The embattled leader reviewed troops and rode down Paris’ famed Champs-Elysees in an open-top car with his armed forces chief of staff, and later gave a television interview, seen by many as a bid to win back public trust.
Mr Chirac’s popularity has taken a battering after his country overwhelmingly rejected of the EU constitution in late May, combined with the capital’s shock defeat by London in the competition to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
In the traditional Bastille Day interview, he said it is important for all countries to be aware of the threat of terrorism.
“These terrorists have a mentality, a psychological state that is different from our own. All efforts must be made to fight against terrorism,” the French president said.
“With respect to terrorism, we must constantly adapt our means and ability to respond. We never know what they are going to come up with next.”
Earlier, he observed the two-minute silence in tribute to the victims of last week’s London bombings.
Around 5,000 police guarded central Paris as colourful proceedings marking the holiday were underway.
With Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visiting the city, Brazilian troops and jets took part, joining French jets in streaking through sunny skies above the avenue, with blue, red and white smoke trailing behind them.
Celebrated tenor Roberto Alagna sang La Marseillaise, the national anthem.
July 14 marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, the event that sparked the French Revolution and led to the toppling of the monarchy and the executions of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette.