The XENON1T experiment at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso (LNGS) is the first WIMP dark matter detector operating with a liquid xenon target mass above the ton-scale. Out of its 3.2 t liquid xenon inventory, 2.0 t constitute the active target of the dual-phase time projection chamber. The scintillation and ionization signals from particle interactions are detected with low-background photomultipliers. This article describes the XENON1T instrument and its subsystems as well as strategies to achieve an unprecedented low background level. First results on the detector response and the performance of the subsystems are also presented.