Marcel Kittel claimed the final stage in the twilight, with Manxman Mark Cavendish third in a hotly-contested sprint along the Champs Elysees.
Cavendish was attempting a 26th Tour stage win - and a fifth on the trot in Paris - which would have put him third on the all-time list behind five-time Tour winners Eddy Merckx (34) and Bernard Hinault (28).
But the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider was third, as Germany's Kittel won a fourth stage in this year's race and Andre Greipel finished second, with more than 350,000 spectators lining the streets in the French capital.
He told ITV4: "Crossing the line with [the] guys brought tears to my eyes. I expected it to be big but this is something else.
Winning Tour amazing feeling - Froome
"Dave [Team Sky manager Sir Dave Brailsford] has been talking about the future of cycling - the youngsters coming through and the way the sport is moving. I look at the last decade and the way sport is going - we've got something to be proud of."
He added: "I'm glad I've had to face those questions - after all the revelations of the last year. I'm glad that's been channelled towards me.
"I've been able to deal with it. Cycling has changed - the peloton is standing together."
In his victory speech, Froome dedicated his triumph to his mother Jane, who died of cancer in 2008, for giving him "hopes and dreams".
"Without her encouragement to follow my dreams, I'd probably be at home watching this event on TV," he said. "It's a great shame she never got to come and see the Tour, but I'm sure she'd be extremely proud if she were here tonight."
He also thanked his Team Sky colleagues for "burying themselves" for him during the gruelling race.
Graham JonesRadio 5 live summariser in Paris
"It has been a brilliant victory by Chris Froome. He has been far and away the best rider and he has won the best Tour de France for quite a number of years.
"We saw a lot more racing than normal, with riders and teams taking chances and acting on the spur of the moment during stages. It was a far less calculated race than it has been previously, and a reminder of how exciting it can be - there were very few dull days.
"He is young enough to win the race again and again and he is the type of the rider who has his head screwed on. He will realise this could be the start of something very special for him.
"As for Mark Cavendish, I don't think he was ever 100% throughout this Tour, and Marcel Kittel has come through to show he is going to be a real adversary for him in the future. But it shows how good we think Cavendish is when we are disappointed he has only won two stages in a Tour de France.
"I think it proves how difficult it is to peak for the Tour - it is three weeks once a year and it is very difficult to time things right every year. Cavendish was clearly not at his peak but he has still done remarkably well in the circumstances and I am sure he will be bounce back next year."
"I'd like to thank my team-mates, who have buried themselves day in, day out throughout this Tour to keep this yellow jersey on my shoulders, and the Team Sky management for believing in my ability and building this team around me.
"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," he added, in a reference to doubters over doping suspicions.
His team-mate Geraint Thomas, who rode nearly all of the race with a fractured pelvis after crashing towards the end of stage one, enjoyed riding across the finish line arm-in-arm with Froome and the five other Team Sky riders who finished the gruelling race.
The Welshman, who missed last year's Tour to focus on his Olympic track ambitions, said: "That was special.
"It was nice for all of us to come together, because it doesn't happen every day. When you are a kid, you dream of riding the Tour and coming to Paris, but I never even thought that one day I would be part of a British team, with a British rider winning.
"You know, I missed that only last year but it more than makes up for it this year."
Brailsford added: "The lads rode a fantastic race and I think there isn't a better setting for cycling in the world, or any setting.
"The Champs Elysees, it's an iconic place, and this year the sun is going down - it is very emotional you know.
"It is pretty intense the way we work, and we ask a lot of the guys, we ask a lot of the backroom staff, we ask a lot of the riders, and I think they give their all.
"I hope people are happy, but certainly the team and Chris are very very happy."
Froome's father, Clive, revealed how he felt relieved to see his son cross the line on Sunday night in Paris.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to bits. Rather like Chris, who was showing signs of relief, we also feel that way," he told BBC World Service. "We feel like we have cycled every single kilometre. It was great to see him get over the line."
"He was always the guy who wanted to get across to Europe and do the Grand Tours like the Tour de France," Cound told BBC Sport. "A lot of the people he was competing against thought it was a pipe dream but he always thought he could make it.
"People are saying Chris has come from nowhere but it has taken him more than 10 years to become an overnight success."
David Kinjah, the rider who introduced Froome to road cycling in the Kikuyu township when the future champion was 11, revealed his joy at the result.
Twitter tributes to Froome
Prime Minister David Cameron:
A brilliant win by Chris Froome. After two British winners, it's only right the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire next year
Former British world heavyweight champion boxer
Big up to @chrisfroome
British tennis player Heather Watson:
Congratulations to Chris Froome and the Sky Team for winning the Tour de France 2013
"Even though we don't see each other so much any more, he has lived my dreams,"
Kinjah told BBC Sport.
"He is wearing the yellow jersey every day and I almost felt like I was wearing it myself."
"We just have to analyse what has happened," he told French TV. "Outperforming Froome is a new motivation to continue."
The final stage started as a procession, as is the tradition, and the 170 riders headed off from Versailles with Rodriguez celebrating his third place overall by handing out cigars to fellow podium finishers Froome, donning a yellow bike, and Quintana.
The Brit was also handed a glass of celebratory champagne as he rode alongside a Team Sky car with its branding coloured in yellow, while he was surrounded by team-mates in special yellow-tinged sunglasses.
The sun was beginning to set as they arrived in the centre of Paris and Froome made sure his trusty wingman Richie Porte led the Sky team over the finish line of the Champs-Elysees on the first of 10 circuits.
A few riders attempted breakaways, included Britain's David Millar, but they were swallowed up by the peloton and it was left to the sprinters to contest the final straight.
Kittel, who has been called the "next big thing" by Cavendish triumphed and said: "I can't believe it.
"It was a dream of mine to win on the Champs Elysees and now I've done it. I'm so proud.
"It's nice compliments from a guy like Mark. He's a nice guy and he actually wished me good luck before the start of today's race. That was really sporting."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.