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early quests

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Unfortunately, GW2 really doesn't have a very robust quest system - other than the main storyline, there is not really good quest tracking like most games have.So as other said, hearts and events in the world are the way to get experience. Even just killing monsters will do it, but events tend to give a big experience reward, and some also are 'defend this area against the attackers', so not only do you get experience for killing lots of attackers, you get the exp for completing the event itself.

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Fortunately GW2 doesn't pigeon-hole you into following the same questline with each and every character. Instead, you can just go out and explore the world in whatever way you like.

There are 5 maps (outside the five main race cities) filled with content for level 1-15, and every character automatically has a starting waypoint explored in each of these 5 maps. If you don't know what to do, just open your world map, look for the waypoints your character knows, jump to one and explore. These maps also stay relevant for higher level characters, as they are automatically down-leveled when the go there. Level range of maps in this game is just a lower boundary, not a ceiling.

Story also isn't as static as other games, it's a lot more like a jigsaw-puzzle than a novel or movie. Part of the story will be presented in quest-like format later on (with a chapter of the personal story unlocking every 10 levels, dungeon stories starting to unlock at level 30, and expansion storylines and living story unlocking once your character reaches level 80), but it's really only a small part of the story.

If you want the whole picture, you need to go out and explore the maps, talk to npc, listen to ambient dialogue, check out hearts and events, and more. It always pays to hang around for a bit after an event finishes, as many events are part of chains that have a follow-up (often after a bit of dialogue or npc moving around a bit) or offer a limited vendor npc after completion.

If on the other hand you don't care about the story and just want to level, your best bet is exploring maps, participating in any events you come across, harvesting every node in your path, and generally do as many different things that award experience as you can. Check the wiki for a full list of things that give experience, and don't just concentrate on one of them, but try to use as many of them as possible, as they synergize well and make leveling a fluid (and for many fun) activity rather than a grind.

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As other people have said GW2 is a bit different to other games. The only quests which are actually called that are the main storylines. Other 'quests' are given in the form of renown hearts and events, you've probably encountered both already, but I've given a summary of each below to clarify how they work. You can find both while exploring open-world maps, and you'll need to do both to get experience points. (Especially events, which are one of the best sources of XP in the game.)

Hearts are given by NPCs in an area of the map and require you to help with activities in that area which is usually a mix of killing enemies and making/repairing/fetching items. You can get more info from the NPC but you don't need to talk to them to start it. (Remember to talk to them afterwards though, they often have useful items for sale.)

Events are a bit different; they involve similar activities (kill things, defend things, fetch items etc.) but they can move across the map, aren't available all the time and most importantly will start, progress and finish regardless of whether you or any other players are joining in. You can join in with them at any point and do as much as you feel like and as long as you're on the map when it ends you'll get credit for your participation. (In case you're not aware there's no kill or loot stealing in this game - if you attack an enemy someone else is already fighting you'll both get the same XP and loot as if you fought it solo.) When you're new it's a good idea to join in with any you see and to follow them through to completion whenever you can, because they're a good source of XP and because they'll introduce you to the map, the world and the story. It's also a good idea to hang around for a bit afterwards because they often chain together, so after one ends there might be a bit of dialogue and activity from the NPCs and then another event will start.

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