Following the first experimental realization of graphene, other ultrathin materials with unprecedented electronic properties have been explored, with particular attention given to the heavy group-IV elements Si, Ge and Sn. Two-dimensional buckled Si-based silicene has been recently realized by molecular beam epitaxy growth, whereas Ge-based germanene was obtained by molecular beam epitaxy and mechanical exfoliation. However, the synthesis of Sn-based stanene has proved challenging so far. Here, we report the successful fabrication of 2D stanene by molecular beam epitaxy, confirmed by atomic and electronic characterization using scanning tunnelling microscopy and angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy, in combination with first-principles calculations. The synthesis of stanene and its derivatives will stimulate further experimental investigation of their theoretically predicted properties, such as a 2D topological insulating behaviour with a very large bandgap, and the capability to support enhanced thermoelectric performance, topological superconductivity and the near-room-temperature quantum anomalous Hall effect.