The conversion of p-nitrophenol (4-NP) to p-aminophenol (4-AP) is of great significance for pharmaceutical and material manufacturing. In this work, Au-M@SiO2 (M = Rh, Pd, Ir, Pt) nanoparticles (NPs) with core-shell structures, which are expected to be excellent catalysts for the transformation of 4-NP to 4-AP, were synthesized by a facile one-pot one-step method. The structure and composition of the NPs were characterized through transmission electron microscopy, X-ray powder diffraction and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Au-M@SiO2 (M = Rh, Pd, Ir, Pt) core-shell NPs showed excellent catalytic activity in the reduction of 4-NP, which is superior to most catalysts reported in the previous literature. The enhanced catalytic activity of Au-M@SiO2 core-shell NPs is presumably related to the bimetallic synergistic effect. This study provides a simple strategy to synthesize core-shell bimetallic NPs for catalytic applications.