This paper presents an extensive study of the influence of swirl on the initial region of an annular jet. A total of 5 different swirl numbers S are investigated: one at zero swirl, one at low swirl (S = 0.18), two at intermediate swirl (S = 0.37 and 0.57) and one at high swirl (S = 0.74). The flow fields are measured using the stereoscopic particle image velocimetry (SPIV) technique. A detailed study on the accuracy of the PIV measurements is presented, including a validation with laser doppler anemometry (LDA) data. In this way a detailed set of accurate data is presented of the three components of velocity and the rms value of their fluctuations in a plane through the central axis of the geometry. Despite its simple geometry, the immediate flow field of an annular jet is very complex. The concentric central tube of the nozzle acts as a bluff body to the flow, thus creating a Central Recirculation Zone (CRZ) behind it. At low swirl numbers the swirl induced pressure gradients alter the structure of the CRZ significantly, increasing its complexity. The CRZ becomes toroidal and jet fluid is entrained near the apex. At intermediate swirl numbers a vortex breakdown bubble appears downstream which moves upstream with increasing swirl. At high swirl,the CRZ and breakdown bubble merge which creates a complex and highly anisotropic flow field.