nanoribbon surface. Our findings may open up new strategies for the crystal phase-controlled synthesis of advanced noble metal nanomaterials.