The FDJ rider won the stage from John Degenkolb (Giant) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step).
The opening 162.5km stage contained some chaotic moments with there being a number of crashes, with Bouhanni himself going down at one stage.
However, he showed no ill-effects from that tumble as he burst clear in the final 200m to take the win and the yellow jersey.
The biggest causality on the day though was Tejay van Garderen (Team BMC) who was forced to retire with illness.
The eight-stage race runs until March 16th with Vincent Nibali, Carlos Betancur and Rui Costa among the favourites.
Britain's Geraint Thomas is also expected to challenge as Team Sky look to win the race for the third successive year after the successes of Richie Porte (2013) and Bradley Wiggins (2012).
Results from Paris - Nice (Mantes-la-Jolie - Mantes-la-Jolie, 162.5 km) on Sunday
1. Nacer Bouhanni (France / FDJ.fr) 3:53:11"
2. John Degenkolb (Germany / Giant) ST
3. Gianni Meersman (Belgium / Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar)
5. Tyler Farrar (U.S. / Garmin)
6. Bryan Coquard (France / Europcar)
7. Luca Wackermann (Italy / Lampre)
8. Fabio Felline (Italy / Trek)
9. Fabio Sabatini (Italy / Cannondale)
10. Francesco Gavazzi (Italy / Astana)
Classification from Paris - Nice after Stage 1 on Sunday
1. Nacer Bouhanni (France / FDJ.fr) 3:53:01"
2. Gianni Meersman (Belgium / Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) +1"
3. John Degenkolb (Germany / Giant) +4"
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium / BMC Racing) +8"
5. Geraint Thomas (Britain / Team Sky) +9"
6. Sebastien Chavanel (France / FDJ.fr)
7. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spain / Movistar) +10"
8. Tyler Farrar (U.S. / Garmin)
9. Bryan Coquard (France / Europcar)
10. Luca Wackermann (Italy / Lampre)
- Sports & Recreation
- Gianni Meersman
- Omega Pharma
- John Degenkolb
- Geraint Thomas
- Tejay van Garderen
- Nacer Bouhanni