Jetfighters streaked above the famed Champs-Elysee Avenue, along with AWACS surveillance and a bevy of helicopters. On the ground, soldiers in dress garb marched in formation, Leclerc tanks rumbled and horses strutted from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, under the eye of France's top civilian and military authorities. The red trucks of the Paris firefighters also took part, drawing a huge applause from the crowd.
Security was tight with Metro stations in the area closed off and police stationed along the avenue and on side streets.
Four years ago, on July 14, 2002, a gunman tried to shoot Chirac during the Bastille Day parade. The president was unhurt, and the attempted assassin was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Bastille Day commemorates the 1789 storming of the former Bastille prison in Paris by angry crowds, sparking the revolution that brought an end to monarchy in France.
The French president was to respond to questions during a televised interview in the garden of the Elysee Palace, where a party is held each year.
Chirac, 73, whose second term ends next year, has not said whether he will run for re-election. But it is widely expected that Chirac, whose popularity has plummeted, will not choose to run.