Abstract The deposition of palladium on a novel, reversibly protonatable, pyridyl-terminated self-assembled monolayer on gold substrates has been studied by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (NEXAFS spectroscopy) and time of flight-secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). For this purpose, 12-(pyridin-4-yl)dodecane-1-thiol, consisting of a surface-active head group, an unfunctionalized hydrocarbon backbone and a terminal pyridyl group, has been synthesized and deposited on gold surfaces. Coordination of Pd(II) ions to the pyridyl group was examined. Furthermore, a reversible protonation/deprotonation cycle has been applied, and the relation between protonation and the amount of complexed palladium was studied. Investigation of the SAM by angle-resolved NEXAFS spectroscopy revealed the aliphatic backbone to be preferentially upright oriented with the aromatic head group being not preferentially oriented. The palladium layer was further coordinated with a CF3-labeled terpyridine ligand in order to prove the accessibility of the Pd(II) ions to further complexation and the platform useful for deposition of further layers toward a multi-layered system.