Initial projections after voting closed on Sunday placed centrist Le Marche! leader Mr Macron as the winner, with right-wing, anti-immigrant Front National leader Marine Le Pen just behind him.
The pair will now go head-to-head in the second and final round of voting on May 7.
Arriving on stage with his wife, his former drama teacher, to chants of “Presidente Macron”, he said he is the change France needs after 30 years of a “system incapable of responding to our country”.
In a speech focused on unity, the 39-year-old urged people to keep faith with him as he exuded a confidence he will be president of France in two weeks time.
Mr Macron applauded all of the other candidates, apart from Ms Le Pen.
He promised that as president he would protect France and transform the country into one in which every person is “treated with fairness”.
He also said every person in what he hopes will be a majority government, will be new, with “new faces, new talents”.
He added: “I will not ask those who join me where they come from but whether they should agree we should renew our political life to renew our life, to progress.”
The former economic adviser to current President François Hollande called on all “patriots” to rally behind him against the threat of what he called “nationalists”.
To the cheers from supporters, he said: “I want to be the president of patriots against the threat of nationalists.
Mr Macron, whose “En Marche!” party is only one year old and has never taken part in any parliamentary election, also said he would as soon as Monday work on building a parliament majority to be able to govern after legislative elections in June.
He added: “In one year, we have changed the face of French politics.”
In response to Mr Macron’s projected win the euro got stronger instantly.
This is a breaking story.
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